Life

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. The seasons have changed from summer, to fall, to rain, to winter, to rain (oh, the rain this year…), to spring, to rain, and now, summer again. Suddenly I’m a year older and the reality that my children are a year closer to moving away from home scares me more than ever before. In truth, the past year has changed me. Some of this shift was because of that natural progress that occurs as we go through life. Some of it was brought on by circumstances out of my control, which altered my perspective of both myself and humanity.

As you’ve likely asserted, I’m not a reliable blogger. I’m sporadic at best, preferring only to blog when I feel inspired, rather than sticking to a schedule which readers can rely on. I can’t handle blogging to a schedule- truthfully, it stresses me out. My brain is always running a thousand miles an hour, and even now as I write this, I’m thinking about all that I still need to get done this weekend. After all, laundry doesn’t fold itself. Regardless, I commit to forming an imprint on my couch for the time being so as to update you on the happenings of my life.

On Family…

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My husband and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary this July. He’s asked me repeatedly what we should do for our anniversary. My answer is likely a let down for him as I just want to live in the moment. He’s a planner and meticulous paperwork pile creator, striving to organize details with the precision of an event coordinator, likely a side effect of over two decades of military training. I, on the other hand, just want to “wing it”. I like to go for hikes, drink coffee in the early hours of the morning, drive to destinations we’ve never been, eat at restaurants that serve gluten-free food and cheap Merlot. I prefer to sit in a lawn chair with a good book than push my way through a crowd or watch an overpriced action-packed movie in a theater. Maybe that’s why we work as a couple- I am the introvert to his extrovert, the recycler to his pile creator, the smile to his untimely jokes.

With that said, I remain faithfully organized. With only a half-day left of school, I am ready to turn off my computer and leave the moment my students depart after the final bell has rung for the school year. I can make dinner, correct papers, and pay bills simultaneously, while also corresponding with classmates to plan our reunion this summer. I read novels while at baseball games and remain unable to cook when the kitchen isn’t clean. I’m not sure where my organized brain came from, but I’m forever grateful for the ability to plan lessons, coach track, write a chapter and pull weeds all before sitting down at the television to watch a FRIENDS rerun.

My best gift, however, remains being a mom. As of Monday, I will have a junior, sophomore and 5th grader. My children continue to amaze me with their athleticism and intellect. What I’m most proud of, however, is their respect and empathy for others. When I willingly signed up for this whole parenting thing, I seriously hit the jackpot. Not all days are easy. There are epic eye rolls, arguments, and more than enough morning dramas, but overall, I couldn’t be prouder and I am so grateful for every day spent with my kids.

On Teaching…

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This school year has been tough, but also rewarding. The two constants I tell my students are to never give up and to be awesome. More than ever before, I’ve had to adhere to my own advice. From moving to a new school, teaching a new grade level, learning two new curriculums, and having an extremely rough first week, I can honestly say, I couldn’t have been given a better class. The twenty-six students I was blessed to teach this year are amazing. Yes, it was a lot of work to get them to the next level, but I will never forget this group of students or how they cared about each other.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the district curriculum team to be filmed as a model and example for instructional engagement strategies. Intimidating- yes. Overwhelming- most definitely. Awkward- totally. They sent me the video yesterday, along with a nice thank you note. I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it because seeing myself on film is painful. Performing on stage or in front of the camera was never my thing, however, it was nice to be recognized for my work. This summer, I plan to focus on student growth mindset strategies, while also serving on the literacy curriculum framework writing team and completing my English Language Arts endorsement.

On Writing…

I finished another contemporary young adult novel, which is currently in the hands of my literary agent. Publishing is a hard business, which moves at a glacial pace. In case you’re wondering; no, my other two novels have not sold yet. I remain committed to one day seeing my novels on the bookstore shelves, or as the market continues evolving, the Amazon website.

Here’s a sneak peek of my new novel, currently titled, Playing with the Boys:

diamonds are a girls best friend

        The ball stings the palm of my hand when it smacks against my glove. The batter winces at the ump’s call as I smile faintly, reminding myself that we aren’t done yet. One more pitch.

            The batter recovers and moves back into the box, tapping his bat on the plate, once and then a second time. The dirt from his cleats rises, clinging to my knee pads as the pitcher winds up. The ball crosses the plate right into my glove.

