Monday, February 23, 2009

Stressed out with a side of crazy

I am so stressed right now. Seriously, I feel like a rubber band about to snap. Here's a few reasons:

1) Although my observation went very well, work is still killing me right now. We have our big state test in 2 weeks, a test that Florida (and therefore our school) puts a LOT of weight on. Our school "grade" depends on how well our kids do, and since our principals' jobs depends on that state grade, they're putting a lot of pressure on the teachers. I'm getting it extra-bad because I'm a team lead and also because I have the lowest 25% of the 5th grade students (and how well those "low kids" do is kind of worth double--it's hard to explain). Plus, our principal keeps saying things to my team like "and we're really counting on the 5th grade, we know your scores are going to carry us through," blah blah blah. And I'm glad they have so much faith in us, but shit, what if we DON'T perform as well as they hope? FCAT prep has been made the absolute focus at our school, to the extent that we've been told to not even TEACH non-FCAT areas (which for our grade is social studies and language arts), which means that ALL DAY these poor kids are getting nothing but math, reading and science. Even in their specials (like art and PE), they're doing FCAT stuff. The kids are getting overloaded and overwhelmed, and it's affecting their behavior, and when you add their stress to MY stress--well, it's not pretty. And I can't BLAME the higher-ups for making FCAT-prep stuff job one, since again, THEIR jobs are riding on it too, but I (and all other teachers) think that doing THIS much prep work is only going to a) burn the kids out and b) stress them out MORE on the day of the actual test, but of course we can't say that to the powers-that-be. But seriously, if I disappear one day, it's because my kids finally revolted and burned me at the stake.

So that's all reason #1, but it's a BIG reason #1, and it's just bad right now. Bad bad bad.

2) I'm the spelling bee coordinator again, which I normally like, but it's THIS WEEK, and getting ready for that and everything that goes along with it (I'll spare you the details) is just adding to my stress.

3) Although I'm back on my meds and am regular with them again, I'm still suffering a bit of a "lag" from when I was IRregular on them a couple of weeks ago, which is making everything worse. And frankly, even if I HAD been regular on them all along, the stress I'm feeling at work is so bad that it may be enough to kind of "trigger" me (shit, even the "sane" teachers are going freakin' nuts), so I'm trying to keep it together, but I feel very, very ....I don't know. Not down or depressed, but....just not in a good place. And I'm throwing up alot and popping Tums like candy. it's just bad.

Those are the main issues. I'm just--GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

It'll all be over in a couple of weeks, and then we can go back to actual TEACHING...but fuck, you guys. Did I mention that it's bad?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nothing to report

It's been a very, very busy week, but I have nothing major to share. Work is keeping me busy (progress note grades are due tonight); I've been hanging out with friends--that's about it. Oh--I did have my "official" observation this morning. The principal was in my room for about 45 minutes during math; when I saw her later that day in the hallway she told me I did a great job and if she had a 5th grade student, she'd want him/her in my class--so that's pretty high praise. I'm meeting with her during my planning period tomorrow for the full recap/debriefing, so I'll let you know how that goes. Sounds like I'm in pretty good shape, though.

We had a staff bowling party tonight. My first game was a 75 and my 2nd game was a 50. I am now officially the suckiest bowler at school. Holla!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What does your music say about you?

1. Put your MP3 player, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Have Fun!

(I know I've done this before but it's time for another round)

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? Uptown Girl - Billy Joel (I've been living in my white bread world as long as anyone with hot blood can...)
WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? Son of a Preacher Man - Janis Joplin
HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Knight/ Pips (seriously, all signs are pointing to Atlanta)
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE? Mercy - Duffy (look up the lyrics to that one if you're not familiar with it....yeah, that's pretty much been my purpose so far)
WHAT'S YOUR MOTTO? Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson (Shit, it's GONNA be from now on)
WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? Boom I Got Your Boyfriend - Khia ( does that make ME the man-stealing whore, or you guys?)
WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? Time For Change - Motley Crue
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy - Big & Rich (I think that one is supposed to be Nikki's ;) )
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE? To Be With You - Mr. Big (okay, now that one was just weird)
WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING? Don't Go Breakin' My Heart - Captain and Tenille (yes, I have Captain and Tenille on my iPod. A few songs, actually)
WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? Rock This Town - Stray Cats (apparently, it's going to be quite the party)
WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? Rump Shaker - Wreckx'n Effect
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR? If I Were a Boy - Beyonce
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? Love Will Keep Us Together - Captain and Tenille (LOLOLOL. I told you so)
WHAT DO YOU WANT RIGHT NOW? One Wild Night - Bon Jovi
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? Karma Chameleon - Culture Club

Ok, now it's YOUR turn...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

F***....what a day. Where do I begin?

