Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tomorrow the adventure begins

Tomorrow marks the start of a brand new school year. That's right, tomorrow, twenty five little darlings will arrive in my classroom to spend their third grade year with me. (Yes, I did say twenty five.)

The past few days have been a blur of professional development, meetings, planning and countless hours preparing for this, the first day of school. A little known secret---teachers are just as nervous as the students on that first day!

Wish me luck!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy (belated) birthday to me!

I had a birthday a few weeks ago...I'm pretty grounded and generally don't get too crazy about my birthdays. I was doing fine with this one--31-- until my husband pointed out (quite gleefully I might add) that 31 is closer to 40 than it is to 20. He got a good chuckle out of that one. So I pointed out the gray hairs that are growing in his head. Ah, marriage!

Anyway, I do have a tendency to think about the year that has passed and the year that is coming around my birthday. I know that some of you out there might be thinking that I'm about to launch into another post about how sad I am that I'm not pregnant, but, surprisingly, I'm not.

Folks--life is good.

Actually, life is better than good. Life is pretty darn fantastic.

My Mom keeps telling me that my 30's are going to be the best years of my life and I'm starting to think she is right. Does it get any better than this? A husband who adores me, and whom I adore. A house that is, more and more, becoming our own. Truly a home. A family that I love being with (and I do mean my in-laws also because they are as much my family as my husband's). Two gorgeous nieces that get cuter, and smarter, every day and who make me smile every time I see them. A job I love and that challenges me every day. New beginnings-- taking classes for the first time in seven years, beginning to take on more leadership roles within our building and our district. The financial stability to pay bills on time (once upon a time that didn't happen!) and even think about vacations every year! And friends I love talking to and being with.

Like I said, life is pretty darn fantastic. And 31? It's not looking so bad after all!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My sister, my friend

I have an older sister...and a younger brother. Which makes me a middle child, but that's a post for another day.

Growing up, my sister (older by five years) was the person I looked up to, admired, and tried to be like. Her personality is different than mine--I tell people she is one of the strongest women I know. Fiercely independent, strong willed, confident, smart....all of the qualities I wanted to possess came naturally to her.

We were close growing up--all three of us. Tina was the one who looked out for me though. Our rooms were side by side, and a vent between them meant she could hear me. If I was ever sad, or lonely, or upset, Tina would inevitably hear my quiet tears and sneak into my room to comfort me. She went with me to ballet rehearsals, and coached me through some of the more difficult routines. She set the bar high going through school--I was forever known as "Tina's little sister" and it was made clear to me by countless teachers that they had high expectations because of that familial relationship. Oddly enough, that never bothered me. I had to work hard for my grades, but I thrived on the challenge, and developed good study habits that helped me to get where I am today. My brother was my playmate, but my sister was my mentor.

When it was time for me to look at colleges, I was convinced I would never go to the same school as my sister. I thought it would be my chance to blaze my own trail. Well, I quickly realized that was ridiculous and wound up at the same fantastic school she had gone to. As close as we were growing up, I think that this shared experience brought us even closer.

Life marched on--she got married and I was her maid of honor. She had her first child one April and I spent that summer, and the next, taking care of her. Those two summers still stand out as some of the most special I've ever had. And the bond that I formed with my first niece is one that I will forever cherish.

Then I got married, and, of course, Tina stood beside me on the alter. Two years later, and it is my sister that I turn to to discuss my pregnancy difficulties.

Those summers of caring for my niece began a tradition that we continue to this day. My sister and I will, a few times each summer, meet up for lunch. We did this recently--lunch is almost inevitably followed by shopping, or a movie. I have come to treasure this time spent with my older sister. But it was only recently that it hit me: somewhere along the way, the little girl that looked out for her littler sister became the woman that is one of my best friends.

