Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sometimes you have to change you

"Do you like what you do?"

I have been asked that so many times in the course of my career and I have to truthfully answer, emphatically, NO, not all the time. There have been times when doing what I do is the last thing I want to do. I have dreaded the idea of going into the classroom.

 I have not always embraced the career I know chose me. Not the other way around.

 I don't think a person can go through life always loving what they do. Life is full of dips, twists, set-backs and slip-ups. Without them life would be boring. We would cease to keep growing. We would cease being active participants in our own journey.

You're not always going to do the right thing when it comes to teaching. That's a given.  But if you use what happens as fodder for growth you will continue on the right path.

No one ever said it was going to be easy. No one said it was always going to be fun.

All I can say is this.

There have been hours, days, months, and years when I truly believed that I could not go on teaching one more second or I would die a miserable death.

 But then again, there have been hours, days, months and years when the children were the only reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

Teaching can be a blessing and a curse. It is an avocation, moreso than a career.

 It's all in how you look at it. So if your doubting or contemplating this career choice remember this.

Children are only with you for a short while. Another group will come. If you find yourself repeating the same negative mantra from the previous year perhaps what you need to change is you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Warning! You Will Be Grossed Out

The title of this post tells it all and still many of you will continue to read. Because you like to live dangerously. Because you think nothing can phase you. Because you have, teach or have been a kid and think you've heard and seen it all. You're getting a little annoyed and you're about to stop reading.

Well, here goes and don't say I didn't warn you. I will give you time to get your trash can...
 Mrs. Rodgers came by with our friends Ninja and The Organ Wise Guys 
(that's what we named him)
We love Mrs. Rodgers. We know when she's in the building because we hear the same music that used to play for Elvis when he entered a building.
(well maybe not...but we should)

To us she's a Rock Star! She sends yummy nutritious snacks for us to do Kitchen Science with and she makes learning about eating healthy and keeping fit, fun!

So, this time she came to visit she brought a great book to share about something kiddos are experts in.

Germ warfare!

Know how you get kiddos to listen to you and burn information into their little cerebrums to boot? You get a little wiggly puppet named Sir Rebrum to come out of Ninja's body to talk to them!

By the time Sir Rebrum, Mrs. Rodgers and Ninja were done every single Firstie in that class was ready to accept their Centers for Disease Control certified trainer certificate. They were ready to train the entire school.

But you're wondering where the gross part is, aren't you?

Well, as I was listening and thoroughly enjoying watching a master Teacher share her gift, I looked over at my kiddos. I saw their little eyes glistening. I saw their little cherubic faces looking up with admiration at the fabulousness that is Mrs. Rodgers as they professed that they NEVER run out of the restroom two seconds after going in.  And that they NEVER put their fingers in their noses.  And that they NEVER eat things that they've dropped on the floor.  During all this I suddenly flashed back to my Kinder days.

And I remembered Pedro... 

Pedro never got sick. Pedro always came in with a smile. Pedro was also one of those little proximity controlled kiddos I always have sit right at my feet in order for me to get anything taught. He drank a gallon of coffee before coming to school. I'm sure of it! 
(can I tell you a secret? If you're visually distracted by wiggle worm kiddos, put them directly in front of you. You can't see them there) 

It was after lunch. I let Pedro choose a book. He chose one that the whole class would love.  I don't recall the title but I do remember that it was one of those books with a suspenseful plot. It was one of those books that lends itself to dramatic pause near the end. 

During that dramatic pause, when each one of them held their breath. When each one waited for me to continue. As I bent over and whispered and drew in my breath readying them for the surprise...I looked down...and I saw all those little eyes fixed on me... their mouths opened wide...I got ready to...continue...and...and...and I looked down...ready to say boo...and I looked down...and saw...Pedro...


The Lesson
Most kiddos move too quickly for germs. I can pinpoint which adult in a crowded meeting room most likely passed their cold to me though. We are constantly getting after kiddos to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they sneeze, wipe their noses etc. etc.  We practically hose them down with sanitizer when they walk into a room. But do we do that to adults? Do we do it to ourselves? Hmmmm...