1) I had ANOTHER student possibly break something today. (And an update on A: yes, his thumb was broken.) C. (you will remember him as our class president who gave that really touching "campaign" speech) injured his ankle at recess; by the time another teacher and I carried him into the nurse's office, it was already swollen pretty badly. I'm going to call his mom this weekend to see what happened (she picked him up early to get it checked out).

2) We had a situation with a very irate parent today that warranted the calling of the county sheriff's office (not one of my kids, thank God, but I was called down during my "free" period to wait for her arrival, as they wanted as many staff members as possible present in case things got really out of hand. Apparently, they were expecting quite the scene. It's a really long story, but I missed all the drama anyway because she still hadn't shown up by the time I had to go pick up my kids from art. And anyway, the cops were there by then so they wouldn't have needed my backup after all). =-)

3) I think I'm accidentally dating John now, otherwise known as Fiance (remember him? Brad's friend?). It's another long story, but apparently he's still harboring a bit of a crush on me. He called me today while I was at one of my "meetings," and since he was in the neighborhood he dropped by. He ended up meeting all of my friends (they really, really liked him), and they all seemed to assume that we were a couple--and the little shit kind of went with it. (In fact, he instigated it even further by doing little things like putting his arm around the back of my chair, buying my drinks, resting his hand on my leg and other little casually affectionate touches like that--you know, just the little "body language" things that couples do. And he played the part so well that by the time they left, my 2 or 3 closest friends were giving me the "why didn't you tell us??" look, since it totally looked like we were dating. It was actually kind of funny.) Well, we ended up on a "date" after they all left (just walking around this outdoor mall area--Renee, it's the one I took you and John to), and we had a "talk," and I basically told him that I actually liked him quite a bit but that he was such a good guy that I didn't know HOW to date a guy like that anymore, which is why anytime we got anywhere near the dating stage I'd always pull back and disappear (LOL--I'm actually the guy in this relationship)--and anyway, he's rather actively pursuing me now. It's true--men love a challenge. There's more involved, of course, but he really seems to want us to start dating. And the thing is, I can SEE this becoming a "thing," but since he's a truly good guy who wouldn't fuck me over, it would probably last a while, and that scares the crap out of me. Go figure. Plus, I don't want to hurt HIM if we started dating and then I bailed. Ugh. Anyway. Expect more posts on this issue because he's quite the persistant one. He wants to take me out on his bike tonight--I've never rode one before but I might actually try it.

Oh--and you know how I told you that Vday is Da Bomb of all holidays when it comes to teaching? Here's a pic of just a few of my presents this year--and although you can't really tell from this shot, this is one big ass dog. Seriously, it's huge.

Happy Valentine's Day, 5th grade style

As many of you know, Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday as a teacher. It beats Halloween and even Christmas. There's something about making your little "mailboxes," passing out your valentines, and then sitting down and going through all of your cards while eating cupcakes and candy that is guaranteed to make to make your heart smile...even if, for example, your fucktard, on-and-off boyfriend breaks up with you a week before Valentine's Day and will instead be spending it with his OTHER girlfriend (but at the same time, he was there for me during--and AFTER, which is a big deal for me--my Crazy, which really reinforced the fact that he's a shitty boyfriend but truly a great friend). My point is, even with all of that, I'm still going to have a great Valentine's Day--because of my kids (and then, for V-Day night, I'm going to see "He's Just Not That Into You" with my single friends).

Here are the valentines I'm passing out this year. Yes, those are rock star valetines, and yes, they come with tattoos. Seriously, are these sweet or what? Hell yeah!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crazy Parent

And if my day wasn't already exciting enough (see below), I had a meeting after school with Crazy Parent and her slightly more sane husband (CP is the one who forbid me from contacting her regarding his missing work because it was "my job to make sure he got it in, not hers", homework was just "pointless busy work" anyway because "schooling should only take place between the hours of 8 and 3" and reminded me that "her tax dollars paid my salary". The reason for this meeting: D. failed most of his classes for the 2nd quarter, too, and is now in danger of retention.

