Sunday, August 30, 2009

Teaching and Cars and Callings, Oh My!

Well, where do I even start? It’s been a while. And the funny thing is that I haven’t been avoiding or putting off blogging. I just haven’t had the time to do it.

Teaching started on August 19th. I had a lovely panic attack on August 17th over everything I was anticipating that I needed to do. I have a habit of doing this--bringing stress onto myself and having a short-lived freak out. This brief amount of time in which I freak out usually starts some sort of infection in my body. From the inside out, I make myself sick. It’s funny how my body responds to my feelings. It’s actually really not funny. Because I could feel myself getting sick on Monday. So I called my grandpa for a priesthood blessing for my stress and oncoming sickness. It was wonderful and moving. I felt much better after that, emotionally. Physically though, I plummeted.

Tuesday was a prep day, full of meetings and teacher improvement stuff. I felt the sickness coming.

So the 19th was the first day for 7th graders, and only 7th graders. I was not feeling well at all, but I was better than the night before. I was able to memorize all of the Wolf Pack (homeroom) kids on that day. That night, the night before school started for the 8th graders, my body ended up being really upset with me. My head was hurting, I couldn’t stop coughing, I couldn’t sleep, and I was in a lot of pain. I was stressing myself out even more about being sick for the first day of school. So I texted my home teachers for a blessing. They were over within minutes and gave me a blessing.

Then 8th grade started on the 20th. My voice was almost non-existent, but I made it through. I love priesthood blessings! I also had Back to School night that night. I felt like a big faker trying to be a professional teacher, like I knew all about what I was doing. It was intimidating, but the parents were all really supportive and helpful as far as their children were concerned. My mom and grandparents came and hung out in my room. Grandma brought me some lovely flowers, and my mom brought me a miniature rose thing. My grandma was appalled at how dirty my classroom was and decided she’d return and clean it for me. So she did, on Saturday. She decorated it too! Cute, huh?

My mom came out on Thursday night to help me find a new car, because Edna has gone down the drain rapidly. Pouring more and more money into her is just stressing me out, especially when I could be making a car payment with the money that I’m using to repair her. Anyway, Mom was in my class on Friday. She graded some papers and entered scores for me. She was very helpful. She was excited to be there in the first few days of my “real” teaching. My aunt Sundie came to watch me, too. That was so fun.

I gave my kids an option in the first two days of school on what they’d rather do:

1. They could walk with me through my disclosure document and policies. And they could fill out a survey for me.
2. They could do a “getting to know you” activity which I called “Paper Selves.” They all got a white piece of paper, and they could a) draw a picture or symbol which represented themselves, b) fill up their paper with words that described them, or c) create a collage out of magazines to describe themselves. Then they had to present their paper to class to introduce themselves.

I had them do a silent vote by sticky note on the white board. Two of my classes chose the disclosure and business side, and saved the fun for Friday. The other four classes chose to do the fun stuff first. It was a good insight into the dynamic of the classes I’d be dealing with.

Those first few days went well. I was able to plan the following week on Saturday and Sunday. This last week went pretty well.

We did a Desktop Teaching vocabulary activity for Walk Two Moons. We did a Cloze Procedure to see where my students’ reading/prediction levels are at. The classes were all quiet and well behaved.

On Tuesday we did our Desktop Teaching presentations. Some of my classes were OK, some not so much. But I had a LOT of students who didn’t do the assignment. It was really hard for me not to take it personally and have my feelings totally hurt that they didn’t do it. I tried to give them a fun, non-laborious homework assignment, spend fifteen minutes explaining how to do it, and they totally just DIDN’T. So I had to come up with something at the last minute to fill the students’ time who didn’t do the assignment. They don’t get to participate in the fun, if they don’t do the work.

On Wednesday I did a really fun “shoe” activity, where I had students literally “walk in someone else’s shoes.” They did some writing and creative things with that. I think they really enjoyed it. They also did an anticipation guide.

Thursday and Friday were testing days. They were really nice for me to just plan out for the following week and get a lot of things done. So it was way helpful, and I was so glad to have those days, even though my students hated it.

The hard parts are the students’ total lack of enthusiasm, even in fun activities. I’m realizing how specific I have to be with what I expect, because students will truly do the bare minimum rather than put forth their best effort. I’m finding that I have to come up with new rules and ways to organize and make routines as I see the need arise. Lots of things come up that you just never anticipate. How solid you have to be, even with 14-year olds, because they’ll take complete advantage of you if you give even a little. It’s ridiculous. It's also hard learning names, especially when there are three Coltons in one class, and zero of them in my five other classes. How does that happen? I have so many duplicate names, and learning 180 of them is hard enough!

