Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thirteen things every teacher should know

  1. Teaching is not a 9-5 job. Not only do you have lessons to plan, papers to correct, data to enter, report cards to fill out, open house presentations to prepare, conferences to get ready for....but you also have the kids. They stay with you, 24-7. You will go home and tell stories about them. There will always be at least one that you will worry about what they're doing when they walk out that classroom door. It doesn't matter if you are in the richest or the poorest district in the world....there will always be the kids.
  2. Since there will always be the kids to think about, worry for and plan lessons for- one of the hardest lessons you will learn as a teacher is that there is only so much you can do in a day, or a year. Eventually, the school bell rings, the year ends....and they are gone; these kids you fell in love with. And there's nothing you can do except accept your successes....or your failures.
  3. It is the only job in the world where you have to time your beverage consumption to match your schedule. Don't start drinking coffee at 8:00 if your first break isn't until 12:20 because you'll have a serious problem. Unless you can poke your head out the door and catch some unsuspecting adult to stand in your classroom while you sprint down the hall to the nearest bathroom.
  4. Since everyone has earned an education, everyone has an opinion about education. It doesn't matter if they are fresh out of college, or 60 years young, they all know the best way you can do your job or the easiest way for the government to run your school. It also doesn't matter if the curriculum has changed dramatically since they were in school (which I can almost guarantee it has)! Because gosh darn it, if it worked for them and they're OK, then why can't it work for kids today?
  5. Teachers can in fact predict when the moon is full. Check the noise level of your classroom or the behavior of your students.
  6. There will be days when you will cheer, days when you will cry in frustration, days when you throw up your hands in exasperation....but there will never, ever, be a boring day.
  7. Lysol spray, Clorax wipes and hand soap. Use them often, love them dearly.
  8. Just when you've figured out how to teach something- it will change. You will just be comfortable and confident and feel like maybe next year will be a tad easier and someone will come along with New Research! Better practices! Good Ideas! Suddenly, you find yourself elbow deep in new curriculum to learn.
  9. You will be sneezed on, you will witness students throwing up, you will see gushing blood. You will carry epipens and pray you never have to use them. You will learn about conditions like epilepsy, bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol syndrom, allergies, tourettes, asbergers, ADD and juvenile diabetes. You will feel foreheads, support hurt ankles and distribute more bandaids in a year than you even imagined. And you will do it all with a smile and a calm attitude because you know full well that the minute you lose it, so will your students.
  10. Stickers. Even fifth graders love them. Just make sure you have a large variety because you will run out, or get bored with them.
  11. Every teacher needs a bag of tricks. Ways to get the class to quiet down, to walk from one point to another in an orderly fashion, to go from one lesson to the next without too much disruption. Learn several tricks, then learn even more because after awhile, the same tricks won't work anymore.
  12. You can never have enough thank you cards.
  13. You will receive mugs and smelly lotion and really hideous jewelry. You might even get lucky enough to receive used gifts. Don't take it personally. Some parents really do think you want to wear a neon green necklace that you'd never be caught dead in while walking around smelling like watermelon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I swear I don't make this stuff up!

I couldn't EVEN make this stuff up. Here's the latest edition of Overheard in a /Third Grade Classroom:

Me: Alright everyone, use your geoboards to create a quadrilateral with more than one line of symmetry. (For those of you who don't teach third grade that's a four sided shape that when folded or cut in half is equal on both sides.)

The students begin creating quadrilaterals and holding them up to show me. One student holds up a shape that is clearly not a quadrilateral.

Me: N, how many sides does your shape have?

N: (Hitting his forehead in consternation.) Oh, oops.

D: (Looking over his shoulder at N's work.) N, you created a sex-alateral.

Me: Who knows the name of a six sided figure?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

LAST weekend in review

I don't really understand how people manage to post every day. I know I'm busy and I have a problem saying no and am involved in too many things but how in the world to people find time to post every day??? I have this problem where sometimes I have weeks where I have TONS of good ideas to post but am too busy to get to it....then I have other weeks where I have no good ideas and I'm suffering from the people-aren't-interested-in-what-I-have-to-say syndrome and I don't post for AGES. Either way, I have zero time for posting every day. How do you do it!?!

