Wednesday, January 25, 2017

To Whom It May Concern (Which Should Be All of Us)- Draft 2

There are some things that need to be said about the state of education in our country. I'm going to have to let the two things that are most uncomfortable for me to talk about, politics and money, have a place in this conversation. But I need you to listen anyway. Please. Pretty please.  If I had the choice to "just" be a teacher and not get involved, I would do it. I would put my head down, go about my job and my life, and be happier for it. The problem is that it's not a choice I have any longer. I need to be heard. I need to be heard so badly that I'm sitting here, still soaked from the shower, balancing a nursing baby and a laptop, scrolling through the list in my head of the hours of work I need to do this morning and trying to triage to make time for this because I need you to hear it.

You can’t be apathetic when it comes to education. You just can’t. It's not enough just to care. You simply have to walk the walk. Education isn't just an issue that only  affects teachers and people who have school-aged kids. I'll let John Green describe this one for you: "Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or the benefit of their parents. It exists for the benefit of social order. We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your life, you benefit from public education. So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don't personally have a kid in school: It's because I don't like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.” It’s time to act.

The work we do in our schools every day is important. It is crucial. It is necessary for the survival (and dare I dream advancement?) of our society. I believe these things with my whole heart. I don't believe them because I read them in my Facebook scroll or saw them on the news. I certainly haven't heard them come out of the mouths of politicians, not in the way that I want and need them to. I believe these things because they are deeply ingrained in the life I live every day. They are the inescapable facts that dictate my every move far beyond my contracted hours as a teacher.

Here's what it boils down to: the work we do in our schools every day is priceless, but that doesn't excuse us from the responsibility of giving it a VALUE.

Let me say it again, maybe in a different way this time, to make sure it gets through: because teachers are called to do everything in their power to help each child who enters their classrooms, many would do it for free, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY SHOULD HAVE TO. It's time to invest in our future, which means that we have to invest in education.

Let me give you some background. I work for an incredible school district. I often thank my lucky stars for somehow stumbling into such an amazing school on my first interview. I'm at a place where I just fit. My students, my colleagues, my families that I meet each year-- they are everything. I love what I do, and I love where I do it. That being said, it has been a devastating blow to have two tax levies fail here in less than two years.

The community that I value so much doesn't value me back.

At least, they don't value the work that I do. Not as much as they should. In turn, this means that they don't value the power of educating our youth. Not as much as they should.

After much research and reflection, I know the reasons why. I don't accept them. Please understand that this is one of the times where this is going to get uncomfortable for me. I'm going to share facts and run the risk of sounding whiny. One of the main reasons our community decided to deny us the funds we need to simply maintain the status quo in our district, which I think our staff can widely agree is not enough, is because we got a "raise" a few years ago. Yes, I'm an English teacher. I used those quotation marks right. You see, our "raise" was given as a gift at the same time that we were gifted extra days added to our contract. Admittedly, I'm not super great at the money and business portion of life. However, receiving extra money as compensation for working extra days... is this what you understand a raise to be?

That's not the only flaw in the logic here. We'll get to the whole teachers-are-the-opposite-of-greedy argument in a minute, but by blaming the teachers or using them as an excuse, people are ignoring a crazy important part of the issue here: THE KIDS. In order for anything to be successful in the education world, the center of every discussion, every decision, and every step we take has to be our kids.

When a teacher stays after school to tutor struggling students because she operates under a philosophy that dictates that all students can learn at high levels, it takes away from the time she could be home helping her own kids with their homework. But she does it anyway. For free. Shouldn't there be funding for that? When a teacher sponsors a chess club to give kids a safe place to land where they are accepted and loved, he's giving pieces of the time he could be spending playing Trouble with his own son at home. Because he can't stand another day of those kids being bullied after school. Wouldn't there be funding for these kinds of things? When a teacher starts a breakfast club as a "treat" for her homeroom in order to make sure that one of them who was recently diagnosed with diabetes eats at least one balanced meal a day, it takes away from the fund for treats she can provide for her own family. But she does it anyway. For the kids. Couldn't there be funding for this? Not in our current system. Not even a little bit.

