>Random Thoughts on a Snowy Saturday

>Amigo is again feeling under the weather. We went to the Saturday morning clinic and found out that his ears are not infected, but quite plugged up and filled with fluid. Prescription: Lots of fluids, OTC pain reliever, and a vaporizer. He’s curled up on the couch right now in the “humidified” den watching TV.
We ended up watching SpongeBob Squarepants by the process of elimination. The Weather Channel was interesting for a while (it’s been a fascinating winter if you’re interested in weather or climate trends), but after we’d watched three “locals on the eights” we lost interest. After all, how many times can we see a prediction for 50% chance of a half inch of snow when we’ve already been out on snow-slicked roads that have at least an inch or more accumulation? Now we’re watching the snow fall (it’s really pretty if you’re indoors) and surfing the channels.
CNN was our next stop. On a weekend that is often fluff and football, they had to cover a story of a police officer’s murder in New Orleans. How sad! New Orleans PD doesn’t need any more tragedy. My sympathies to the family and force.
He wanted to watch Dora or Diego. Look, kid, you’re 16! give me a break! No kiddy cartoons while I’m in the room, at least!So we eventually ended up on SpongeBob. At least this is a cartoon with humor I can appreciate.
I had a random dream last night. It was a convoluted series of events involving people in my life both current and past, eventually ending up with my laptop being stolen while the case was left behind. Husband’s response: “You really want a new laptop, don’t you? Your case is still perfectly good, but the computer inside it is obsolete.”
Well, he’s right, but it’s a want, not a need. I can rationalize all the good reasons for a new laptop except the price. We really don’t need a new laptop. It would be convenient, useful, and all kinds of handy, especially if we outfit it with Amigo’s adaptive software. But no, it’s not a need. Yet.
Maybe Husband is demonstrating his sensitivity in understanding my dream. His fortune cookie yesterday told him to get in touch with his “feminine side.” What could I say? “Honey, PMS stinks. Here, have some chocolate.”
And on the feminine side — I entered a handful of Bloggy Giveaways and actually won a prize! It’s a lovely handmade bag from C at MamaSaidSew! There were many, many prizes, but I only entered those that I felt were of value to me or my friends/family. In this case, it’s definitely something I wouldn’t make myself. I can’t sew worth a darn, no pun intended. Thanks, C! I feel lucky.
Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket. A win would fund my new laptop…

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>Shoulds are bogus or What a Week it Was

>The Packers should be headed to the Super Bowl.
Reality: They lost.
End result: They’re heading on home to watch the Bowl on TV like the rest of us.

Bitter cold weather should result in a day off from school.
Reality: Our new superintendent is a tough guy and thinks everyone else should tough it out, too.
End result: No day off, or even a two hour delay, despite the double digit below zero wind chills.

Students should behave when reminded, if not sooner.
Reality: Sometimes they argue with the teacher instead of shaping up.
End result: Certain individuals in my class are wondering why I contacted their parents regarding their inappropriate behavior.

I should be finished with my progress reports and feeling refreshed upon starting a new semester.
Reality: Dealing with the large numbers of students with unmedicated ADHD and the undiagnosed who-knows- what that permeates my classroom is, frankly, exhausting.
End result: I’m going to be working on my progress reports this weekend, since I had no energy to finish them earlier this week.

I should be mad at Buttercup for scratching me this morning.
Reality: Well, really, I shouldn’t have picked her up when she wasn’t eager to snuggle.
End result: She’s still my sweet bunny, and the scratch is fine now. In fact, you can find a Buttercup Portrait here. Yes, she’s a character.

I should rest this weekend.
Reality: It’s Trivia Weekend!
End result: I’ll spend too much time listening to the webcast and helping Amigo answer questions during the contest, and I’ll thoroughly enjoy the 50 hours. Well, I’ll thoroughly enjoy as much of the 50 hours as I experience, since I’m much too wise (or old) to stay up the whole time.