So, whattayAAAAAAAHCOOOO!!! waiting for? Go give your favorite little germ factory a king sized hug! 


 p.s. Yes, I screamed and I practically scared the pee out of all those kiddos. Maybe I did. I don't know. I was too busy turning three shades of green and exclaiming, "PEDROOOO!!! GO TO THE RESTROOM AND WASH YOUR TONGUE!!! Oh for heaven's sakes!!!!"

What's your favorite horror story? I really want to hear them!



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How's It Rolling?

Just roll with it!

     How are those resolutions coming along? Have you kept those promises to yourself? Have you rewritten or revised any of them?
     And why am I even thinking about those when I should be hyper-focusing on this newfangled thing in education called Common Core????
      Well because, I don't know about you, but if I don't go back and review that list I made at the beginning of the year I lose sight of what's really important. I do become hyper-focused which turns into hyper-stressed.  If I don't review I become consumed and I find myself using really interesting expletives in my car.
(and hand signals too...and did I tell you that my girls have figured out that "DUUUUDE!" is a code word for...ahem...well 'ya know!)
1. I will send a card this week (even if it is late or early. Surprise! It's your Un-Birthday!).
2. I will read a good book (and by good I mean it will make me think...well, maybe not too much).
3. I will not stress about the laundry (orange pants and a lime green shirt do look good together).
4. I will do something creative with all my kiddos (I see glitter in my future).
5. I will laugh (so hard that I snort).
6. I will make up a new word and use it in a sentence (Momcations are the bestest!).
7. I will tell my family how fantabulous and spectaculsome they are!
8. I will howl with the dogs (and yeowl with the kitties).
9. I will dance with children (Boom Chicka BOOOOM!).
10. I will marvel at the wisdom of children (Teacher why don't you just...)

The Lesson
     Someone gave me a great compliment this week. She said, "I'm learning how to just let things roll off my back and take life in stride like you." I had to tell her that it's the kiddos in my life that have taught me how to do that... and I'm still learning.

So...strap on those wheels and rock and roll with it people! Whattaya waiting for???



Monday, February 18, 2013

Grocery Store Wisdom

     I have a confession. It won't come as a huge shock to those that know me.
(excuse me while I take a breath...okay)

     On occasion, like when I get cut off in traffic...or I'm running late...or I've taken on too much...or when I've basically just..over-stuffed my tamales and cooked them too long...
 I've been known to utter...ahem.. somewhat, illustrative aphorisms and creative expletives in not just one but two languages. Sometimes I even mix the languages. 
(I'm bilingual/biliterate that way)

     And too, on more than one occasion I have had to rely on my word diversion skills because somehow through slappa-whacka bicker fests from the back seat Big Girl and Glitterific girl pipe up and ask for clarification on what I thought I had just muttered under my breath.
(and what's with the selective hearing in children? Why can they hear the crackle of a candy wrappers through walls, closed doors, under cover of music, beneath blankets...but they can't hear you tell them to pick up their dirty socks while hovering over them like a giant vulture? The mysteries of parenthood)

     Sometimes I just have to admit that, "Mom shouldn't have said that." and apologize profusely to my family and promise to use other ways to "express" myself.

     I could blame it on the hot latin blood or on my truck driving father. You know that saying: swearing like a sailor? Well, I call it trucker mouth.  But I won't blame it on that either. It's my own choice to slip and say the things I do.

      One day, while out on a rare Momcation, all by the grocery store. I found myself in that section which I can only describe as the bibliophile's guilty pleasure: the magazine/book aisle.  And as I was reading all about How to Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Tone Your Abs just by holding your breath, counting to 100 and drinking a cup of water, this little book caught my attention.

Oh yeah it doesn't say Biting Your Tongue!

     I had been praying for patience in dealing with certain...challenging individuals. I read through the prologue and these words caught my eye.