This time, I had the principal sit in on the meeting with me. And I came armed with LOADS of evidence, including recent (failed) tests, his scores for this new marking period so far, a list of the work he's ALREADY missing and proof that he was, in fact, writing his assignments in his planner (to make sure his parents couldn't put any of the fault back on me). I don't know if it was the mountain of paperwork I had to support me or the presence of Mrs. A, but CP was much less crazy this time around.

Dangerous minds

I had one of my kids possibly break his thumb today.

While taking a math test.

Yes, you read that correctly. While sitting in his chair, at his desk, taking a test that involved ONLY a pencil and paper, he somehow managed to injure himself pretty seriously. Then again, this is the kid who can't walk across the classroom without tripping over air, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Here's how it went down: everyone was industriously working on the fine art of adding and subtracting decimals when A. suddenly jumped up, howling and holding his hand. Of course, *I* immediately jumped up and leapt over several binders to get to him. (I was like Super Teacher--faster than a speeding eraser.) As he kept repeating "owowowowowowow", he held out his hand--and his right thumb (and the mound/pad part of his palm) were already swollen up to like three times the normal size.

After seeing the damage, I looked at him for a moment and then asked him one simple question. "HOW?!" And then I added, for clarification: "Seriously, A., HOW?"

Well, as it turns out, he was scooting up his chair and his finger got caught between the chair and his desk.

Of course.

I sent him right down to the nurse, who called back up to my room about 10 minutes later to tell me that his grandpa was on his way to take A. to the ER. So I don't know for sure that it's broken yet, but the boy did SOMETHING to it, that's for sure.

If I had a son, it would be this kid.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I've done this before, I think, but I'm doing it again--because I can. You have to answer each question with just one word. Here we go.

1. Where is your cell phone? Floor
2. Birth order? First
3. Last thing you ate? Pasta
4. Your mother? Neurotic
5. Your father? Distant
6. Your favorite? Dolphins
7. Your dream last night? Telling
8. Your favorite drink? Soda
9. Your dream/goal? Family
10. What room you are in? Bedroom
11. Your hobby? Reading
12. Your fear? Craziness
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Married
14. Where were you last night? Joe's
15. Something that you aren't? Secure
16. Muffins? Blueberry
17. Wish list item? Blackberry
18. Where you grew up? Holland
19. Last thing you did? Swore
20. What are you wearing? Sweats
21. Your TV? Scrubs
22. Your pets? Beta
23. Friends? Lifeline
24. Your life? Bipolar
25. Your mood? Optimistic
26. Missing someone? Deeply
27. Car? Zippy
28. Something you're not wearing? Bra
29. Your favorite store? Target
30. Your favorite color? Blue
31. When is the last time you laughed? Today
32. Last time you cried? Saturday
33. Who will resend this? Renee
34. One place that I go to over and over? Joe's =-)
My first valentine

I received this today from one of my old college friends:

And his message?

"I am sure that you will get tons of cards!!!!"

(Ironically, he came out in college and then slept with more men than I did.)

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, N. You bitch.


(But first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RENEE!!!!!!!!!)

This weekend wasn't ALL psychoticness (yes that IS a word), however. In fact, we had a pretty damn good Saturday. We went out on the boat--and this time, we actually SAW dolphins. No, scratch that. We EXPERIENCED dolphins.

See, every other time we've gone "dolphin hunting," we've never found them. Well, once we saw one, but that was it. This time, we saw dolphins a LOT. And I'm talking pods of like 3 and 4 at a time. And they were REALLY close to the boat. In fact, at one point, a group of 3 went UNDER our boat (that's how close they were) and resurfaced RIGHT NEXT TO US. I could have reached out and touched them. You have no idea the amount of willpower it took not to jump into the water with them. (Side note: dolphins are my "thing," in case you didn't know. I LOVE dolphins. And not in a "aww, dolphins are cute" kind of way, either. They make me happy and bring me this sense of--peace, I guess. So being that close to them was amazing.)

Once I get some pictures emailed to me (and maybe even VIDEO, I hear), I'll get them up.

Here's a pic he took on another trip last year. This is NOT one from dolphin-palooza, but it does "capture the moment" and the experience of Saturday.

I loves me some dolphins.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My visit to the Ron Clark Academy--and other stuff

I'm sorry it took me so long to get this post up. I've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks. I expect that I'll have some extra time now, though.