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>Teachers often talk about “attention-getting behavior,” mainly negative behaviors that develop in an attempt to gain center stage when the positive attention isn’t sufficient. But what happens when the attention-getting behavior is developed and sponsored by a major university?
The Child Study Center at NYU recently worked with a major advertising agency to create billboards that they felt called attention to child and adolescent psychiatric and learning disorders. Nicknamed the “Ransom Note” campaign, the billboards displayed ‘notes’ like this:

“We have your son. We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning…Autism.”
“We have your son. We are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It’s up to you now…Asperger’s Syndrome”
“We have your daughter. We are making her wash her hands until they are raw, everyday. This is only the beginning…OCD”
“We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay…ADHD”

These ads spurred an activist movement that surprised their creators and sponsors. Autism advocates mobilized immediately to protest the implied hopelessness and inaccurate perceptions in these “notes”. Bloggers like Kristina of AutismVox and Vicki of Speak Softly stepped up, spread the word, and eventually were quoted in the New York Times. I read great posts by Mom-nos and Dr. Joe, both parents of children with autism. If you follow the trail from these four, you’ll find many, many more blogs that addressed the topic — written by parents of children with autism and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.
The campaign has been abruptly halted because of the negative responses. Dr. Harold Koplewicz, head of the Study Center that initiated the Ransom Notes campaign, made a public statement of apology, ending it thus:

“…Our goal was to start a national dialogue. Now that we have the public’s attention, we need your help. We would like to move forward and harness the energy that this campaign has generated to work together so that we do not lose one more day in the lives of these children.

“We invite all of you to continue this conversation online at a “town hall” meeting that we will hold early next year as we plan the next phase of our national public awareness campaign on child mental health. Look for details on our web site www.AboutOurKids.org.”

Well, as the saying goes, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. Gaining the public’s attention by using shock isn’t a new tactic in advertising, whether commercial or public service. Autism isn’t new, either.

But considering that awareness is the lowest form of knowledge, far behind comprehension, application, and analysis, shouldn’t any public relations campaign be far better quality than this one? The autism movement has moved well beyond the awareness stage. Any major attention-getting ideas should be beyond that stage, too.

But you know what I say, “Should” is a bogus word. It’s meaningless, really.

I wonder what kind of “ransom note” they’d come up with for a hearing impaired mom, happily married, well-educated, professional, raising a teen and a college student? If you haven’t guessed, that’s me. And don’t bother with negative attention-getting behavior, either. I’ve taught too long to fall for that.

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>shoulds, once again, are bogus

>Should: Appointments, especially early morning appointments, should never be cancelled.
Reality: The phone rang at 6:25 a.m. to cancel my 7:00 physical therapy appointment
End result: I had a morning off (half a sick day) that I didn’t need.

Should: I should have cancelled the sick day. It was early enough in the morning, and I didn’t need the time off any more.
Reality: I had brought home a bag full of work to do after the appointment.
End result: I stayed home anyway. I waded through four piles of papers, cleaned the kitchen, and blogged.

Should: Cancelled appointments should be rescheduled easily and conveniently.
Reality: I’m a teacher, people. My work schedule is NOT flexible! And I have parent-teacher conferences next week in the evenings, so I’m not free after school, either!
End result: I took an afternoon appointment on a day between conferences. I’ll blow another half sick day. Bleh.

Shoulds: I should drink less coffee.
Reality: I like my coffee.
End result: After the appointment was cancelled and I put Amigo on his school bus, I made a pot of Sumatran and started in to work on my school papers. Math tests, vocabulary sheets, penmanship, and more, met with my green pen while the Early Show played softly in the background.

Ah,well, I’ll be ready for conferences next week. I’ll be rested and relaxed (and caffeinated) this afternoon, too. No crabby teaching in Social Studies. Nuh-uh.

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>Shoulds are bogus and hindsight is 20-20.

>It was definitely one of those days.

Should (not): The secretary on the phone at 7:20 telling me that Amigo had fallen and bumped his nose shouldn’t have used the phrase “I don’t know if it’s broken”.
Reality: She wasn’t a nurse, and didn’t describe the injury very well, despite my Red Cross training and my detailed questions.
End result: I worried all day. I even emailed husband.

Should: The historic house down the road should have been clear in their phone call.
Reality: Both the secretary and the principal thought it was a “deal with this within an hour or lose the trip!” situation.
End result: We were cranky when we made the return call because we hadn’t arranged a field trip there, and we eventually found out the call had just been outreach to recruit more schools to visit.

Should: Teachers should communicate all special needs, even gifted and talented, to the next teacher.
Reality: A student today told me he was supposed to be in the next grade’s math program, accelerated by a year.
End result: The jury’s still out. I sent out a quick email to the relevant teachers, and I’ll check the child’s file tomorrow. I couldn’t today; I was dealing with a field trip phone call (see above).

Should: I should have stopped worrying about Amigo’s nose.
Reality: Since I didn’t see it or talk to a qualified medical person, I had no idea how serious it was — or not.
End result: He talks like he has a cold (which he still does), had a small headache, and strongly resembles a football player with a bandage instead of a breathing strip across his nose.