Words are the vehicle through which we communicate our thoughts; the tongue is the driver.

      I flipped through the first few pages and decided, "Okay, I'll give it a try. It must be a sign." So, I took this little book home and I read it.
     And nothing happened. I was still having difficulty being patient with those difficult individuals and I was still praying for patience but mostly I was having difficulty with not expressing my opinion.  I shared this with a friend and this is what she said to me. "Girl, you've been asking God for the wrong thing. Don't you know if you ask for patience He's gonna throw things in your path that will test your patience? You need to be asking Him for ways to deal with those people! You need to tell Him, Lord if you're gonna throw these people in my path you best give me the words to deal with them!"

     I went home that evening and pulled out this little gem of a book again and dusted it off and guess what I read in the prologue?

Now, I want to caution that this book is not about turning you into a Passive Patsy or a Timid Tom who avoids expressing personal boundaries, desires, or displeasure with a situation.

     I had been denying what God gave me. The power to teach and reach individuals who are doing or saying things contrary to what I believe is the right thing to do.

The Lesson
Ask God for discernment and wisdom to deal with certain situations. Keeping your mouth shut is not always the right thing to do. In this day and age of dealing with and teaching children how to deal with bullies, I think we need to do this all the time. Because bullies grow up to be bigger bullies and sometimes more crafty in their ways.

So, whattaya waiting for? Tell your family that you need to run to the store for some "milk" and take yourself a little Momcation. Go hide in the book aisle and hopefully you'll get a little wiser while doing it. If nothing got a break!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Are You Enjoying Life's Little Gifts?

I am not winning any awards for my incredible focus.
(gasp, I know you're surprised, shocked even)
But no, I am not.
     So when I catch Glitterific Girl staring off into La-La Land instead of doing her homework, or hiding in her room "creating" instead of getting dressed, or digging in the Secret Garden instead of helping pick up her 4,876 pieces of clothing, or... or...or... I get it. It drives me bonkers, but I get it.
When she says things like, "Mom, I just look at something and I forget what I'm supposed to do." I get it.
     When Big Girl procrastinates and takes an hour to brush her teeth...or takes a two hour bubble bath...or changes her clothes for the 944th time...or sits in her room and composes songs instead of writing her report for school. I get it. 
When she wants me to snuggle that little bit more instead of going to bed... or sit on her Daddie's lap. I get it.
     When they both think that stopping the car, pulling out my phone and snapping a picture of something that strikes me as wonderful is odd and unusual behavior for me, then that tells me that I'm barrelling through life way too fast and not living in the moment. That I need to sit back, take a breath and enjoy all the little gifts life has to offer me and remember that I am their role model and that my job is to help them learn how to enjoy the surprises in life.
     Because when I stop and marvel at a beautiful piece of wet window art work Glitterific Girl creates and Big Girl states, "Mom, she does that all the time." and it's the first time I've ever noticed it. I know I have been missing a lot in between and I won't get those moments back.
The Lesson 
     Someone gave me some very good advice the other day. As we were talking about her teenage sons, one is in college and one is graduating high school, she said to me, "I am not in such a hurry to have my daughter grow up like I did my sons. I am trying my hardest to keep her little as long as I can, because all too soon she will be graduating high school too and I don't want to wonder where all the time went."

So, what's keeping you from enjoying those little gifts. Are they really that important?


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Business Of Making Memories

   We are all in the business of making memories!

