Friday, February 28, 2014

Trying to Find Strength for One of My Biggest Weaknesses

I have always been one to LOVE roller-coasters.   But, emotional roller-coasters ?  They just SUCK!  Something bad happens, and you're pulled up this extremely high incline...not knowing what's going to happen, how bad it really is, then think you've got things figured out and everything's going to be OK.  But then, find out it's not OK yet, and you start being pulled up that incline one more with it, and then WHOOSH... you think, once again, everything's going to be fine.  Until finally, just when you think the ride is over, there's that last mountain to get over.  That pull uphill that just seems to go up, up, up.  

And that's the part I'm riding this morning.

These past two weeks, I have been on that dang roller-coaster just pleading for the ride to be over.  And I have been tricked in to thinking that I'm just about done and I'm about to pull in to get off, and another freakin' mountain of an incline has been waiting around the corner.

My emotions have been up and down, up and down, up and down and it's enough to make my head spin, my stomach hurt, and my eyes and throat sore from the crying and screaming to JUST MAKE IT STOP!!!

You would think that when someone is on the ride with you, the fears and the uncertainty would be easier to handle.  And that's probably true for most people, except when the person riding with you happens to be one of your kids.  That makes the ride worse.  More scary.  Harder to handle.

I believe that most parents want nothing but happiness for their kids.  They want them to be safe, protected, and to know that the one person that will keep them safe and protected is their mother.  Even in the worst of times, Mom should be there to ensure that everything is going to be OK and take away all the fears and worry.

I am most certainly one of those mothers.  I NEVER want to see my kids hurting.  I never want them to have to worry about anything more than what grades they are making, if they'll make the sports teams they try out for, or if the girl or boy they are crushing on likes them back.

Those kinds of worries they can take care of on their own, deal with in their own way, yet I'll always be there for them to turn to if they need me.

But, when the hurt and or worry are beyond those realms...I believe it is my first priority to prevent and protect my kids to the fullest extent.  They should not have to worry about BIG problems.  That's my job.  Yet, in the situation I'm going through, it's not my problem...and even though I've tried everything in my power to shield my kids from the impact that it has on them, all I can do is idly stand by and wait for the next piece of information, the next piece of the puzzle to be put in place so we can figure out if the roller-coaster can finally stop, or we continue riding up and up and up.

I know this is all very cryptic and crazy sounding.  Believe me, I'd like nothing more than to be able to scream out the problems that we're dealing with just to get it off my chest.  But, I can't.  There are just some things that are TOO personal to share, or it's too important that they be kept between family.

What I can share is that at Butter is the one riding this emotional roller-coaster with me.  He's the one being pulled up and down... enough to make both of our heads spin and our stomachs upset.  And, the poor boy has NEVER liked roller-coasters.  Real roller-coasters or emotional ones.  He's the kind of kid that prefers to keep his feet firmly placed on the ground.  He's ridden enough emotional roller-coasters in his life to know that his idea of a fun ride is the kind delivered in a slow, calm way.  No surprises, no sharp turns, and definitely no giant mountains to fly down.

Yet, in this situation, he's been picked up, dragged against his will, and forced on to ride it out.  We were both completely blindsided with it, and now there's nothing either one of us can do but wait... until we're told that we can get off.

To add some fuel to the fire, Butter now believes that he is somehow being punished for all the problems we dealt with years ago.  The pain he inflicted on others, the lies he always told, and the struggles he put on the family.  He thinks the situation we're dealing with is all that bad that happened back then coming back to bite him in the behind and show him that what goes around comes around. 

Even though the majority of those issues were out of his control.  Even though those problems were due to a mental illness and the wrong combination of medication.  He, now, actually believes that he never really suffered enough for what he did to those that love him, and it's time for him to get a little taste of the pain those around him went through.

What 12 year old thinks that way?  What 12 year old SHOULD feel that way?

And, no matter what I say or how I try and explain away what's going on, I know that there will be no shaking that feeling inside of him.  No matter how much I explain that it wasn't his fault and that the changes he's made in his life were his way of getting back on the straight and narrow and leaving it all in the past, there's no way of trying to explain away his way of processing.  

In his mind, back then he did TERRIBLE things and it's only right that somehow, someway, he's punished for those actions.  

As I held him in my arms last night, trying to calm him and explain that I will be there for him NO MATTER WHAT, he told me that no matter how this all played out, he truly felt that this was his wake up call to make sure he never put himself in a situation to get in to trouble.  That there would be no more lying, even of the small kind.  That he would do better, be better.

And all the while, I'm trying to explain to him that he IS BETTER.  He's made all those changes.  He's turned everything around and is living a good life... making good grades, has lots of friends, does his chores (most of the time), and everyone that knows his past is EXTREMELY proud of the accomplishments he's made.

