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I Miss My Mom

After a battle with stage four Colon cancer for over two years, my mom died on December 16, 2014. Today is January 4th and I am still overwhelmingly sad. We knew she was near the end for several weeks. She really took a turn for the worse right after Thanksgiving. As I left for work the day she died, I went in to see her. She lived with my family and I during the entire battle. She was awake and trying to talk but I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say. I gave her a kiss and told her I love her and would see her when I got home from work. I left in tears and cried often the rest of the day, My sister lives with us and took care of her as well as my two little girls over the last two years. I had already turned in leave for the rest of the week because we knew she would go soon. After work I went to Target to get a few things when my other sister texted me that mom had been unresponsive most of the day. We had hospice come out and evaluate her. The nurse said she was in transition, which we already knew from the literature they had given us previously. She died only an hour or so later. As I was putting slippers on her feet things started happening and I called the nurse in. She called the rest of us in (my other three sisters and two of our husbands). We watched as she took her last breath. It was a very sad and emotional time. We believe her spirit had left earlier in the day in preparation for the death of her body. From then on it was a whirlwind of family, memorial preparations, cremation paperwork, and then the memorial. I think my mom liked the memorial. It was at our house and was small. We ran a slideshow of her doing and being all the things that made her amazing. We played her favorite music and talked about our memories. Then the whirlwind of the holidays occurred. More family, Christmas, New Years, then silence. Family members went home to deal with their grief in their own ways. Here, my sister, husband, and kids have tried to stay busy but now my husband has gone back to Virginia for work, I go back tomorrow, and my sister has one less person in her care. There is such an emptiness in the house. I see so much that reminds me of my mom, her medications, last unsmoked pack of cigarettes, her clothes, her urn. My oldest daughter had such a great bond with grandma. She randomly mentions her and it makes me happy and sad that I know she misses her but will never really forget her. I just want to come home one more time to see my mom sitting in her chair looking at her computer. I want to just hug her as tightly as possible and just talk about anything. I want to see her play with my youngest and sit with my oldest all snuggled up. I want to hear her in the mornings on weekends clearing out the dishwasher and see coffee stains in my counter. I would even play poker again if she were at the table with me. I hate that I will not come home to her tomorrow. I hate it!!!! I am holding on to one of my favorite last memories. I offered to give her a manicure because her nails were so dirty. After I cleaned them, cut them, and shaped them, she asked me what colors of nail polish I had. She hadn’t painted her nails ever since I can remember. I pulled a couple out and we picked one. It looked so pretty on her long nails. She still had beautiful hands all the way to the end. I took a picture of her hand after. She loved it and I cherish being able to do that. I still remember how soft her hands were. She was an amazing mom. We never knew we were poor. We always had amazing Christmases and she built those memories and the love of the Christmas season and the idea of giving in us. She worried that she was not a great mother because of mistakes she made but we all make mistakes. The love she has earned from her children and grandchildren as well as her adopted children is the legacy she leaves. We all want to make her proud even though she isn’t here to witness it in person. I miss you so much, Mom. I know you are looking down on us with love and lots of laughter. I just miss you so much. So very, very, very much!

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Sorry some of the photos are sideways.

Summer!!!

Finally began summer break in traditional style. I deep cleaned and organized my three year old’s room and prepped it to sleep its newest guest, our four and a half month old. This will be an interesting experiment to see if they can share the room successfully. Next up, hallway and the two closets in the hallway. Then, the play area, including the purging of toys. This will need to be done carefully as my three year old doesn’t ever want her toys to be given (or thrown, if necessary) away. After that, the living room, kitchen, laundry room, master bedroom, master bath, master closet (probably my least favorite), then the garage (wait, this one IS my least favorite). I take a whole day to clean most of these rooms, working from top to bottom, cleaning walls and baseboards, cleaning and organizing drawers, vacuuming under heavy furniture that doesn’t get moved often, and washing every bit of fabric. After that, we will have visitors and hopefully all that work isn’t shot. A week at Myrtle Beach in July guarantees at least one week I am not worrying about the house. Mixed in to the cleaning is keeping up with my running and playtime with my beautiful girls. I feel like I try to cram 9 months of life into two months each summer. I usually fall short but I try to maintain priorities and make sure memories are made with my little ones. It would all be perfect if my husband could take two months leave to be with us the entire time.<