I’ve had to come up with a new rule and process for using the hall pass, since everyone thinks that going pee is an emergency when it’s not. I’ve had to come up with a rule for how many DAYS they have to read per week instead of minutes. I’ve had to come up with logical explanations for needing a composition notebook for my class, even though when I was in school, you just went out and got whatever your teacher required. I’ve had to treat them like babies in terms of missing class, because most of them aren’t responsible enough to come ask me what they missed if they were absent. So I can see a lot of them not doing well in my class due to irresponsibility. I’ve had to come up with a process for discipline because I’m tired of being the nagging teacher who has to repeat certain students’ names when they won’t be quiet. I’ve had to be a lot meaner than I’d like because I could see that if I didn’t, they’d walk all over me in those ways too. I’ve had to use candy as an incentive much more frequently than I thought, and I don’t think they appreciate it at all.

I have one pretty problematic class, and one semi-problematic class. The rest are really good for the most part. I am enjoying this, but it’s a lot of work. And there is so very much that I just never anticipate or know how to deal with. Nevertheless I think I’m staying pretty stable and happy for the most part, especially given the fact that I still am not completely better (which makes almost two weeks being sick).

I’m all caught up on my grading, and I have plans done for this week. Long term planning will be difficult for me I think.

I’m really enjoying having a consistent and productive schedule. It’s been challenging in a lot of ways, but I really am feeling good about it. Now to squeeze some gym time into my already exhausting days!

In other news, I have purchased a new (used) car. It is a 2008 Mazda 3. It’s lovely and red and fast. And the air conditioning works. It’s like heaven.

However, the car shopping process was long and not fun. The dealership has also made the entire thing slightly traumatic as well. I bought the car on August 22. I was supposed to bring it back to the dealership on Thursday for a detailing. There was an adhesive square thing on the hood missing, there is a scratch on the driver’s side bumper, a light for low tire pressure was on, and a couple other things were wrong.

When I went to pick it up, there were still water spots on the hood (meaning they didn’t clean it). They didn’t put the Mazda mats on the floor, just kept the Ken Garff ones in there. The square was still there on the hood. The scratch was still on the back, and my (!) light was still on. That’s what it looked like. So basically they didn’t do anything. So now I have to bring it back again this Thursday.

I woke up yesterday morning to find some alerts from my bank in my email, that I was overdraft in my account. Why? Oh, because the check for the down payment of $1500 which the dealership was supposed to hold for a month was cashed by them, after a week. Wow. Thanks guys. Since I get paid ONCE a month now, and haven’t been able to sell Edna since I keep having to take my car back to be serviced because they didn’t do their jobs. So, for not doing your jobs, causing me inconvenience, and putting me at a zero balance in my bank account, thanks, Ken Garff Nissan.

Yes. I’m stressed, and upset. But all will work out. I even put air in the tire that was low, and the light went off. Not that they could've done that for me.

Also, I had some new roommates move in. They’re great. But Crestwood didn’t tell them, after about four years of my living here, that I have a rabbit, and that Leslie has hamsters. We have to have written consent of our roommates to keep our pets. Our roommate who is severely allergic, wasn’t able to sign for us. So I had to get rid of my rabbit. Thanks, Crestwood. Fortunately I found a nice family where two little kids wanted her, so I'm sure she's happy. But I miss her.

Leslie and I went to lunch yesterday at T.G.I. Friday’s, and the service was terribly unimpressive. It was as though she either didn’t listen to a word we said, or the chefs could not read what she wrote down. Not only that, but she never came by to check on us or see how our food was. Thanks, Friday’s.

Time to start searching for the positive and noticing the blessings in my life. I have a steady and consistent job. There’s been lots of sunshine. I have a shiny new car named Ruby. I have a supportive family--extremely supportive! I have great friends. And I got a new calling. That’s right, folks. I just wrote about my Enrichment calling, but I have a new one.

I received a call last night that the bishop wanted to see me before church this morning. I was like, “Uh oh. What’s that about?” I was contemplating all the things he could call me in for. And I figured that since I had just gotten my calling, and that I’m not even close to good enough for a real leadership calling, that couldn’t possibly be it.