So, Tina, to you I say: Thank you for being the best sister a girl could ever have. I love you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some thoughts inspired by today

Today was day two of my adminstrator program. Second day in a row of waking up at 6 am meant that I was a little sleepy, but I still found the day to be rather thought provoking.

I found myself, over the course of the two days, thinking about perceptions. How I perceive things, how others perceive things and how I am perceived. I found myself thinking back to meetings I have sat in, committees I have sat on and conversations I have had.... and I began to wonder: have I always put my best out there? I also began to wonder about the bigger picture. There are times when it is perfectly obvious that there is a bigger picture that I might not know about, and those times I'm normally able to recognize that and understand that I don't have all of the pieces of the puzzle. But there are those other times when it feels like I know enough to get a sense of the bigger picture, and I find myself incredibly frustrated by that knowledge. But now I wonder, did I really know, or was I too quick to jump to conclusions that supported what I was already thinking?

One of the speakers told us that being an administrator means that you are, on many levels, in a fishbowl. Everyone will scrutinize what you say and do, even what you wear. She advised us to start thinking about that now.....and another speaker advised us that we should become known as the person who is fighting for children, regardless of our roles within our school setting.

I have a friend who has already gone through the degree program I am in and just landed a job as an Assistant Principal in our district. There reached a point in his schooling where he started to give me what I liked to call "administrator answers" during our conversations. I used to call him out on it and ask him for what he really thought. He would laugh and respond with a new thought. And then when he landed his job, I used to send him emails of what not to do as an administrator. Now I realize that he was probably going through the same thought process I am going through....I am sure he was thinking about his words, and how they would make him appear. I believe that he ended up telling me his true thoughts because, ultimately, he knew that I already held him in the highest regard, and because he knew that I would keep his words to myself if necessary.

All of a sudden that phrase "it's lonely at the top" makes sense. If administrators are always thinking about perceptions, who do they ever get to be honest with? Who do they get to vent to? Who gets to hear what they really think, or what they really want to say? This thought leads me to friendship: I want to hope that my principal, and all administrators out there, have one true friend. One person that they can say anything to, and that person will recognize that no matter what they say, they are still a good person and a good administrator. I hope that my administrator has one person in his life where he doesn't have to worry about perceptions. I want to believe that administrators have that because I hope that I can have that one day.

I'll end my rather confused ramblings with a quote from the day that spoke to me:
"Seek to understand, before being understood."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Administrator Aspirant

Today was the first day of a four day "course"on being an aspiring administrator. I sort of stumbled onto this life path and I found myself looking around wondering where I'd wind up if I stay the course. I'm sure the answer is obvious to most: a principal. The funny thing is, I'm taking this course, and beginning a new degree in administration, but I'm still completely incapable of picturing myself as a principal. So many of the choices I have made that have led me here to this day are because of the encouragement of others. I often succeeded where I was convinced I wouldn't, agreed to something when I didn't think I had any interest...and along the way I became something I didn't realize I was and still struggle with defining myself as: a teacher leader.

I love teaching. I love everything about it. Teaching is what I wanted to do since I was an elementary student myself. My parents used to tell me that one day I'd realize that if I really wanted to make a difference I would need to be a principal. I used to laugh at that because I believe I am making a difference. Every single day. But lately, I'm starting to see what they mean. There is a bigger world out there beyond the four walls of my classroom and the more I get involved in committees, the more I see the way things work, the stronger my desire to get right in the thick of it.

Today is a perfect, my superintendent happened to be the guest speaker. She went around the room and asked each of us to name something we would do if we were an administrator. After everyone had a chance to express their ideas, she looked at all of us and said, "Why are you waiting?"
Well. That just stopped me in my tracks. The answer I gave myself was "I don't really know." Definitely not good enough. So, right then and there, I started listing a proposal to overhaul our site based professional development. This is an easy area for me to start with because I am going to be chair of our Professional Development Committee. Plus, I like the idea of trying to do something different than the men that chaired the committee before me.