Ah, well, as my coworker so wisely said, “If you bang your head on the wall, all you’ll get is a sore head.” So instead of pounding out my frustration, I think I should have a cappuccino and some cinnamon toast. Comfort food is called for after a day like this.

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>Breaking up is hard to do

>A Head Start director once distributed posters that said, “Change is our friend.” In smaller letters, it proclaimed, “Posting is mandatory.” Yes, she had a sense of humor. Change was the norm in her realm, and facing it with a smile was one way to handle the many changes that were thrown her way on a daily basis.
Change can be difficult. It’s not always possible to face it with a smile. I am leaving my current job for a different one next fall. I hope it’s for the better. I still have misgivings, but leaving is the right thing to do. I should have done this sooner, but you know about “shoulds”. In leaving my job, I’m leaving some of the best friends and closest professional colleagues I’ve known. Ever.
In spring of 2002, we started graduate school together. We were nicknamed the Fab Five, all five of us from the same school in the same district. We carpooled to classes and got to know each other during the 45 minute drive each way. By the time we finished the intense program in fall of 2003, we were bonded for life.
On our last weekend of classes, the weekend we presented our final projects, we came out of lunch to find the car pool van full of helium balloons. This forced us (kicking and screaming, of course) to take this picture. We’ve displayed it in each of our classrooms ever since.
Last October, mine fell from the wall behind my desk, shattering the glass cover. I cleaned it up, vowed to get a new frame, and secretly fought back the superstitious thought that this might be a bad omen.
Omen or not, I picked up a new position. With the support of my Fab Friends, I will pack up my classroom and move across town come June. Despite our distance, I know they’ll still be there for me.
Amy, whose loving and generous son picked out balloons and wrote us each congratulations cards, even though he was only in second grade.
Sara, she of the best and funniest camping stories, now a survivor first class after her battle with breast cancer.
Julie, the calm and cool one, the one who traded classrooms with me when I couldn’t do stairs after my foot surgery.
Dawn, she of the musical laughter, the most talented teacher I’ve ever met. She truly has the Midas touch.
Oh, yes, and I can’t forget how the banana, wearing Sara’s boa, got strategically hung on Dawn’s door with Julie’s and Amy’s help. If I get too serious, these ladies might just post a banana on my door — or fill my room with deer droppings once again.

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>Shoulds are bogus — again

>The “should”, the reality, and the end result

I had a half day of school today, so I should have gotten some housework done.
The reality: I came home, turned the self-cleaning oven to “Clean”, and took a nap. A long nap.
The end result: My oven is clean, and I feel well-rested. Not bad, really.

I should have cooked a decent supper.
The reality: I napped much of the afternoon and my oven was in its “Clean” cycle.
The end result: Amigo and I met Husband at a diner halfway between his workplace and home. Mmm…Friday night fish fry.

I should be gathering some professional reading for our upcoming grant meeting.
The reality: I surfed Amazon for gardening materials and family-oriented books.
The end result: I ordered Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker, an autism parent and anthropologist, and Let it Rot, a composting guide in its third edition. Hey, spring is coming! I can smell it!

I should have started laundry tonight, since I’ll be gone all day tomorrow judging another music festival.
The reality: I didn’t start laundry. I napped and then took Amigo to meet Husband for supper.
The end result: I’ll do it Saturday night or Sunday. If I’m really lucky, the family might start it tomorrow while I’m gone. Don’t laugh so hard; sometimes they do!

I should go to bed early, since I have to get up early tomorrow and drive to my festival. I have to be there by 7:30.
The reality: I napped most of the afternoon.
The end result: I’m hanging out online, having fun reading blogs and updating my own. I’ll be plenty relaxed when I do go to bed. I’ll sleep well.

All in all, “Shoulds” are bogus, but all in all, it was a good day.