     My phone rang and jolted me out of making a decision about a very life changing dilemma. I jumped and grabbed for my purse. I would have to deal with that problem later. My phone was ringing. I HAD to answer it. Lives and the state of the world may be at stake. I HAD TO ANSWER IT!
(the dilemma? should I or shouldn't I dye my hair? Really, it's a life changing event at times!).
     So, I put down the three boxes of brown hair dye as I rummaged through my storage unit of a purse in hot pursuit of my screaming phone. After pulling out 547 reciepts, napkins, wrappers, a sock, my Swiss Army knife, aspirin, mints, tape, pencils, pens, gum, Thing 1 and Thing 2... I finally retrieved my phone. I had a split second to notice who the caller was. It was one of the Super-Moms at my girls' school.
Super-Mom: A funny, charasmatic, organized, beautiful, smart, kind, giving, ulta-organized, working mom who somehow finds the time and energy to do one more thing for anyone...and can recruit helpers like no one's business!
     Yikes! What could she want? What is she going to ask for? I can't say no to this lady. Oh no what should I do? The call came through on the heels of Christmas Chaos. I was still hearing the ringing of J-I-N-G-L-E Bells and I was still feeling the aftershocks. So I had an internal battle...of sorts. It went kind of like this: This mom is always doing stuff for every kid in your girls' school. She works super duper hard at her job too. She saves lives for a living for heaven's sakes! She helps make things at that school special. You can't be selfish. You're not doing anything important right now. Don't be like that! Answer that phone and find out what she needs!
      My Angel was about to take off her shoe and really let me have it so I inhaled deeply, smiled and answered the phone to offer my help. When I hung up I had plans to meet with her that Friday to help plan the annual extravaganza at the school. Dilemma dealing would have to be postponed. I was grateful for one thing, that I was only having to help. Not run it. I could do that.
     When I walked into the hall that Friday morning. I saw that I had two missed calls from her. She and her Super-Mom assistant walked over to me. They looked overwhelmed but in a very put together take charge of the world way. Super-Moms.
(Me still being on vacation, I looked like something Chihuahuasaurus Rex dug up!)
      They shared what they had already planned and put together. They told me what they wanted me to do.  I asked if they had anymore volunteers. They responded with smiles.
(See I told 'ju. 'Ju bettah do what dees ladies wan'!)

Fast Forward three weeks later...
     As I walked through the back doors of the kitchen, I heard the two crusty cooks bicker at each other like a scene out of Grumpy Old Men . I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply taking in the delicious mouth watering aroma of whatever they were serving for the event. I made sure to remind myself to help in the kitchen later just so I could listen to these two gripe at each other. As I walked out into the main hall to get my instructions for the night, I had to stop and stare in amazement at the wonderful sight surrounding me. The red carpet was rolled out, the papparazzi lights were flashing, the music was playing in the background and the glitter sparkled as each elegantly dressed guest and her date were announced.
(then all the seriousness fell away and they squeeled in true girlie girl fashion... my ears are still ringing)
  I searched the crowd for my girls. There they were already seated with their Daddie. Their excited smiles warmed my heart and I was glad, once again, that I could be part of making a memory for not only them, but for all the people in that room.

The Lesson
     The Memory Makers are everywhere around you and your children. All that "stuff" just doesn't happen by itself. It takes work, time, sacrifice and effort. They are the people that work before, behind and after the big events. I am so grateful for their God given talents. I learn from them everytime I get to work with them.

So whattaya waiting for? Go thank the Magical Memory Makers today. If you're that person...THANK YOU!



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tupperware Ladies

Has this ever happened to you?
     You make the yummiest soup ever and you want to share some with your bestest buddy. You've learned from this buddy that you never return an empty bowl and she makes the best sweet treats ever, so you know you'll score when you share your soup with her.
     You walk over to the cupboard where you keep all of your reusable plastic ware and as you begin to bend over to open the cupboard you hear the voices in your head shout out, "STOOOOOOOP!" But like all the angel warnings you have been ignoring lately, you ignore these voices too. And as you open the cupboard 547 bowls and lids in varying sizes and colors come pouring out. You roll you eyes towards the heavens and sigh.
(Yep, you should have listened to those angels. One day you will learn. But obviously not today)
     You really aren't in any mood to tackle this job today. So, you turn a sly eye to the right and you turn a sneaky eye to the left and there's no one around to witness your tossing of all 547 bowls and lids of varying sizes and colors back into the cupboard or your contribution to the recycle bin
     Then that angel with the latin flair starts talking to you and makes you realize that doing that would be kind of wrong.
("Who gonna pick it up for 'ju? 'Ju think it gonna pick up all by isself? Don' be a lazy!)
     So, you pull all those lids and bowls of varying...well you know. And as you're putting every one of those items on your kitchen table you remember those Tupperware parties your Nana used to have.
     You remember the Pineapple upside down cake your Aunt would make for each one and how when you saw that cherry topped delicacy you would wiggle with delight at the prospect of getting a small morsel of that yumminess! Sometimes you would poke you finger in it and sneak a small, teeny tiny taste. And you know your Aunt never noticed that there was a divot on one side because you were just too crafty for her.  
Yummer! I know my Aunt never noticed the missing cherries!