Today, my superintendent also drove home a message that resonated with me on so many levels, and made me respect her so much more. She stressed the importance of following your heart, and staying true to yourself. I have a feeling that if I do that, I will wind up as a principal one day....even if I can't imagine it myself.

So, to you, my fellow bloggers, I ask: why are you waiting?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Haunted by CMT's

A few weeks ago, my principal emailed the results of the CMT scores--that would be our state standardized tests-which are mandatory beginning in 3rd grade thanks to Mr. Bush.

I'm not so sure why he thought it would be a good idea to email these scores in the middle of summer, without any sort of commentary at all. But he did.

They were horrible.

Actually, let me correct that statement: third grade (which is what I teach) was horrible. Fourth and Fifth-not so bad- they even went up in some areas. But third grade....well, we took a serious nose dive. Our reading scores were well below what the district (and the state) wants them to be. Math and writing also for that matter, but they were a bit closer.

Here's the kicker- for me at least- the scores were broken down first by grade, then by gender. So I have no idea how my students did in relation to the other classes.

And I honestly can't decide if that's good or not. As the most veteran grade level teacher on the team (one of my colleagues is two years ahead of me in experience but she was on a different grade level), I am hoping that my scores are reflective of my experience. One colleague already pointed out that our scores could have gone so down so substantially because we had two new teammates. But I'm not so sure that is the full explanation. And if it isn't... what does that say about my teaching?

It is hard not to take this stuff personally. OK, part of that is because it is my personality. I do believe that being reflective on your practice helps you to improve. But these are my kids, and this is my job- to teach.

It would be easy to make excuses--and there are some that are truly valid. But the bottom line is that it is hard, in this day and age of No Child Left Behind, to not feel scrutinized based on the scores of your class. It is hard to not panic when you learn that only 57% of the girls in your grade level were at or above goal in Reading. Even harder when you see a difference from one year to the next of over 15 points. It's hard to think of the hours you poured into developing curriculum, planning lessons, sorting through piles of professional books, talking with reach those students and teach that content. It's hard to not be just a little bit disappointed.

This is where all the politicians with their fancy speeches and empty promises becomes real. Any politician who tells you that merit based pay for teachers is a good idea, and they'll use standardized test scores to decide that pay--well, just remember that there are those of us who pour our heart and soul into their jobs, and sometimes, the numbers just don't reflect that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wading into new waters

I haven't been able to post since my last one...not because I haven't had the time....but because I couldn't figure out where to go from there. Once you've poured out your heart--essentially to the unknown--where do you go? It seemed almost silly to write about my weekend at the beach house, or the major shopping trip I did- at the teacher store-or the curtain rods we purchased....

So, I have decided, for now at least, to give you an update about this new world I am beginning to wade into. Here's to hoping I'll just be dipping my toes in, and not diving head first into these murky waters....

I went for my blood work. To check hormone levels and other various things that I don't really understand. It was a little bit of a challenge--the directions were easy- get it done on the third day of your cycle, but, of course, things were a tad messier. My third day turned out to be a Sunday. So, after much thought, I took a risk and went on my second day. Guess it was the right decision because the results came back.

Apparently all is normal except (and here is where we enter this new world of words I don't know) my prolactin levels. Which were high. How high I didn't ask, but high enough that I have to go back again for more blood work to see if it is consistently high or if it was a fluke. Prolactin, for those of you that don't know (I certainly didn't!) is a hormone that women secrete to stimulate milk production. My doctor actually asked me (I'm assuming he was joking) if I had recently had a child. Clearly, no.

He told me not to panic (which I didn't-then) and explained some reasons why it might have been high (none of which applied to me) and asked me to go back again for blood work (no big deal). I hung up feeling good. We are getting somewhere. Figuring things out. If this is what it is, some hormone that can potentially be treated with some pills, well, that seems manageable!