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Unstable:)

One day I will really keep up with this blog if for no one else but me! Since I last posted, forever ago, I have changed jobs, earned my master’s, and added another baby. I now work as part of the Department of Defense schools as a first grade (what!?) teacher. I love it! Such a difference 30 miles and an employer make! My sweet baby, Teagan, was born just three months ago. She’s our second and probably last. My husband is an instructor in the army and recently made the E-7 promotion list (very much deserved!). The plus is he isn’t deployable. The minus is he works about three hours away and can only come down on weekends. We go up there for breaks and will be moving up there in summer ’15. I have a lot to add soon but it is now bedtime. Hopefully it will go smoothly as my daughters and I have been battling an ugly cold virus that turned into croup for my three year old and a fever (which only lasted a day, thank GOD) for my little one. See ya soon!

Facebook

Facebook….where you can watch people make bad decisions, watch others congratulate themselves and others on bad decisions, and then watch those bad decisions blow up in their faces.

It’s just another place where you can’t be completely honest with the person about how much they are screwing their lives up.

Depressed

Have you ever felt so unloved and unwanted by the majority of the world? No one understands and there is no one to talk to who doesn’t have their own sad story to interject. Seriously, for once can it be about me? I wish I knew how to be callous and just let everyone and everything else go but I wasn’t built that way. I am so very tired of crying and not being able to enjoy the life I have. Anyone else wanna take a swing? I am standing right here and, as it turns out, I am a great punching bag.

Seven Months

We are sitting on the couch, Tarah is struggling not to go to sleep. He leaves in a few hours and I am not one bit sad…for me. I feel so much pain for her and him. I could never imagine spending seven months without my baby girl and here he is facing that inevitability. He must be going through hell! We haven’t even gotten to the final goodbyes and he is in so much pain. She has no clue what is about to happen but it affects her so much. He will miss her first steps, her first birthday and her first real words. She will miss playing with him and cuddling with him. I will miss him, too but to be separated from a child is so much worse. We have Skype but how can that possibly take the place of physical touch; those amazing kisses and hugs from her that makes the world better.

I am so glad this is a short deployment (his previous ones were 15 and 12 months). She will be 3 or 4 months past her first birthday. On the positive side he will not miss her second Christmas and she is at the super-resilient stage so things will be back to where they were before he left in just a few days. I am lucky because I have her to come home to everyday.

On a selfish note…I am not sure he will miss me much at all and that causes me a little sadness. That’s okay though because I wouldn’t expect any less from a good daddy then to dwell on missing his first child rather than his wife. I feel like I have wished a lot of my life away since we met and that feels so wrong but here I go again. Please let this time go fast!

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Changes

My husband and I are set to begin our third deployment within the next week. It will be shorter than the previous and with the drawing down of troops in Afghanistan, we may not be subject to another for a long time. I am the kind of person who needs to be very near a situation to believe it is real and to begin feeling the effects. I have been feeling them strongly within the last week.

This deployment is different. We have an eight month old beautiful baby girl and just moved into a new house. I am still working on my masters and am really not enjoying my work situation. I feel bad for my husband and daughter more than anything else. He will be missing things that will only happen once and she will not have him to play and laugh with for around eight months, which is light years for an infant. We have only been away from her for one night. I couldn’t imagine missing that long without going crazy, literally.

I am beyond lucky, however. My mom is coming to live with me. She will take care of our daughter and help me with the house. Meanwhile, I will maintain the same amount of time working at school and working on my masters. I put my name on the transfer list and will more than likely be working somewhere new for the first time in my career. Top that with learning a whole new set of standards and one might wonder when things will settle down again. I am gonna go with ten months.