Isn't it embarrassing to us that master teachers who have taught for decades are being forced out of classrooms because their districts can't afford to pay them even a little bit for their experience? Isn't it embarrassing that new teachers have second and sometimes third jobs in an attempt to survive while doing this important work? Isn't it embarrassing that we refuse to fund the things that we should find most valuable?

If you do the research, and I really wish you would, you will find that it's not an exaggeration to say that there is a direct pipeline that leads to prison for a great number of our youth who drop out of high school. You will find staggering figures about the earning potential for someone without a high school diploma vs. someone with a high school diploma vs. someone with a college degree vs. someone with an advanced degree (unless, of course, those "someones" decided to become teachers). We're speaking in millions of dollars here. As Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

When I got my contract last year, I thought twice before signing on the line to sentence myself to another year of the most rewarding yet most devastating job I can imagine. In the interest of full disclosure, I thought about it a lot more than twice. Less than five years after being named my district's Teacher of the Year, I was ready to throw in the towel. My family encouraged this move, dangling jobs with more respect and higher salaries in front of me. Less hours and much, much less take home work. Weekends free? It was all so attractive. I seriously thought I was ready to walk away. I couldn't find a place for my idealist mentality in the reality of teaching anymore.

But then I signed my contract anyway. Why? You guessed it.

It is one of my greatest curses and my greatest blessings. At the end of the day, I could walk away from everything except for those KIDS. Which brings me back here. To this. To you.

You see, teachers aren't greedy at all, and we are not the problem. We are the people who get up every morning with the simplest and most difficult goal of all: we want to change the world. Every day. For every kid. But we can't do it anymore without your help, and we can't keep doing it for free. I did not become the latest casualty of the profession, but in less than a decade of teaching, I have seen many gifted professionals move on because they just can't stomach it anymore. The politics. The public indifference, disrespect even, for the most powerful tool we have at our disposal. The kids who need more than we can provide with what we are given and the toll this takes on our lives and our kids, those we claim as our own at school and those who belong to us at home.

Tonight, I will have to rush home after work because I forgot the shoes I need to walk me through a night of volunteering with our staff, students, and families at the local food bank. I hope to hit a red light somewhere along the way to give me time to knock a few other things off my "to-do" list (because even red lights offer an opportunity for progress). I'll make it home in time to eat a late dinner with my kids before putting them to bed and diving into the hours of planning and grading it will take to make tomorrow a good, productive day for my school kids. All the while, I'll be thinking about how thankful I am for my life as I worry about what's happening in the lives of the 140 humans who I need to help raise to change the world.

What are you doing tonight? Could I kindly suggest a few things? I want to give you the opportunity to make a difference. Yes, you. You don't need the most powerful elected officials to help you or even a crowd of people. Here are some things that you will do that will make a difference:


  • Share. Share this post. Share your thoughts. Share your time by volunteering at your local schools. Share funds by donating to education or politicians who support our kids or any number of GoFundMe projects posted by teachers online.
  • Do your homework. Yes, even as an adult peer, this teacher is asking you to do some homework. Educate yourself about the major issues in education. Are you wondering why people are making such a big deal about this "growth vs. proficiency thing" in the confirmation hearings? Make it your business to know why. Why is there a lack of funding in schools in the first place? You can't fix it until you know about it.
  • Get involved in your local schools. In the next twelve months, there will be a school board election where you live. Guaranteed. The people who are elected will be the main stewards of your local tax dollars. Do you know who they are? Do you know what they're spending and why and how? School board elections are often decided by a narrow margin because there are so few people who vote. You have a chance to have a direct impact for our kids.
  • Refuse to allow Betsy DeVos to become our new Secretary of Education. She does not have experience, and she does not have enough respect for the position to have even done her homework before her confirmation hearings. A quick Google search will give you a number of different politicians to contact and a number of different ways to contact them to make sure that this does not happen.

If you need more ideas, send me a message. I'll catch up with you at my next red light.