I was at Shawn's last night and, well, he saw Bad Jen. It wasn't pretty, of course (we'll leave it at that). I'm feeling pretty low today because I haven't had a full-blown episode since July 2007--since "the night" that finally drove me to seek help and get on the meds. So yeah, it's been an entire year and a half since I had one, which is great. I knew when I started treatment that the meds wouldn't ever make the episodes go away completely and permanently--they would just help to increase the time between the major incidents and to help me control the more minor ones. But it's always heartbreaking when one happens, because once again, there was someone involved who I care about very much. I don't know how this will affect our friendship, and I can only hope that he remembers that last night wasn't me, that the last YEAR is who I am. Over the last year, I've defended him by saying that he may be a shitty boyfriend but a great friend. I guess now we'll see whether my faith was right on or misplaced.

Brad, my roommate, did make me feel a lot better when I talked to him about it this morning. He told me that he's known quite a few bipolar people, including a couple of family members, and that "by far" I'm handling the BP "way better than anyone else he's ever seen." He also reminded me that I've had, what? 500 good nights and 1 very, very bad one in the last year and a half. He told me to quit being so hard on myself. "You're crazy, Jen," he helpfully reminded me. "So sometimes you're going to act like it. That's just how you roll."

LOL. Nicely put, my friend.

Get it? Bi POLAR? I don't care who are, that's funny.

ANYWAY. Onto the fun stuff: my day with Ron Clark.

When we got to the school, we were greeted in the lobby by a bunch of the students. Ron Clark introducted them--they were the students who wrote and performed the "Dear Obama" song that I posted earlier on this blog. And then--they performed it for us. I have to tell you, I got incredibly choked up. The talent in these kids is just amazing, and to see and hear this song in person was powerful.

Painted on the lobby floor

Then we all broke up into our assigned groups for the day (there were about 25 visitors on this particular day). First, my group visited the language arts teacher's room. She was wrapping up a unit on using the blues as poetry. Today, the kids were presenting blues songs they had written themselves. Of course, there were some great ones.

And then came the moment I've been waiting for: we went to Ron's classroom for an hour and a half to watch him teach math. I could spend the next 4 hours trying to put this experience into words and I still wouldn't come close. Suffice it to say that it was the experience of a lifetime. (He would walk ACROSS the rows of students' desks--and I mean, on top of them--as he checked their answers. "Good....nice're very close...go back and double check that last step." I laughed out loud when he looked down at one student's work. He crossed his arms, cocked his hip and said, "Now that's not even in the realm of POSSIBILITY. Come on now." ) What struck me the most, though, was that even in THE Ron Clark's classroom, the kids weren't perfect. He had to "fuss" (his word) at a couple of kids, and a few even had to get up to write their names on the board, etc. I know that may not seem like that big of a deal, but it brought me a lot of comfort to see that even for THIS man, students can still act up. And it was amazing to see these kids jump up and sing all of these songs and raps that Ron has written (including one for the order of operations). It was truly an amazing classroom to be in. The whole time, I kept sitting there, thinking, I'M WATCHING RON CLARK. It was almost surreal.

Next was lunch. The kids eat in their classrooms, so we all spread out and talked to the students while we ate. That was also a great experience. I was talking to a particular young man who went to the inaugration, and it was really interesting to hear about the experience from his point of view.

After lunch, we had a couple of workshops and seminars. First, we returned to the L.A. teacher's room, where she broke us up into groups and had us write OUR own blues songs. We only had 15 minutes or so, but I have to say, all of the groups had some great ones (they all turned out to be teaching-related; ours talked about a kid who hadn't taken his meds and was out of his seat all day; it turned out pretty funny). Then we were in Kim Bearden's room; she's the woman who cofounded the school with Ron. She told us about all these different games she plays with the kids--to present new information, to review old info, etc. I can't even tell you how many great ideas we got out of that single hour. Again, I was blown away--and made VERY aware of just how far I have to go to be considered a truly great teacher.

AND THEN: we all returned to Ron's room. He didn't have students during this partiular period, so it was like a professional development session--WITH FREAKIN' RON CLARK. He talked to us about classroom management. Of course, my dorky ass sat in the first row, dead center--and at several points he was talking to us WHILE STANDING ON MY DESK. **MINE**!!!!!! (I received a very stern warning from my friends beforehand, forbidding me from latching myself to his leg and declaring my undying love for him. Damn buzz kills.)

After that, we went down the slide (a giant winding slide that the kids can take from the 2nd floor to the first, officially become "slide certified"). And then we had one last chance to mingle with Ron, get pictures and autographs, etc.