     But what you remember the most is how those Tupperware Parties were an event. You remember how your Nana would get a new perm. You remember how she would take out her china and fancy coffee pot. You remember how the ladies she invited would be dressed in their dresses, panty-hose and high-heels. You remember how all of them wore lipstick and that you got to wear a dress too and sip sweet coffee with them. Just like the ladies. You remember how you loved sitting and listening to the chittering of gossip and news. And you remember how you knew that what you were experiencing was something very special.

Of course the ladies I knew were a little "spicier" and spoke Spanish!

     And like the nearly extinct Tupperware Party, you long for a simpler time when, life wasn't so disposable. When ladies getting together was a fancy event and you wish that your own girls could experience the "fanci-ness" that only your Nana could pull off .  
 The Lesson
     Life is not disposable. In this day and age of get it  quick, use it up and throw it away stop and remember that.
So, whattaya waiting for? Go out and share some real good yummies with a friend and restart the tradition of never returning an empty bowl! 
P.S. I have a hankerin' for some cookies if anyone has any extra they just neeeeed to share...I will return your Tupperware...filled...I promise!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Giggly Connections and Teaching Reading

     I love teaching Phonics! That's a bold statement, I know. But I do. I not only love it because it's fun to teach kiddos how to put decipher those squiggly things called letters. But because it's fun and exciting when they start putting it all together to make meaning out of their world. I love the wide-eyed, wide-mouthed intake of breath when they all of a sudden...stop... stare at you...and declare, "Teacher look the naughty letters!"
(for those of you who are wondering...TH are the naughty letters. When you make the sound of them it's the only time you can get away with sticking your tongue out at your Teacher!)
I love to sit back and watch the intense scrunching up of little faces as they sound out every...single...solitary...letter...and...fffff...iiinnn...aaaaalll...yyy...finally, yell out their discovery!
     Sure, sometimes it can drive a Teacher nearly nutso when he or she has gone over the same group of letters and practiced the same group of letters and sounded out the same group of letters and the little darlings still insist that cccccc...aaaaaa....tttt says DOG!
(and what if c-a-t did spell dog? Thoughts to ponder...and name that movie!)
But today I re-discovered another reason to love Teaching phonics and which basically reinforces why I love what I do.
 Because I get to laugh!
This is what happened...
     As I was sharing my extensive knowledge of the silent e at the end of a word and creating word families with my little darlings. I glanced down at two of my "proximity controlled" lovelies.
(Proximity Controlled: Teacher talk for those kiddos who need to be placed practically on top of the Teacher in order for her to get anything done)
     They were busy at work. They had the whole tongue hanging out, finger tapping the forehead, intensely concentrating and working on the task at hand body posture that tells me they are getting it.
Or that they've just perfected "The Costanza".
(The Costanza: Seinfeld fans will remember the episode in which George Costanza walks around with a piece of paper, rubbing his forehead and sighing in exasperation in order to trick his employee into "thinking" he was overworked, then locking himself in his office, crawling under his desk and taking a nap for the entire day!)
     Everyone was busy and productive. I felt successful and I asked everyone to give me examples to add to our list of words. We were a bunch of rhyming fools! And as we were all doing this, I caught two typically quiet, shy, can't get a word out of them little kiddos giggling hysterically together. Then I overheard what the subject of the chucklefest was all about. "You name is say the same as hose!" (JOSE)
The Lesson
     Somedays I forget this one. Do whatever it takes to get kiddos to burn knowledge into their little cerebrums. Humor is one of the best ways!
     So, whattaya waiting for? Go out and channel your inner Dr.Suess and make up as many rhyming words as you can with your own name!
Feature, Creature, Screecher-Mom! 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Everybody Needs a Desk Fairy!