            “Strike! You’re out!”

            I stand and give my pitcher a high five before yanking off my facemask and helmet. I pretend to ignore the stares, the laughs, the comments coming from the other team’s dugout. No one cares how I played. No one cares that we shut them out. They only care about what they see in front of them, as if they’ve just realized what my team has known all along.

            The best catcher on the field is a girl.

On Reading…

 

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.

My verdict: This book was unputdownable (is that even a word?). I read it on the airplane to CA, while we were waiting to depart the plane, while in line at the car rental place, while waiting for the rental bus, while in line at the hotel, in the hotel room, and while my family waited for me to finish so we could go to dinner. It was that addictive.

Everything, Everything and The Sun is also a Star, by Nicola Yoon.

I loved these diverse YA novels. Highly recommend!

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

This was a fantastic young adult book about siblings, with an awesome voice.

I’m currently reading Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch. It’s another book with a fantastic voice and the fact that it’s set in Italy is a bonus. There are so many other books coming out that I can’t wait to devour.

On February 12, the Day that Changed Everything…

p hospital

I never imagined how things would change when I took my son to his select baseball practice on the Sunday afternoon of February 12. I remember dropping him off, gassing up the car, running errands and then stopping at home to see my daughters. Then I called out that I was heading to pick up their brother and would be back in a half an hour. I returned home four days later.

You see, my son was struck in the temple with a baseball toward the end of his practice. As most athletes do, he shook it off and continued playing. When he came out to the car, he was crying (not a typical reaction from him) and said he got hit in the head. I figured he had a concussion and took him straight to urgent care. After waiting for an hour to get in, they assessed him and sent him to the ER. A CT scan later revealed he had a skull fracture and was actively bleeding in both the epidural and subdural layers of his brain. In just those few short hours, his brain had already shifted and we were told his condition was becoming life threatening.

He underwent emergency surgery, spent four days in the hospital, two weeks at home letting his brain rest, but has recovered remarkably well. This experience, however, has changed me. The thought of almost losing my son weighs down on me every day, and I have to actively push aside the what ifs and focus on the moments we have together instead.  I don’t know if my son will ever play baseball again, but I do know that the fact that he’s stayed so positive, never felt sorry for himself, and maintained a 4.0 with a traumatic brain injury is amazing. He’s shown me how truly strong a person can be when faced with extreme adversity. He’s not defined by the scar bearing the thirty staples he had in his skull. He’s proving, rather, that even at fifteen years old, he’s stronger than I’ve ever personally felt.

What he’s given me, and what his experience has shown me, is that each day holds the possibility to do amazing things. I no longer live for the weekend. Yes, Tuesdays still seem to be seventy-five hours long, but there’s so much time left in each day to just be happy. To forget about the ugliness in our world. To say I love you to the people who matter most. To forgive those who’ve hurt us. To believe anything is possible. To just live.

P baseball 13

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Work of Art

Lately I’ve read a lot of articles and heard stories and beliefs about education. It is an election year, after all. One particular conversation that has stuck with me is the debate over public versus private education. It hit a nerve so deep that three days later I’m still thinking about it. Although I am a public school teacher, I have the distinction of experiencing both sides of the spectrum as I attended private Catholic schools from second grade through college. I loved my high school and the choice to attend Gonzaga University was one of the best decisions I’ve made. The memories I have of retreats and service opportunities, along with school-wide masses on Holy Days of Obligation are still significant moments which I’ll always hold onto.

I know private school is the best education for many students. Yes, it is expensive, and I admire those who choose to and have the means to pay for it. I paid for my own college education, and had the student loans to prove it for years. Although the Catholic schools I attended in grade and high school were nowhere near in cost as the current yearly tuition of some private schools where I live, where it runs upwards 15 thousand or more a year, I know the sacrifices my parents made at the time to make my education a reality. Likewise, I recall working in the high school cafeteria my freshman year to help pay for my schooling and sweeping bleachers after games each year after as part of my work study job. One time a group of girls from a neighboring school referred to my friends and me as “rich bitches.” It was such an odd thing to hear because I barely had five dollars to my name and was the furthest thing from being rich as we hadn’t yet had the money to purchase school clothes that fall.