Then I went to google. Which makes me think that sometimes having so much information at your fingertips is NOT a good thing. I'm not normally one of those people to self diagnose or freak out over health issues. However, reading the words "tumor" and "pituitary gland" definitely made me panic just a bit. But my doctor had said don't panic, and he also called me by a nickname, which I liked, so I relaxed and decided to wait to really panic until I get more blood work done and we figure out if this is a fluke, or something more serious.

So, I have one more lesson to add to my life's education: prolactin = breast milk. Now if that is only a question on Final Jeopardy when I happen to be a contestant, then I'll be all set!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One of the things I love best about this blog, is that the writer is not afraid to be Honest. She writes from her heart, which, I think, takes courage and strength.

I, on the other hand, have always been afraid to be too open, too honest, on my blog. Times, they are a'changing. At least for this post.

Here's the thing: when I first created this blog, I had hoped that it would be the place where I would share NEWS. I mean Big News.
Of the baby variety.
I thought, or hoped, or dreamed, that this would be where I chronicaled my pregnancy, and the birth and growth of my children. I started the blog in advance of that actual happy event in the hopes that I would be a regular blogger so once said happy even occured, writing would be a part of daily activity.

As with many of life's events, things aren't going exactly as planned.

My husband and I have been "trying" (I'm starting to hate that word....who tries to have a baby? You don't try, you just have one!) for a year now. This August marks a year actually. Much like when I was 25, unmarried and unattached and people would ask, when are you getting married?, I am beginning to cringe and blink away tears when I hear the question, "so, when are you going to have a baby?"

I foolishly believed it would be easy. Ah, my naivete! My innocence! I thought, "How hard could this be?" After all, I have so many examples, on both sides of the family, of cousins who have managed to get pregnant without much difficulty at all.

Apparently, it's not as easy as one would think. And the emotional roller coaster of it all is...well, an emotional roller coaster.
I know what people say....what people think. I know that people think I am too busy. Maybe even too stressed. I know that people think I want it too badly, I'm trying too hard. Thinking about it too much.
I struggled with that. Thought about stopping everything. Even imagined what life would be like if all I did was teach. And I couldn't. I couldn't picture it or imagine it. See, I don't know how to not be me. I know that it is a personality flaw of mine that I say yes to everything and everyone. That I bend over backwards to make everyone around me happy, often sacrificing what I want, what I need, to do so. I know I need to work on finding balance in my life. I know these things. But I also know that I have always been busy, always been involved. Even the merest whisper of a suggestion that perhaps I stop, even the one off handed remark, well, it feels like I'm being asked to stop being me.
But then the horrible thought occurs (emotional roller coaster, remember?) what if being me is what's preventing me from having what I feel, at the bottom of my soul, I am ready for? I push that thought aside, and tell myself that there has to be other reasons, that it is normal for it to take awhile, that there are thousands of women who have gone through exactly what I am going other words, I convince myself that it's OK to be me. But, despite all my pushing, all my convincing, the thought creeps back in, like a bad odor you can't get rid of that permeates your senses and leaves you feeling sick to your stomach.
I've even tried some reverse psychology. Stopped using ovulation predictor sticks, stopped taking temperatures, stopped trying so hard, thinking so much. I'm too clever for myself though and those tricks don't seem to have worked either. How do you not think? Not try? Not pray every month that this would be the month?
In my darker moments, I cry. A lot. And I have arguments in my head, coming up with reason after reason, all my fault of course, as to why I'm not pregnant. Some ridiculous, and I know they are ridiculous even as I list them in my head, and some serious. I question everything that I do and I worry what people think, convinced that I am disappointing all of them, convinced they are thinking that I am making the wrong choices. For a person like me, the thought of disappointing others is the worst possible thought. And I sink into bleak sadness.
In my brighter moments, I tell myself that if anyone was meant to be a mom it is me and I put my faith in the inexplicable, secure in the knowledge that the reason I'm not pregnant yet is a reason I don't understand. And that it will happen. Fortunately, this is where I spend most of my time, convinced that one day I'll be able to announce to the world that I have been blessed with a miracle.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Still got it

Picture this: a group of women that I was just eating lunch with (it was a meeting, not a fun lunch date with friends) leave an average restaurant in the town I work in. We gather outside the door, discussing directions to the next stop. Two men stand nearby, chatting together. Since I am not going with them to the next stop, I say my goodbyes and walk away...