"Mercy child! What have you got growing inside your desk?"
I have a dilemma of sorts. It's a real problem at times. I know where it stems from and I know I am passing on this little quirk to hundreds of little people on a daily basis.
(I hear 'ya."Get to it already!", you're saying.)
Well here it goes. I have to and I need to get it under control.
(Whew! Okay now that I admitted it. I feel so much better!)
I came to this realization at the end of a busy, busy week of testing and teaching and dancing and starting my new exercise program. You may have heard of it. It's called Tag Your It. You should try it. It works out all the major muscle groups and you see results instantly. I highly recommend it.
As I was saying...
I sat in the stillness and comfort of my classroom, and was basking in the glory of having two quiet moments to listen to the swishing of my own heart.
(Or was that the Mr. S's vacuum cleaner down the hall? They sound oddly the same)
I sat there and reflected on the past week's happenings. It was a good week. It was a fun week. Only three little darlings had to "visit" Mr. H and apologize for banging out Beethoven's Fifth on the restroom hand dryers adjacent to his classroom.
(Poor Mr. H and his students. I wonder if they hear the, bang-whiiish-whiiiiirrr-bang-bang-bang-whiiish-whiiiiirrrr, of those dryers in their sleep?)
Yes it was a productive week. I inhaled deeply and...stopped. As the familiar scent of something not too pleasant attacked my nasal passages, my body's  automatic response system took over. My head jerked. My nose wrinkled and my entire forehead scrunched up as I methodically searched around my work table for the offending culprit.
I sniffed...sniffed...sniffed. Nothin'.
I stood up, walked around the room and sniffed...sniffed...sniffed. Nothin'.
I got down on my hands and knees and sniffed all around the room until...I located the direction of the offending object. Like a droopy-eared hound in hot pursuit of a wascally wabbit, my nose locked onto that scent until I found it. Victory!
(Mommas and know what I'm talkin' about!)
I peered into the storage unit desk of one my more...ahem... creative Firsties. I tried to see past the great wall of paper blocking my view. I held my nose. I was afraid. (Vewy afwaid)
I poked at it with a pencil. I couldn't penetrate the fortress. I was afraid to find what lie deep within that dark cavern. I contemplated dragging the entire thing into the hall and calling a haz-mat team. I thought about calling GWH and having him come to my rescue. I continued to have an internal dialogue on how I could avoid what I knew was the inevitable. I had to do what I tell my students and girls all the time.
Take care of the problem.
I had to face my fear head on. So, I did what I had to do. I sucked it up, and my breath. I held my nose. I closed my eyes and dumped that desk over. Nothing fell out. That little person had packed the contents in so tightly that nothing moved. I shook once. I shook twice Nothin'.
I shook with all my might until finally everything dislodged and I watched in awe as out poured all the corrected papers, broken pencils, crayons, erasers ... of every student...from the past 17 years of my teaching career!
(well, maybe not but it sure did look like it)
I gingerly poked them around a bit with my foot until I found the offenders. And there they were. All oozy, green and moldy...rotting oranges and a bag of milk!
 The Lesson
It's always a good idea to give kiddos at least 15 minutes a week to organize and clean out their storage units. Make it fun and have a "desk fairy" come occasionally and leave a little motivation.

They'll love Deskarina!

 So, whattaya waiting for? Turn on that music and get to decluttering!