To Whom It May Concern (Which Should Be All of Us)

There are some things that need to be said about the state of education in our country. I'm going to have to let the two things that are most uncomfortable for me to talk about, politics and money, have a place in this conversation. But I need you to listen anyway. Please. Pretty please.  If I had the choice to "just" be a teacher and not get involved, I would do it. I would put my head down, go about my job and my life, and be happier for it. The problem is that it's not a choice I have any longer. I need to be heard. I need to be heard so badly that I'm sitting here, still soaked from the shower, balancing a nursing baby and a laptop, scrolling through the list in my head of the hours of work I need to do this morning and trying to triage to make time for this, all so I can let my heart speak the words it NEEDS to say. I need you to hear me, and I need you to do more than click the "like" button after you read. I need you to care, and I need you to take action. This is going to be long and wordy and a little political, but I need you to listen anyway. Can you give me that gift, please? There's a prize for making it all the way to the bottom.

The work we do in our schools every day is important. It is crucial. It is necessary for the survival (and dare I dream advancement?) of our society. I believe these things with my whole heart. I don't believe them because I read them in my Facebook scroll or saw them on the news. I certainly haven't heard them come out of the mouths of politicians, not in the way that I want and need them to. I believe these things because they are deeply ingrained in the life I live every day. They are the inescapable facts that dictate my every move far beyond my contracted hours as a teacher.

Here's what it boils down to: the work we do in our schools every day is priceless, but that doesn't excuse us from the responsibility of giving it a VALUE.

Let me say it again, maybe in a different way this time, to make sure it gets through: because teachers are called to do everything in their power to help each child who enters their classrooms, many would do it for free, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY SHOULD HAVE TO. It's time to invest in our future, which means that we have to invest in education.

Let me give you some background. I work for an incredible school district. I often thank my lucky stars for somehow stumbling into such an amazing school on my first interview. I'm at a place where I just fit. My students, my colleagues, my families that I meet each year-- they are everything. I love what I do, and I love where I do it. That being said, it has been a devastating blow to have two tax levies fail here in less than two years.

The community that I value so much doesn't value me back.

At least, they don't value the work that I do. Not as much as they should. In turn, this means that they don't value the power of educating our youth. Not as much as they should.

After much research and reflection, I know the reasons why. I don't accept them. Please understand that this is one of the times where this is going to get uncomfortable for me. I'm going to share facts and run the risk of sounding whiny. One of the main reasons our community decided to deny us the funds we need to simply maintain the status quo in our district, which I think our staff can widely agree is not enough, is because we got a "raise" a few years ago. Yes, I'm an English teacher. I used those quotation marks right. You see, our "raise" was given as a gift at the same time that we were gifted extra days added to our contract. Admittedly, I'm not super great at the money and business portion of life. However, receiving extra money as compensation for working extra days... is this what you understand a raise to be?

That's not the only flaw in the logic here. We'll get to the whole teachers-are-the-opposite-of-greedy argument in a minute, but by blaming the teachers or using them as an excuse, people are ignoring a crazy important part of the issue here: THE KIDS. In order for anything to be successful in the education world, the center of every discussion, every decision, and every step we take has to be our kids.

When a teacher stays after school to tutor struggling students because she operates under a philosophy that dictates that all students can learn at high levels, it takes away from the time she could be home helping her own kids with their homework. But she does it anyway. For free. Shouldn't there be funding for that?

When a teacher sponsors a chess club to give kids a safe place to land where they are accepted and loved, he's giving pieces of the time he could be spending playing Trouble with his own son at home. Because he can't stand another day of those kids being bullied after school. Wouldn't there be funding for these kinds of things?

When a teacher starts a breakfast club as a "treat" for her homeroom in order to make sure that one of them diagnosed with diabetes eats at least one balanced meal a day, it takes away from the fund for treats she can provide for her own family. But she does it anyway. For the kids. Couldn't there be funding for this?

Isn't it embarrassing to us that teachers who have taught for decades are being forced out of classrooms because their districts can't afford to pay them even a little bit for their experience? Isn't it embarrassing that new teachers have second and sometimes third jobs in an attempt to survive while doing what they love? Isn't it embarrassing that we refuse to fund the things that we should find most valuable?