I head towards my car, but turn around to offer one last wave to my colleagues. As I do, I notice that one of the men is behind me. He calls out "How you doing?" I smile and nod but turn back around and continue walking. Just as I reach my car the following conversation ensues:

Him: Excuse me, let me ask you something, how old are you?
Me: (Taken slightly aback at the absolute brazenness of the man) Almost 31. (If I'm asked that question, I always answer almost 31 because, frankly, it feels a little old to me and I'm trying to get used to saying the number.)
Him: You are absolutely adorable, are you single?
Me: (Seriously shocked and looking around for someone I know so they can witness this crazy scene.) No, I'm happily married. (Slight emphasis on the happily.)
Him: (Extending his hand.) I'm John.
Me: (Extending mine, although I'm thoroughly confused as to why he'd want to shake my hand when I clearly indicated that I'm not at all available.) Lisa.
Him: You have a great handshake too. (I am rather proud of my handshake I must say. No limp hands for me! No no, a nice firm grip. He starts to walk away and calls over his shoulder, nice to meet you.)

A colleague rounds the corner at the end of this exchange and calls out "I leave you alone for a minute and look at what happens!" I explain what happened and then end with, "I can't wait to tell my husband this story!!!"

That's right, almost 31 and actually getting hit on!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

No more scary room!

When Russ and I first moved into our house, we discovered many things that frightened us. The three layers of kitchen floor that were held together by a glue so old it had turned into a solid-black-almost-tar-like substance for example. Or the plaster and lath that we discovered behind our kitchen walls. But nothing scared us as much as the room that we, for a full year, actually called the scary room.

This picture honestly doesn't do it justice. You can't see, for example, the weird pattern on the wall paper that was clearly put up before either of us were born. Nor can you see the wooden bar stretching across the length of the room that was used to hang clothes on. And you certainly can't see the writing we discovered underneath the wallpaper once we pulled it off. Writing that didn't make sense. At all.

So, for a year, it became the "scary room", aka, the room to dump stuff in when we didn't know where else to put it.
We had grand plans: to paint, put up a closet.....see, our house was built in 1921. They apparently didn't need as many closets back then because in our three bedroom house we have one teeny-tiny closet and a second one that is even smaller and has shelving in it. Needless to say, we've had clothes strewn and draped everywhere.

Well, this summer marks a year that we've been in our house and it was time to Get The Job Done. With some help from a contractor, the walls were skim coated, sanded and painted. Major first step. (And a big sigh of relief that I still liked the color I picked out a year ago!) Then came the closet. We went online, designed it ourselves, bought all the pieces and brought them upstairs. They sat there for a little while, while we went about our curriculum work and Russ did his coursework. Then Russ started assembling, and of course, as with any house project, it ended up being a bit more complicated than we had thought. However, after a slight, very small, barely noticeable fit of nervousness by me (August 1?!? When did it become August 1!?!? We only have three and a half more weeks until school! Aack!) Russ pushed through and got it done. And, if I do say so myself, it looks pretty darn good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Yeah, I did

The other day, while browsing through my local TJ Maxx, I came across an item that immediately sent me back to the joys of my youth.

Jelly shoes.

I LOVED jelly shoes when I was a kid. I had them in almost every color you could get them in. My favorites were a clear pair that I kept long past the point of outgrowing them.

So, naturally, when I stumbled across this blast from my past, I couldn't resist. (Especially since they were only $7!) I did it. I bought them.