Wrong was I.

I was called, sustained, and set apart today as the second counselor of the Relief Society. That’s right, ladies and gents. I get a huge responsibility at church on top of my new and demanding job. I’m really excited for it, actually! I’m excited for the challenge it will give me to be better, always, to love and serve the sisters in my ward, and most especially, to support them and help them in difficult trials or in their times of need.

Lots of good things. I’m super busy, and hopefully I can set some time aside for myself every once in a while to write for my own sanity, or else I’ll lose it!

So? Here goes...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Daddy and Me

I wrote a post before about how I remember going fishing early in the morning with my dad. These memories are precious to me, and I've got some more to share.

I find that we are building memories all the time. Some of them can be captured with pictures, and some can't, just because they're too special for anyone to be thinking about cameras anyway.

My dad and I talk on the phone every other day or so. We talk about nothing or everything--religion, the end of the world, my car problems, the weather, conspiracy theories, animal cruelty, my personal emotional struggles--whatever you can think of, we probably talk about it. Sometimes the conversations are really heavy and tiring. Other times they're inspiring and hope-giving. Needless to say, we're a pretty close pair.

This last time that I went to California, I stayed a couple days longer than I had originally planned. Mom left on Monday for Utah, so it was just me, Dad, and Jake at home. On Monday, my dad wanted to get himself a lunch box and some lunch goods so he could stop eating out during the work day and have healthier meals. We went shopping at Wal-Mart and Stater Bros. for all the stuff he needed. He bought me a copy of Clueless for $5 at Wal-Mart. Score!

While we were at Stater Bros., we needed to decide what we wanted for dinner. We decided on hot dogs and leftovers. After I persuaded him to the more practical side of the Hebrew National deals (he wanted the huge hot dogs that were ridiculously expensive), we got some stuff and went home.

I heated up the leftovers from Saturday night's awesome barbecue by Mom, including twice baked potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. I brought the veggie tray, plates, glasses, soda, and food outside, and put them on the canopied table in the backyard. Dad's backyard is basically his sanctuary. He has a self-constructed koi pond and waterfall plus a deck, and his most prized possession--his aquaponic system.

So when he finished barbecuing the hot dogs, we sat down together at the table with our gourmet meal (Jake was gone helping our cousin move).

It was just the two of us and the smell of barbecue and the sound of waterfall on a nice, warm Glendora evening. We talked about some of the above issues as we enjoyed our meal together in the sunset.

Later that night we watched both Ice Age movies since we had watched the third one in theaters the night before.

I was getting ready for work this morning and was thinking about that dinner that we had in the backyard. It was really simple, but more than enough to make me smile. I think it meant a lot to him, too.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.

Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Classroom

The famous rainbow wall. Brianne says each of the 6 Traits of Writing should go on these. 6 Traits for the win.

Awkward little wall with bulletin board. Suggestions for content?

Rear white board with bulletin boards. Brianne says use this as the rear wall (which is how it's set up anyway), and use the white board to list "what's coming up." Good idea. Any other suggestions?

Cupboard space, anyone?

Front of the room, complete with tardy policy poster.

I got my keys, and the code to disarm the security system. WHOA! I'm reaching my official teacher status now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Quick Trip Home

I was able to go home for a few days, and then a couple extra days more because I didn't want to come home.

This was one of my favorite trips home. I went because I needed to spend some time with people who love me, and who I love. I needed to do nothing in order to motivate myself to do something. I needed to relax. And I needed to regain my composure and focus.

All in all? A success.

Here are some pictures. I really didn't do much, so here they are.

On the way to the beach. :)

A quick photo shoot with Jake, in Jason's room, if you couldn't tell.

I went to a koi place with my dad and captured some good shots of wildlife. I'm a photographer now. ;)

Find the butterfly.

A brief story...

My folks have a Maltipoo dog. He is cute and snuggly and playful. But he is not all that bright. Case in point, when you knock on a door, inside the house, right in front of his face, he barks in offense. He is ready to attack at the sound of a knock.

He also likes to be covered under sheets and blankets. It's his favorite. So I covered him one night, then I told my mom to knock on the door. She did, and he proceeded to bark and run toward the knocking. He fell off the bed and dangled as he was caught in the sheets. It was freaking hilarious.

I didn't catch this moment on video, but I got some other ones!

I also got this one which is funny because of his tail, really.

Poor thing. I abuse him.