If you do the research, and I really wish you would, you will find that it's not an exaggeration to say that there is a direct pipeline that leads to prison for a great number of our youth who drop out of high school. You will find staggering figures about the earning potential for someone without a high school diploma vs. someone with a high school diploma vs. someone with a college degree vs. someone with an advanced degree (unless, of course, those "someones" decided to become teachers). We're speaking in millions of dollars here. As Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

When I got my contract last year, I thought twice before signing on the line to sentence myself to another year to the most rewarding yet most devastating job I can imagine. In the interest of full disclosure, I thought about it a lot more than twice. Less than five years after being named my district's Teacher of the Year, I was ready to throw in the towel. My family encouraged this move, dangling jobs with more respect and higher salaries in front of me. Less hours and much, much less take home work. It was all so attractive. I seriously thought I was ready to walk away. I couldn't find a place for my idealist mentality in the reality of teaching anymore.

But then I signed my contract anyway. Why? You guessed it.

It is one of my greatest curses and my greatest blessings. At the end of the day, I could walk away from everything except for those kids. Which brings me back here. To this. To you.

You see, teachers aren't greedy at all, and we are not the problem. We are the people who get up every morning with the simplest and most difficult goal of all: we want to change the world. Every day. For every kid. But we can't do it anymore without your help, and we can't keep doing it for free. I did not become the latest casualty of the profession, but in less than a decade of teaching, I have seen many gifted professionals move on because they just can't stomach it anymore. The politics. The public indifference, disrespect, even for the most powerful tool we have at our disposal. The kids who need more than we can provide with what we are given and the toll this takes on our lives and our kids, those we claim as our own at school and those who belong to us at home.

Tonight, I will have to rush home after work because I forgot the shoes I need to walk me through a night of volunteering with our staff, students, and families at the local food bank. I hope to hit a red light somewhere along the way to give me time to knock a few other things off my "to-do" list (because even red lights offer an opportunity for progress). I'll make it home in time to eat a late dinner with my kids before putting them to bed and diving in to the hours of planning and grading it will take to make tomorrow a good, productive day for my school kids. All the while, I'll be thinking about how thankful I am for my life as I worry about what's happening in the lives of the 140 humans who I need to help raise to change the world.

What are you doing tonight? Could I kindly suggest a few things? After all, I did promise you a prize for making it to the end, and this is it. I want to give you the opportunity to make a difference. Yes, you. You don't need the most powerful elected officials to help you or even a crowd of people. Here are some things that you will do that will make a difference:


  • Share. Share this post. Share your thoughts. Share your time by volunteering at your local schools. Share funds by donating to education or politicians who support our kids or any number of GoFundMe projects posted by teachers online.
  • Do your homework. Yes, even as an adult peer, this teacher is asking you to do some homework. Educate yourself about the major issues in education. Are you wondering why people are making such a big deal about this "growth vs. proficiency thing" in the confirmation hearings? Make it your business to know why. Why is there a lack of funding in schools in the first place? You can't fix it until you know about it.
  • Get involved in your local schools. In the next twelve months, there will be a school board election where you live. Guaranteed. The people who are elected will be the main stewards of your local tax dollars. Do you know who they are? Do you know what they're spending and why and how? School board elections are often decided by a narrow margin because there are so few people who vote. You have a chance to have a direct impact for our kids.
  • STOP BEING APATHETIC. It's not enough just to care. You simply have to walk the walk. Education isn't just an issue that affects teachers and people who have school-aged kids. I'll let John Green describe this one for you: "Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or the benefit of their parents. It exists for the benefit of social order. We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your life, you benefit from public education. So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don't personally have a kid in school: It's because I don't like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”
  • Refuse to allow Betsy DeVos to become our new Secretary of Education. She does not have experience, and she does not have enough respect for the position to have even done her homework before her confirmation hearings. A quick Google search will give you a number of different politicians to contact and a number of different ways to contact them to make sure that this does not happen.

If you need more ideas, send me a message. I'll catch up with you at my next red light.