This is when I am grateful that I was an army brat. Change isn’t terrifying but exhilarating while still just a bit scary.

I cannot put into words how much I am gonna miss my best friend and the person who tries hard to take some of my stress away! Tarah and I will hold it down here while you hold it down over there. We got this! We love you, daddy!

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Me in Crisis

I thought education was in crisis and it is.  That, however, has lead to a personal crisis.  I began working on my master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.  this is a degree that would keep me in education the rest of my life in some form or another.  Pair that with the worst professional year of my life and my first pregnancy and you have one chick who is seriously reevaluating her choices.  Don’t get me wrong, the pregnancy is a wonderful thing.  It was planned and has just about worked out better than I could have imagined. 

I think a lot of the thoughts I am having are centered around the pregnancy.  I give all of my life to teaching for nine months every year.  I get very little in return and that includes pay.  I haven’t seen a raise for three, going on four, years and have actually seen my paycheck decline over the last few months.  Why?  I really don’t know.  I see people who are able to leave campus at three or three-thirty each day and I marvel.  How are they keeping up?  I don’t have a child yet and keeping up with college class and the classes I teach leaves no time for me.  When I have my child, I refuse to let her take the back burner.  I have a paratrooper for a husband and we know he will be gone sometimes.  I cannot let school overtake the only person in her life who is able to be there consistently.  The question is, do I stop now or do I wait one year when I can get $5000 taken off my overwhelming student loans?  I wish I could leave now, but I know how much that $5000 will help in paying down those loans.  The bottom line is I have one more year, and in that year I better figure out what to do with an education degree and whether to continue my pursuit of a master’s in any form of education.  If anyone has ideas, I am open!  I have put the master’s on hold as of today in the middle of a course.  That is something I would never have done in the past, but stress is taking over and I do not want to live the last month and a half of my pregnancy hating everything around me except my pregnancy.  That is such a bad environment for a baby in, and out of, the womb.

I would love to hear from people who are thinking about leaving education (and in the current climate, there are plenty), as well as those who left the classroom but are still able to use the degrees they have earned in their new fields.

A few days ago I wrote the first part to this blog.  In it, I blamed the American culture and parents for the failure of education.  I still stick by that.  However, as I have reflected on my own beliefs about education, I have realized that the teachers, administrators, public officials, etc., are failing as well.  I will not put the blame squarely on teachers.  What teachers do now is almost militaristic.  We are told what to teach, how to teach, and how long to teach each concept.  We have lost our drive to actually teach.  This is mostly the fault of those who are in power.  This society is so hell-bent on testing and accountability, they have forgotten that the students are the customers, not the politicians, not even the parents.

Teachers:  You are to blame because you have done nothing to help fix the situation.  You are not trying to organize and tell politicians that we know better.  Don’t we?  We are the ones in the classroom.  We know that every student does not learn at the same pace.  We know that mastery learning does not occur because we have to be done teaching by May in order to be ready for the test.  We know that 28-30 students in one classroom with one teacher is not conducive to learning.  Yet, we have chosen to complain among ourselves but do nothing constructive about it.  I am guilty, too.  I know we are busy with our career, our family, our personal quest for education but if we don’t join voices, we will never be heard.

I am so tired of hearing about “research-based practices.”  Do I think we should be using them?  Yes!  But you can’t pick and chose when to use research and when not to.  Research proves that high class-size is harmful to achievement.  Research shows that multiple choice testing is actually a hindrance to children learning real world skills and problem-solving.  Research shows that students at certain ages aren’t developmentally ready for certain skills (fractions in elementary school, for instance) yet we are required to teach those skills.  Research shows that teaching for depth and mastery is much more effective than “covering” a concept yet we have hundreds of objectives to teach in each subject each year.  Research show that rote learning without meaning is worthless.  The knowledge only lasts a short time and is not transferable to other situations, however, some teachers still use memorization as a tool.  By the way, learning math facts is a research-proven strategy, however, the basics needs to be taught before memorizing the facts (students need to understand what multiplication is before memorizing their times tables). 