The day, truly, was one I'll never forget. In fact, I probably COULDN'T have posted about the experience any earlier, because I was still absorbing and processing everything.

It was the memory of a lifetime.
I love Jesus but I drink a little

Ellen received a hysterical phone message from an 88 year old woman in Texas, so on a follow-up show, she called Gladys at home. The resulting conversation was even funnier. Watch this video and you'll see why. It's about 6 minutes but you can have it up in the background while you're working on something else (it's nothing you really need to WATCH, just listen to--except to see Ellen's reaction to the above quote. Make sure you're watching when Ellen asks Gladys if this was the first time she was ever on TV).

UPDATE: OMG, it's even a *Tshirt* now. This woman has a cult-like following now; she has a website and everything. I'm so getting this shirt.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It's a sign

So I recently visited Atlanta, fell in love with it and decided I wanted to move there.

Exactly ONE WEEK LATER--to the day--my charter school company makes a big announcement: an expansion. For the first time, we're opening schools outside of Florida. First up: a couple of schools in the Atlanta area, slated for the 2010-11 school year. And they also announced that they will be "actively recruiting" existing company teachers to help open these new schools.

My bags are already packed, bitches.

Monday, February 02, 2009

My trip - day 1

My deepest apologies for waiting even this long to tell you about my trip; I've barely been online since I got back into town. The short version: it was even awesome-er than I had hoped it would be. (That's for you men-folk out there.) For those who want to hear the details, though...

Day 1: Tuesday

K., V., A and I (all team leads except for A.; he was also the only guy on the trip. I was the oldest, at 32, so it was a really fun group) landed in ATL around 1 on Tuesday. Before we had even left the airport, K. saw an ad for a King Tut exhibit that was in town, so we promised her we'd hit that at some point during the day (see? And the people at school thought we were going to be the "party" group. Ha! We went to MUSEUMS, bitches!).

(Okay, ONE museum. But still.)

We took a cab to our hotel (Days Inn--normally not a bad chain, but this one was horrible. As an example, A's room smelled like puke and my heater didn't work. However, the location--right in downtown--was absolutely perfect), dropped off our bags and left with the intention of "running out to grab a quick lunch."

We didn't return to our rooms for 10 hours.


After lunch at a Chinese buffet place (where I tried--as an adventurous traveler--to eat sushi. It didn't work), we started walking around downtown. We went to the King Tut exhibit (which was actually very cool). We visited Centennial Park (the Olympic Park). We got some great pictures, which I will post as soon as K. emails them to ME. The only good one *I* have from our walking tour is this one, at Centennial Park. They have this Olympic Ring water fountain, where the 5 rings are in brick on the ground and the water shoots straight up into the air from the rings. This shot, which is damn good for a cell phone pic, is one of the rings caught in mid-stream.

After exploring the sites for several hours (which is when I fell in love with the city), we hit this Mexican place for dinner (which had THE. BEST. burrito of my entire life. I ended up giving my leftovers to a homeless guy, which I later regretted when I was back in my room after a night of carousing...don't get me wrong, I feel really good about it--but DAMN, I was jonesing for it around midnight). As there was alcohol involved, it was quite a leisurely dinner. Finally, we went to the bar next door.

Which had karaokee.

Thanks to the speakers that broadcast the performances out onto the streets, a good portion of downtown Atlanta heard a drunken yet spirited rendition of Ice Ice Baby around 11-ish. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

Finally, we walked back to our hotel. We were escorted by a homeless guy (not the same one who got my burrito. There are LOTS of homeless people in Atlanta) who serenaded us during the walk. He, truly, had an amazing voice; a talent that has gone (and will continue to go) undiscovered due to his situation and how his life has turned out. Plus, mad props to him for actually providing a SERVICE (entertainer-slash-tour guide) rather than just asking for money. Anyway, here's a pic of him mid-song:

Seriously, this guy was drawing a crowd because he was so good.

Anyway, that about covers day 1 in Atlanta. We made VERY good use of our "down time" during the trip by really exploring the city. But the highlight of the trip was still to come: our visit to the Ron Clark Academy. And THAT, my friends, will have to be a whole 'nother post. To tide you over, however, here's a teaser... (I have much better ones with him; this is just my blurry cell-phone shot. It actually wouldn't have been a horrible one if I hadn't been a) stoned or b) sleeping against his shoulder or whatever is going on here):