Sunday, March 15, 2015

Me, Myself, and Thighs

    Despite having the appetite of a truck driver and an intense aversion to vomit, I was diagnosed with having an eating disorder numerous times. I was never diagnosed by a doctor because I never actually had a disorder, but that didn't really matter to the number of people who came to their own conclusions anyway. This diagnosis was made by the critical eyes of strangers and the unkind whispers behind my back from “friends” and people with “concerns” who voiced their opinions through most of my teenage years. Up until that point, I had experienced enough unconditional love from my parents and “Ah, I remember the glory days when I was that thin… was I ever that thin?”comments that I had a healthy sense of self-confidence in my “skinny minnie” status. As a teenage girl, however, the things people said about me became who I was and how I saw myself. The confident toothpick turned into a blubbering mess in a dressing room being lectured by her mom that she would never love the clothes until she loved the girl in the mirror who was wearing them. I loved her for it, and I sometimes believed her when she told me I was pretty. Bad habits are hard to break, though, and I had already developed the bad habit of finding fault in everything I could see of that girl in the mirror and disliking things that weren't actually there.  
    After giving birth to two beautiful baby boys, I find myself in a similar predicament. There were whispers after the first one, people wondering whether or not I was pregnant long before that was my reality. Nope, that belly was not the signal of another child on the way; it was the remnants of the one who already existed. It’s crazy to me that we regard the birth of a child as one of the most astounding and incredible miracles that there is, but we want to get rid of the evidence that we had anything to do with it, and we want to do that as quickly as possible. We are sent on a never-ending tailspin of love for that precious little being while simultaneously starting another tailspin of loathing for the thing that produced it. What kind of sense does that make? We notice how cute the baby is in a picture and genuinely ooh and ah, but then we can’t help but judge ourselves against the mother holding it to determine our own self-worth based on how it all shakes out. How long ago did she have that baby? I wonder what she’s eating. Is she working out? Maybe you don’t do any of those things, but I have. I’m not proud of it, but, you know, bad habits.
    I've read the inspirational articles on this topic. I've loved them. I've teared up reading about how my kids will want to look back on memories with me and see me in the pictures with them, even on the days when I have bags under my eyes and too many chins. I've nodded my head in wholehearted agreement at the idea that the fear of the swimsuit should never keep you from jumping into the pool. There’s definitely a beautifully written life metaphor in that one. I've felt deep sorrow for women who can’t see or understand their own beauty because it is so very clear to the rest of us. I've cheered for companies like Dove who produce commercials that ask us to love our bodies and ourselves. As much as all of these things impact me, though, they don’t really change the daily practice of how I think and feel about myself. It’s time for an intervention. A change. To practice what I preach. Some emotional plastic surgery.
    This is for all of the people with judgmental stares and unkind remarks, the ones who helped me to develop my bad habits. This is for all the people whose eyes alone diagnosed me with an eating disorder I didn't have and a pregnancy that was so four months ago. This is also for all of the people I love and for people I don’t even know who I hope will somehow hear this anyway, the ones who have disparaged their soul-housing vessels at one point or another. I think that probably covers all of the women I know and a number of the men. Mostly, though, this is for me. Whether I’m a toothpick or a muffin top, it’s time to put a little love back into this relationship.
    What I’d like to do, and I hope you’ll do this for yourself along with me, is pick apart my body piece by piece. Wait, what? That sounds counterproductive. This is different. I want to spend a week or so at a time picking a part to love and changing my thoughts and attitude about it. For example, I've always wished for different legs. Yet, thinking about what these legs of mine have done is a total game changer. They ran their way to happy memories and victory in track. They've walked me down some important aisles and up to podiums and into graduation at the Big House. They are the only part of me that has any clue what to do when I’m joyfully dancing. They are amazing. Shoot, I've already jumped far into the first weeks’ worth of love. After working at Victoria’s Secret for four years, I may need to spend a whole month on boobs. I could write a book about boobs. In fact, I hope to do that someday. But (ha, butt!)I think this is enough to work on for now. How about each body part just gets its own blog for now?  
    If you've made it this far, then you either actually love me enough to try to hold me accountable, or you’re one of those people who is just reading this to pick me apart and get all judgmental because you love to hate. Either way, I hope you’ll join me in this. Let’s allow ourselves to believe in our own beauty, and let’s do this together. We deserve it.

Hit it, Pink!