The only purpose for standardized testing is to hold teachers, schools, and systems accountable.  Are they being held accountable for student learning?  No, they are being held accountable for whether the students they taught can pass a standardized test.  A student thinks if they pass this test, they are ready to move on.  They aren’t, plain and simple. 

Our main job is to raise children who are life-long learners, critical thinkers, and problem solvers.  This is not happening.  Our culture, our current system, and our current leaders do not allow us to teach in this way. 

How do we get the word out?  How do we help politicians understand the disservice that is being done to the American education system?  We need a common voice.  We need to be heard.  How can we do that?  Do you have an idea?  Tell me about it.  I am doing what I know.  I am blogging and I have started a group called “American Teachers UNITED” on Facebook.  No one has joined yet.  I know my readership is small but we can build a movement.  Do you want to be the solution, or part of the problem.  LET’S JOIN TOGETHER!  LET’S UNITE to fix American education.

Education in Crisis

What is wrong with education today?  That seems to be the question on everyone’s tongue, including Oprah’s.  If Oprah is saying it, it must be true, right?  The movie Waiting on Superman, is sweeping the nation right now.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I get the gist.  It is about a few small areas where the education system is so corrupt that students and parents have to bet on luck for their child to get a good education.  This is in the form of lotteries for students to attend charter schools.  I can’t speak for those areas, but I feel I can speak for middle America. 

I can tell you what is NOT wrong with education.  Teacher pay has no bearing on whether the education system is working.  Should we get paid more?  YES!  We do the jobs of several people throughout the school day, we continue our education despite the lack of time to do so, and we get professional degrees and are still not considered professionals.  We are in the only profession where it is expected that you will give up the majority of your free time working on professional activities.  That being said, our pay does not affect the level of education children are receiving in this country. 

Another thing that is NOT affecting education is tenure.  I work in a right to work state so tenure isn’t quite the same as it is in unionized states but we have a form of it.  Tenure has been around for a very long time, long before America started believing education was failing. 

You ask, “So then, what IS wrong in education today?”  The system has its flaws, yes, but let’s look at statistics straight from the movie Waiting on Superman.  The movie states that the United States ranks 25th in math, 21st in science, and 1st in confidence.  Is that just an education problem?  I don’t think so.  If you are older than 30, you grew up in a different culture.  You were not raised to believe that everything you do was wonderful and you were the best at it.  You were taught to fight for what you wanted and go after your dreams.  After all, they won’t just fall into your lap. 

The WHOLE American culture is corrupt.  In schools, we coddle students.  We modify their work so that it is easier for them (and not just for students who have IEPs).  We condemn competition because feelings might get hurt.  This is not just in schools.  Parents are just as much to blame.  Parental culture is now, “My child would never do something like that!” or “What can the teacher do to help my child more?”  Whatever happened to the support that parents used to give the education system?  Now if their child doesn’t win an award on award’s day, even though the child is failing every subject and could care less about anything, the parent marches to the office and demands the teacher’s head on a platter.  Parents used to march to the school to talk to the teacher about a poor grade and find out why the student did poorly and what could be done at home to fix the situation.  Now students can bring knives to school and be suspended for one day and play video games that entire day. 

If you are aged thirty or over, you had to gain your confidence throughout life, earn it even.  Now children are told from day one that they are the best.  Healthy competition was okay in school and teachers had some rights.  Oh, and parents had some authority over their children.  Now parents want to be their child’s friend.  America is soft, people!  We have developed a culture of talking instead of doing. 

Well, teachers, its time to get to the doing!  It’s time to start a grass roots movement.  It is time to demand our professional status, our fair pay, and our creativity back, not to mention our authority.  The “Blame Teacher’s First” culture is doing nothing to fix the problems faced in education each day.  We are in the trenches and we know exactly what is going on.  It is time to open the eyes of those who only see statistics and movies.  Join the group “American Teachers UNITED” on Facebook.  We lose good teachers because there is no common voice.  Let’s start the common voice today!