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>And on the third hand…

>Today was Mixed Feelings Day. Not familiar with that one? That’s because it doesn’t exist. I could call it Of Two Minds Day, but that wouldn’t cover it, either. There’s too much going on. My mind keeps spinning, and I keep bringing it back before it spins out of orbit.
On the one hand: I love my work teaching elementary school. I dread my job. I get stomach aches every Sunday night thinking of what may be waiting the next morning. It’s not the kids; I teach some wonderful kids. It’s not the co-workers; I work with a fantastic, creative, supportive team of teachers. It’s a few noisy, nasty, know-nothings that make my job a living h-e-double hockey sticks. It has reached a point where I am reluctant to check my school email on weekends because it upsets me too much. Someone, but someone, needs to step in and tell these non-teachers it will do their children a lot more good to trust our knowledge and work with us rather than raise their swords and start a battle. This, I keep thinking, is what drives teachers out of their field.
On the other hand: I spent today moonlighting in my other role as musician, judging a music festival in a small town near here. It was a wonderful, enjoyable day. The parent volunteers assisting in my room were supportive, polite, and positive. They went out of their way to treat all who entered, whether student or adult, with courtesy and respect. When I needed something (like a desk or table on which to write my critiques), I had only to ask, and it was provided. Eager middle school student volunteers brought around refreshment carts with water, coffee, and various snacks several times a day. The middle and high school performers played well, conversed with me, and in general, kept me smiling all day. This, I thought, is teaching at its best. It’s the way teaching should and could be.
But shoulds, as you know, are bogus.
On yet another hand, I read this post today. I work closely with the special education teachers. I speak Spanish, while not fluently, fairly well. Students with special needs, behavior plans, and limited English skills are welcome in my class. These students need me.
But on the other hand, how much longer can I put up with an administration that will not draw the line in the sand? How good is it for students, special or traditional, disabled or neurotypical, to have a teacher who is stressed-out to the point of illness?
The answer is simple. No one can do their best work while feeling threatened. I need to feel safe, healthy, positive, and eager to go to work on Monday mornings. On one hand and all the other(s), extreme stress isn’t good for anyone. Not my family, not my students, but most of all, not me.
On all hands, something needs to change.

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>Shoulds are STILL bogus

>The new updated version, again comparing the “should” with the reality

I should feel relieved that it’s Friday.
Reality: I am judging a music festival tomorrow, which means an intense (but exciting) day of work from 7:30 until at least 4:00.
End result: I’ll enjoy the day. I’ll collapse Saturday night and sleep in on Sunday.

I should be resting, storing up energy to fully recover from last week’s illness.
Reality: I have a long day tomorrow, so I’m starting laundry tonight.
End result: the last load is in the washer, I’m in mid-fold cycle, I’m coughing, and I’m tired.

I should wear flat shoes to minimize the pressure on the little Mort dude that hides in the ball of my foot.
Reality: My only flat dress shoes are brown, and my only clean dressy pants are black.
End result: I’ll take off my shoes under the table and hope no one notices.

I should have planned next week’s science lessons thoroughly.
Reality: I missed my main prep periods today due to a field trip, so I didn’t have time to get everything ready.
End result: I’ll be making copies and cueing the introductory video before school on Monday.

I should be more worried about Monday’s science lessons because I’m introducing a new unit.
Reality: I’m hoping for a snow day.
End result: Who knows? It would be fitting, since the new unit is Weather and Water. No matter what, I’ll get to play with the barometer and windmeter this weekend and call it research. Teaching science is fun!

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>resting, refreshing beverages, and reading — news, that is

>I am a bit of a news junkie. I won’t give up my daily paper, provincial though it is. I surf the online headlines when I can. When we travel (which isn’t often, I confess) one of my chief pleasures is picking up a major paper wherever we are and reading it, cover to cover.
Why? Perspective. Keeping informed is important, but keeping perspective is essential. Knowing what’s happening is good, but without background and detail, that knowledge doesn’t get beyond the first level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Yes, I’m talking like a teacher. Teaching is a great field. My progressive state senator has called it a noble profession. I love my work. I need to repeat that; I love my work.
There are times when I dread my job.
I dread the nasty phone calls and meetings with parents who claim intimate knowledge of what I “should” be teaching, but barely handled high school themselves.
I dread the harassment of special needs students. Yes, it happens, at school and in the neighborhood, and I will continue to fight this through education, not bullying or verbal harassment.
I dread writing up yet another discipline referral and knowing that the only good it might do is to create a paper trail.
I dread the reactions of parents who claim their innocent angels couldn’t possibly have misbehaved. It must have been another Student/Teacher/Someonelse’s fault.
I dread reading yet another headline saying that scores on yet another bubble test will result in judging the quality of my instruction.
Hello?!! Is anyone listening? There are so many good families, good students, no, great families and great students, that the negativity shouldn’t take over. But ‘shoulds‘ are bogus, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the positive (and analytical) people are much quieter than the others.
If Greenpeace and a Japanese whaling ship can co-exist and one offer assistance to the other, but elementary school parents can not, what does that say about our neighborhood? Our town? Not much, people, not much.
Of course, I’m sure that’s my fault, too.

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