“You're so mean
When you talk
About yourself, you are wrong
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead”




DISCLAIMER: Okay, judgy judger, let’s be clear about this. Just because I am pledging to love myself and be proud of myself the way I am does not mean that I am going to stop working out and trying to get back in shape. You’re missing the point if you think differently! I want to be a healthy, active mom for my kids, and I like the fact that I can squeeze myself into the kids’ table when Ty asks to have a picnic. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grandma Ginny

Admittedly, I am terribly awkward in emotional situations and never know the right things to say or do.  This is why I either eat or write my feelings and why I am currently wiping chocolate chip cookie grease from my hands in order to try to think of the right words to write words to capture something important.  I want to somehow do justice to my Grandma Ginny.  The good news is that when you are a true original and classic like Ginny, the stories really write themselves.

There are so many things that are quintessential Grandma Ginny that the only trouble is knowing where to start.  Many of my earliest and many of my fondest memories of her involve holidays.  She prided herself on taking each of her grandchildren out for a date on their birthdays.  I was treated to years and years of these, with dinners at Ponderosa (one of her favorites) or Finley's (one of my favorites) followed by a trip to a toy store to pick out whatever my heart desired.  I remember there was one year when I had my heart set on a baby doll that was more than the amount I was supposed to spend.  Grandma tried for a few minutes to convince me how fabulous the other toys were, but she ended up caving and getting me the doll anyway.  There was another year when she somehow got lost on the way back to our house, and I fell asleep in the passenger seat, no help to her.  If I'm remembering right, there were deer involved.  We got an extra long date that year!  Classic Ginny.

I have to say, though, that the greatest gift my grandma ever gave to me was my dad.  It is clear to anyone who knows the man that he is that she and my grandpa did something right... a lot of somethings.  I never got to meet my grandpa, but the parts of my grandma that show up in Dad are clearly recognizable, from his stubborn nature to the silly faces and noises that he makes.  It takes a good woman to be a great mother (she was to six kids, a slew of grandkids, and even a bunch of great grandkids), and I think it takes an even greater woman to raise a great man.  Dad is proof of how well she did in that area.

The gifts didn't stop with her own family, though.  She started a family tradition of taking in "strays".  I don't just mean the cats she'd always leave food outside her door for, either.  There were lots of human strays, too. I remember my dad talking about how she'd make them share toys with random kids from the orphanage that she'd have over at their house, and I can remember countless holidays where we'd all be elbowing each other and whispering, wondering who in the world all of the guests were.  As the kids and grandkids grew older, we started to bring our own strays around for the holidays, friends who needed a place to go, and they were always welcomed with open arms and without question.

Many other great memories were made on Christmas Eve.  This was always at Grandma's house, where she was surrounded by her kids and grandkids and some darn good cheesy potatoes and cocktail weenies.  Grandma was an excellent cook, and although some claimed sometimes that she "ate like a bird", I'm not sure there was ever a Christmas Eve where she didn't end up with some food on herself and on the floor.  I'd like to think that maybe I got those things from her.  It wasn't Christmas Eve without an awkward weenie joke made by someone, the potatoes setting on fire, and Grandma scratching off a pile of scratch off tickets while asking "Now why'd you do that? You shouldn't have done that!" about all of her other gifts. Classic Ginny.

I'll never forget the Christmas Eve when Tom and I were newly engaged, and I brought him around to meet my Dad's family for the first time.  As was customary, we left our shoes in the dining room and headed to the living room to hang out.  A few minutes later, we heard Grandma in the dining room.

"Whose shoes are these?"
"They're Tom's shoes, Ma," my dad said.
"Ooh.  Good for Jess!"

Thus, Tom was welcomed into the family.  Classic Ginny.

You see, Grandma Ginny was never shy about anything. This was apparent from her unabashed love of the"Talk Sex with Sue Johanson" tv show, her shameless flirting, and the TMI real talk she shared with us.  I found this gem of advice from her in one of my first blogs ever from Christmas Eve

"If you please your man, he won't mess around on you. I used to do it with your grandpa every Saturday morning. That's how Terry and Lynn were made."

Grandma's audacity even led us to coin a term for her that has been used with delight by our family for years. It began when we were visiting her one day, and she offered us a piece of a dessert she had made.  We refused because it was supposed to be for a potluck she was going to, and we didn't want to be rude.  It wasn't until we looked at what she was offering that we realized that there was already a piece missing and cracked up.  Her philosophy?  She made it.  She ought to be able to try it whenever she wanted!  A few years ago, I had an assignment for a grad class that required me to bring something in for a potluck that represented something about my family heritage or history.  I beamed with pride as the entire class delighted at my Ginny'd dessert. Classic Ginny.