I guess what’s bothering me about the comments I’ve read and heard recently are the insinuations that private schools are preferential in that their students receive more opportunities for future success. Additionally some believe that teachers in public schools have tenure so they’ve checked out of teaching, which is something that doesn’t happen in private schools.

I’m a public school teacher. I correct papers late at night, analyze data to help my students improve mandated test scores, take continuing education classes to better my teaching, collaborate with peers to improve instruction, spend hours preparing Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) lessons that will benefit not only my English Language Learners, but entire class. I differentiate lessons so that I’m reaching both my highest and lowest learners, and all 23 in-between.

And every teacher I work with is doing the exact same thing.

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My students and my own children, who I’m also proud to say attend public school, deserve the same opportunities as anyone, whether in public or private school, and I’ll fight for that to happen. Not only because it’s right, but because they’re worthy.

What I’d really like for my students to know, and to understand, is that they are capable and that I believe in them. After all, isn’t each of us motivated by those around us? It’s such a powerful thing to hear the words, I know you can do it. I believe in you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, if you go to private or public school, if you’re homeschooled. The knowledge that someone knows you can achieve success is huge. It’s empowering. It’s a beautiful thing.

I could tell people that the best way to prepare a child academically is to read to them when they are young. I could list stats proving the quality of early childhood education and the benefits of reading lap hours until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t change the reality that many adults have never sat down and read to a child. One of the most depressing sentences I’ve ever heard as a teacher is, “We don’t have any books,” followed by, “No one reads to me at home.” How are we as teachers expected to overcome that obstacle of making up years of early literacy awareness and development when we only have students for a handful of months? The truth is, we teach to the best of our abilities, because we care.

In public schools, we teach everyone. We never know who’s going to walk through our doors. Nor does it matter because we will work our butts off to teach each student in our class. We will advocate for them, buy shoes and clothing for them, make sure they have food to eat over the weekend when they go home on Friday, and yes, at the end of it all, we will teach them. No application or tuition required.

Most importantly, we will believe that each child, whether they want to be at school or not, is capable of growth.

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If I could let each of my students know one thing, it would be this:

You are a work of art. Your heart, your mind, your spirit are all artistic elements that make you the person that you are. I’m your teacher. I provide the medium to aid in your self-expression, the charcoal to outline your abilities, the shading to fill in the gaps that prepare you to move forward.

My job of teaching you isn’t always easy, although neither is your job of learning. Your lines are often blurred, and there are many times when I wonder if you’ll be ready to move on and continue with your craft.

You see, I’m a temporary fixture in what will be a lifetime of learning as you complete your greatest masterpiece- your education.

Although I hope for the best, I don’t know what road you’ll take, nor do I know if you’ll receive the same opportunities as another, despite your hard work. What I do know is that I’ll hurt for you when your test scores indicate that you didn’t pass despite making over a year’s worth of growth. I’ll check my email at night and will read the Google doc you sent me from the after-school program. I’ll continue to meet with you after every writing assessment so you know what grade I gave you and I’ll help you set an achievable writing goal for your next task. I’ll make a fool out of myself, singing and dancing if that’s what it takes, in order to motivate you to reach the next level. I’ll open the door for you every day with a smile, even on those days when I am so exhausted that I’m barely functioning. I’ll brag about you to my family and will spend a significant amount of my pay throughout the year to keep our classroom library stocked with books that interest you and teaching supplies that help you learn.

When we were on our way to the field trip and you pointed out graffiti on a bridge, I made you promise that you would never do that. I expect you to keep your promise. I also expect you to keep your promise to call 911 if you’re ever in danger, including riding in a car with someone who’s been drinking. I’ll protect you when you’re in my care and will pray for your protection when you’re not.

I’ll always welcome your first language in my classroom, your insight, your thoughtfulness, and your creativity. I’ll also expect you to apologize with meaning and to know the proper way to accept an apology while still conveying why you were hurt. I’ll teach you what it means to be empathetic and won’t let you forget to say please and thank you.

I won’t be surprised if you think I’m mean or I push you too hard. It’s just that I know how capable you are, and I won’t let you waste that ability. I’ll expect you to come to school. I’ll communicate with your parents, whether for good reasons or bad. I’ll hold you accountable. When you misbehave or don’t complete an assignment correctly because you chose not to listen to the directions, I’ll forgive you.

You are a work of art, and I believe in you. Please don’t ever forget that.