That rant wasn't actually the point of this post....this post was going to be about last weekend. Of course, now it is Saturday of a new weekend so I'm a little tardy....see above paragraph!
Last weekend my family headed to Boston to stay at a very quaint inn. Russ and I drove up Friday night and of course, since we are both horrible with directions, managed to get lost. In the rain. And the dark. Several phone calls later, we arrived, after missing dinner at my brother's place. (Only later did I find out that the GPS that we own was in fact in the car, and not at home as we thought, and was also charged.) So we ventured forth to find a restaurant...on foot. I forgot how easy it is in the city-to just walk out your door, hang a left, and within a block, have at least five different choices of places to eat.
Saturday dawned rainy and gray so we decided to take the girls to the Children's Museum. It was full of running, screaming children, being trailed by their parents who were clearly trying to keep their toddlers busy on a rainy weekend. The noise aside, it was so fun to watch my two favorite nieces discover and explore the museum. They bounced from one activity to another and their curiousity seemed endless, as did their energy!
We separated around lunch time, with Russ, Dad, Greg and I heading to Fenway to catch a Red Sox game. I've been dying to go to a baseball game for awhile and had never been to Fenway before so I was thrilled, despite the drizzle, to go. I even got to eat a Fenway frank, sing Take me out the Ballpark and experience the Red Sox winning a game!
Next we all met up for some yummy Vietnamese food. The girls behaved amazingly well, but when they started crawling under the table to curl up and sleep, we knew it was time to go. Sunday morning dawned and we all headed to my brother's place for brunch, before heading back to CT.

It was so great to be in the city for a weekend. It was a nice reminder of how fun the city can be.....there is always something to do, somewhere to go....and it is easy to get anywhere, quickly! It was also a nice reminder of how much I love living in suburbia. We came home to sunshine, green grass, birds singing and the sun reflecting off our lake. I may have to get in my car to go for every errand, but I do so love my little house. It was also fun to be with my whole family. Those moments where we are all together, in one place, seem to happen less and less frequently. When they do I am reminded of just how lucky I am.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


You know the Leave it to Beaver type shows? The ones where every family is perfect, they eat dinner together every night and they live in a neighborhood where everyone says good morning on their way out the door?
That is our neighborhood.
Let me tell you a few snippets to illustrate just how fantastic our neighborhood is:

First of all, when we moved in, we were instantly greeted by our next door neighbor. He (and his wife) checked in regularly on our progress and offered tools and supplies regularly. Our neighbors down the street baked a tasty treat and delivered it to our door. Yup. Homemade baked goods to welcome us to the neighborhood.

A month or so after moving in, another neighbor brought us a gorgeous flower from her backyard welcoming us to the area.

When the first winter snow hit, some boys knocked on our door and offered to shovel our driveway for us.

Now that it is spring, the neighborhood has come alive again. Everyone is taking walks with their dogs or their children (or both). Many are gardening, planting, weeding etc on a regular basis. And many more are stopping their work for a friendly chat, or strolling over to a neighbors house to visit. I myself have walked across the street to deliver some cookies to two of our neighbors.

Sometimes I can't believe how lucky we are to live where we do. Not only do we get a lake view but we also get amazingly friendly neighbors who have quickly become good friends that we enjoy hanging out with. Other times, I'm confused by the Leave-it-to-Beaver-ness of our area. I can't help but wonder, do these quaint little pockets of true neighborhoods still exist? It all feels almost surreal to us....
Apparently they do. And I am the lucky lady who gets to live in one!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Thirteen Things you may not know about me:
(Many thank to NPW for the idea!)

1. My biggest pet peeve is when people leave windshield wipers on long after the rain has stopped. The squeaking sound the wipers make as they slide across the glass makes me feel equivalent to the way others feel when nails are dragged across a chalkboard. (Which, interestingly, doesn't bother me at all.) Another sound that makes me feel the same way is metal forks dragged across glass plates.

2. I was once two seconds away from being arrested and hauled off to jail. Rather than being mortified by this, I'm actually a little proud. We were protesting in college, staging a sit in, and only the threat of expulsion got most of us out of the building. The best part about this story is that when I called my parents to let them know what was going on, my dad was proud of me and volunteered to pay my bail.

3. I like the colors red and yellow. Not as much for the colors as for the feelings I associate with those colors: fiery passion and sunshiny happiness.

4. The most amazing thing I've experienced thus far in my life was watching the birth of my second niece, Cosette. There are no words to explain what it is like to watch a miracle happen right before your eyes.

5. The books on my book shelves have evolved: they started out organized by height. Next, I went alphabetical when I moved in with hubby, but visual disorder of all of those mixed up heights somehow never worked for me. Now, they are shoved in any which way. Some by height, most just all mixed up. I still don't know which way I like best.

6. I hate walking on grates in sidewalks. I have an inexplicable fear that I will fall through them and land either in some nasty sludge-like sewer or fall all the way through and break all the bones in my body. This seemingly irrational fear was made all the more real when I heard of a colleague falling through a grate in Cape Cod.