There was also a softer side.  Another earlier memory I have of Grandma Ginny was when I was sick.  I was having digestive issues and was absolutely miserable.  She stayed with me, rubbed my back all day, and showed me compassion even when I was cranky and stinky.  That's classic Ginny too.

Even at 92 years old, Grandma was a woman with almost as many hobbies as years under her belt.  She golfed and bowled late into her life.  Even when she didn't do either super well, she did them with gusto!  She liked to go on senior trips and to casinos, and we'd joke about how she'd always be the one that "wandered off the tour."  She collected perfume bottles that filled shelves and shelves all over her house.  She was an avid church goer and involved in all kinds of church business.  She worked at the Jackson Space Center for years after my grandpa passed away and introduced us to space ice cream, something I still love to find in museum gift shops.  She kept up with the latest gossip and goings-on through listening to a police scanner and even called one time as we were discovering our house had been robbed to make sure we were okay. She filled pages and pages of diaries.  Given what she was willing to share publicly, I can only imagine what those private thoughts must hold.  She never had a computer or took to the internet, but I bet she could have written a blog that would have given people something to talk about!  She always sent cards for birthdays and anniversaries and cracked us up with her comments when we'd call to thank her.  She was a busy lady who was never too busy to spend time with her family or let them know that she loved them.  It was all just classic Ginny.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention what was arguably her most classic line of all.  No matter what came her way, Grandma always had two simple words for any situation: "I'm fine."  Maybe it was the stubborn Spencer woman in her that refused to admit that there might ever be something she couldn't handle.  The freezer went kaput? She turned it into a pantry.  She was clumsy and always taking a spill somewhere?  The way she remembered it, she used to jump over barrels on ice skates.  Maybe the "I'm fine" came from the fact that she had been through so much that even the big things could seem little to her.  She survived giving birth to six children, breast cancer, the death of her husband and a son, and anything else that came her way. Even as she was in her last few hours, semi-conscious and barely able to speak, my dad reported that she was still insisting to her sister, "I'm fine."  It doesn't get more classic Ginny than that.

Grandma, you left a mark on all of us who loved you.  You Ginny'd our world, and there will always be a piece missing now that you're not in it anymore.  You will live on in your sassy daughters, your sons who aren't afraid to be sensitive, and the hilarious memories you created for all of your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Thanks for always taking us in your arms, pecking our cheeks, and telling us that you loved us very much.  There is comfort in knowing that for the first time in decades, you will be in the arms of the men you have loved all your life: your beloved Buysse, your Tim, and your Heavenly Father.

"Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest."

Rest peacefully tonight, Grandma.  Judging by the thunder we're having here tonight, there's a rowdy game of bowling for you to join with Grandpa tomorrow.  Love you.




     

Friday, May 9, 2014

Worthwhile File

One of the best pieces of teaching advice I've ever gotten was to create a "worthwhile file".  Mine is actually a file folder, and it's full of reminders of why I love my job.  There are notes, cards, and pictures from students, parents, and other teachers that make me smile and feel a few inches taller when I read them.  Don't tell anyone, but I've also kept some carbon copies of detentions past students have gotten (we used to get copies any time one of our Ac Lab students was written up by someone) that make me giggle.  Maybe giggle is an understatement.  Anyway, I look through it from time to time for a boost, but its real purpose is for days like today as a reminder of why it's worth it to work through the tough days.  Today was one of those tough days.

I don't ever want to publicly complain about my job.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again-- being a teacher is an honor and a privilege, and I feel blessed every day that I get to be one.  EVERY day.  Truly.  I also don't want to be too specific because maintaining the privacy of my students is important to me (although if you ask me about those funny detentions, I'd be happy to share a story or two that will make you pee your pants).  With all that being said, here's what I think it all boils down to for me today:

One of the hardest parts of my job is investing everything I have but feeling powerless when kids make bad decisions.