7. I am a serious creature of habit. Before I leave school, three things have to be done: my morning work passed out, the schedule changed and the message written. Sometimes I interchange the message with copying homework. If those things are not done I have a bizarre panicky feeling when I'm driving to work the next day. Also, I have to do the same things in the morning--wake up, make breakfast and lunch for the two of us, shower, get dressed and leave. If I do things in a different order I inevitably forget something and it throws me off all day long.

8. I say "Have a nice lunch" to all of my students every day. I also say, "Have a great afternoon" at the end of the day. I also count how many say it back to me. It's my little social experiment. Last year, roughly half a dozen of my kids would respond. This year, although I get more hugs at the end of the day than last year, I receive very few verbal responses--it usually hovers around two to three.

9. I have a problem with email. My inbox is cluttered. I have messages from September still sitting in there, largely because I'm not quite sure what to do with them. I get a ton of emails every day (when I wasn't in school the other day I logged on to find over fifty and I thought that was a quiet day!) and sometimes when there are forwards or links or photos, they just stay in my inbox....

10. I don't drink beer. I hate the taste of it in fact. Sometimes I wish I did drink beer, it would make things easier in social situations, but every time I try, I am reminded of just how much I hate the taste. I also don't drink coffee. On the rare occasion I can drink coffee when it is 30% coffee, 50% hot chocolate, and 20% cream, with a little bit of sugar.

11. I say certain words funny. Mayonnaise and comfortable. Don't ask me to say them next time we chat, I'll be on to you and I won't be able to say them at all. Just listen carefully and you'll hear it...

12. I like revisiting movies. There are a few I can watch over and over, and I will do so often. Particularly on a Sunday evening when I am planning out my week of lessons.

13. I secretly would love to own a hedgehog one day. They don't do much, and you can't exactly cuddle or play with them, but if you've ever held one (with gloves on) and watched them curl up into a tiny ball, then you'd understand a little better this bizarre desire of mine.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Overheard in my classroom recently:

A student stumbling through the word pianist....stuttering, stumbling and, in general, mispronouncing the word....

Another student, from a few feet away-and thus in a slightly louder voice:
"I know that word, isn't it penis?"

Me: "I think you mean the word pianisT" (Heavy emphasis on the T there. And then, a repeat, just in case I wasn't heard the first time.) PianisT.
I seriously can't even make this stuff up.

Friday, May 04, 2007


On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, my Nonnie died.

Even writing those words hurts....

I told my Mom, and then my sister, that the world doesn't feel the same.
It still doesn't feel the same.
Even though she was ill for quite awhile, she was still here. With us.
It's funny how life goes on--even though the world doesn't feel the same, you wake up every morning and shower and dress and go to work and cook dinner and do laundry and do all the things a person has to do in the course of an ordinary life. And then something small will happen, you'll be shopping at TJ Maxx and automatically turn to the 2X section to look for something for Nonnie, and then it hits you again. Or you'll be cooking dinner one night, and pull out a pepper and remember that even after she had her first stroke, when she couldn't stand or move very well, she would make you stuffed pepper after stuffed pepper because it was one of the few things she still could do for you, and she didn't know how to not care for the people she loved most.
When she had her first stroke a few years ago, I started praying. Selfish prayers, which is not typical for me. I prayed every Sunday, and often during the week, that Nonnie would live to see me get married. Self- centered, I know, but it was what I wanted in the bottom of my heart.
And she made it.
Not only did she make it, but she walked down the aisle, and stood on the dance floor during our anniversary dance. For me. Because I asked her to. Because she loved me that much.
And for that I am forever grateful.
I remember, as she started to weaken, and as dementia took more and more of her mind, crying because I didn't want that Nonnie to be the one that stayed in my memory. Selfish again, I know. I've learned a lot since those tears. One thing I learned is that even though her body was frail and failing, her mind, her personality, was as sharp, and as Nonnie-like, as ever. I also learned that even though Nonnie in her last days is a part of my memory, what is an even stronger part of my memory is MY Nonnie. The one who made me bread and tomatoes when I was younger, who had a garden that stretched for miles, who always sent me away with my car laden with food. The Nonnie who had a basement that seemed almost magical in the foods that it could produce. The one who apologized to me every Christmas and birthday because she couldn't give me more. The Nonnie who, as I got older, lectured me on how to live as a good wife and a better daughter and sister. The Nonnie that made special Easter bread baskets with the egg magically baked in the middle. The Nonnie that loved me until the end.
And even now, as I type this with tears streaming down my face, I am also smiling....because I truly am blessed to have a Nonnie.