It's incredibly rewarding to see students grow and shine.  When I can give them skills and tools and challenges and then sit back and watch them accomplish things all on their own, it's one of the most amazing feelings in the world.  It's also so much fun to watch kids be kids.  They're silly and creative and wonderful when left to their own devices.  Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.  Kids who act like kids do not always produce rainbows and sunshine.  Allowing them the freedom to make their own decisions also gives them the opportunity to make bad ones.  Bad ones with consequences.  As we get closer to the end of the school year, some of these kids that I have loved and enjoyed all year are not making the kinds of decisions that we've taught them to make.  Our best laid plans and discussions and investments of time and energy are just not always going to be enough.  They do dumb things because they're still just kids, and that's what teenagers do sometimes.  They don't think, they act, and they can throw away all of their hard work and progress with some nasty words or actions in the blink of an eye, leaving me sick to my stomach and teary-eyed on the sidewalk, watching the bus drive away, hoping it was the last big bad decision and hoping that they'll be back to finish out the year strong after a week away.  Patterns have to change.  Cycles have to be broken.  Even though I know each student makes his or her own decisions, I really do KNOW this is true, it's so hard not to take the weight of their worlds on my shoulders.  I'm a fixer.  I'm a make it betterer.  That's my job.  It's the naive hope I had when I signed up for this whole business, and it's what I still carry with me today.  Let's save them all!

"People cry not because they're weak.  It's because they've been strong for too long."

This is why I need the worthwhile file.  It doesn't take the weight off, but it tips the balance back to even, and, in some cases, helps me to remember that we really can save a lot of them.  It gives me the deep desire to jump back in and get back at it.  My job, after all, is one of the most worthwhile ways I can think of to spend my time (the others, of course, have to include some type of family, friends, church, food, and alcohol).

I'm excited for Monday.  I really am. I need a weekend to energize with many of the things mentioned above and to read over the worthwhile file again(yeah... I brought it home), and then I'll get to try again.  Monday can be a great day.  I'm going to make sure it is.

Thank you, worthwhile file, you made my day.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The One Who Listened

The warm-up today for my students was to reflect on and write about an MLK quote I had on the board.  I had also written "Happy (belated) MLK Day!" because this was our first day back since Monday.  A student raised his hand and asked, "What's milk day?"  I played along with the joke and made some kind of remark about how we should all bring in a quarter for our little cartons of milk, and we could have snack time, and...


... and then I realized that he wasn't joking.  Like, not at all.  Le sigh.  Really?  I mean, really?  Milk Day?  


To be fair, he also thinks that Americans speak American and Canadians speak Canadian, so his lack of common sense is not limited to history.  He's equal opportunity in these types of questions, and the rest of us do the best we can to handle answering them with humor and grace... and maybe a dash or two of sarcasm.

When someone else asked later in the day why we didn't celebrate MLK Day during Black History Month, I held my breath, hoping that this conversation would not be a repeat of our morning history lesson.  Instead, before I could form a response, another student chimed in:

"Well, you see, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actual birthday is January 15, but..." 

And he went on to answer the question with what I'm guessing was pretty much verbatim what he had heard in his history class.  I thanked him profusely for this gem of knowledge and promised to put in a good word with his history teacher.  I wonder if there's a way I could subtly strike up a friendship between him and my good ol' milk buddy.  A girl can dream.  You know, like that milk guy did?

Thank you, the one who listened, you made my day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Baby Butt Cheeks

When we lived in Seattle, we paid top dollar to be able to watch the sun rise over Lake Union from our tiny one bedroom apartment.  It really was breathtakingly beautiful and one of those kinds of views you don't take for granted, even seeing it day after day.

It turns out that the best things in life are free, though.  One of my favorite things in life is the view I now get of some tiny little butt cheeks sprinting from the nursery to the tub when it's bath time.

"My blessings are in front of me, it's not about the land
I'll never beat the view from my front porch looking in

I see what beautiful is about
When I'm looking in, not when I'm looking out

'Cause anywhere I'll ever go and everywhere I've been
Nothing takes my breath away like my front porch looking in."

Lonestar

From the Seattle sunrises to the St. Louis moons, we have been so richly blessed.

Thank you, baby butt cheeks, you made my day.