Yet, his mind has him convinced that THIS situation is his trial.  His past catching up to him and finally making him accountable for all the wrong he did during his darkest days.

That's enough to make me weak in the knees, my heart collapse, and an agony of pain wash over me that I don't think I've ever dealt with on this level.

What do I do?  How can I take his pain and fears away?  How do I make it all better?  

Especially when the answer to all those questions are beyond my control.  I have absolutely NO control how this situation will play out, what the outcome will be, or any way of assuring him that I know what's going to happen next.

Thankfully, today we will get some answers to all the questions.  We will hopefully get to find out how much longer this roller-coaster is expected to last.  And what, exactly, we have to do in order to make the roller-coaster stop.

And I know that every minute that passes until we get to that point will be extremely tough on me, and probably ten times worse for Butter.  

I just hope that today is the day it's all finally over.  That we can put it all behind us and just move on.

Please say a prayer or send some positive thoughts to my Butter today, as he battles a demon that has targeted him.  Help and guide him and I both to the right decisions, and to the others involved that will be making the decisions on what to do next will ease his suffering and worry.

We are ready for this to be over.  To move on.  To learn from it.  And to just be HAPPY.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten Things Thursday


I have about thirty minutes to share ten pieces of random information with you before it's time for me to start getting ready for work.  It's been a long time since I've done a Ten Things Thursday post, and it's always been pretty difficult for me to get out that many tidbits... but we'll see how we do today.

1.  It's going to be late nights for me both tonight and tomorrow night.  Tonight I'm working the concession stand, along with my 4th grade team, at a basketball game.  Tomorrow, it's Family Night and all teachers are required to attend.  Both events will put me home between 8-9PM.  That makes for very long work days.

2.  Today and tomorrow I also need to get sub plans written for Monday.  I have a common core training I'm attending on Monday, so I have to make sure that everything is taken care of and I have all my ducks in a row before I head out tomorrow night.  Thankfully, being that I have to be at work until the game and Family Night both start, I don't see too much of a problem getting that done.

3.  I HATE having a sub on Monday.  Hate is a strong word, but being gone on Monday is THE worst day to be gone.  It's the day our team does all of our weekly pretests.  Then we always grade them together as a class, so that the kids are fully aware of what information/spelling words/skills they need to hone in on throughout the week.  The kids usually fill out their spelling contracts on Monday, and it's where I usually do all of the introductions to the week's learning.  Leaving that responsibility to someone else just never works out for me.  It won't be the sub's fault, by any means, but it just makes me very nervous to be gone on a Monday.

4.  There's a chance for more winter weather to move in to our area on Sunday and in to Monday morning.  Right now, the weather people are saying there's a good chance of an ice storm. That could mean no school on Monday.  Being out of school because of bad weather would take care of my whole not liking to be gone on Monday situation, but then it would mean another day out of school and another day behind.  But, as the meteorologists keep reminding me, the system is still several days out and a LOT could change between now and then.  Guess it's just going to be another waiting game to see what is in store for us next week.

5.  I am a person that LOVES cold weather, but even I have to admit that after 17 snow days this year, I'm kinda ready for it to warm up a little.  I'm getting a little antsy for spring to get here.  There's pros and cons to that statement.  Spring getting here would mean nicer weather, finally being able to start working on my little flower garden, possibly getting out to walk more, and maybe losing all this winter blubber I've been continuously adding to.  But, spring also means the start of allergy season and me being miserable from seasonal allergies.  Spring is the time of year I most want to be outside, and it's the time of year I should definitely avoid being outside.  Not a great situation to be in.  Summer is always too hot, and hot makes me miserable.  I like warm.  Warm is fine.  But warm with runny nose, coughing, wheezing from the chest, and watery eyes is NOT fine.

6.  My team and I figured out yesterday that we only have twelve more weeks of school.  TWELVE.  That's insane.  Even with all the snow days, we're getting out on May 24th.  That means that our MAP test is only about nine weeks away.  That's not very much time AT ALL.  And a little nerve-wracking.  There's still so much to do.  

7.  My team also came up with a great idea for a new way of teaching science and social studies that I'm really excited about.  The norm up to this point is to teach science and social studies each day.  It's basically what our afternoon consists of.  About 45 minutes for each lesson.  The problem is, the afternoons are pretty hectic times.  We have a computer lab class one afternoon a week, we have kids pulled out four afternoons a week for extra help, I have kids pulled out on Mondays and Wednesday afternoons for speech therapy.  So, we spend a lot of time trying to cram as much in as we can throughout the week to ensure that ALL the students are getting SOME science and social studies.  Well, now we've decided to have a go at teaching only science for a couple of weeks and then switching off to social studies for a couple of weeks.  That would mean we get double the amount of time to just focus on one or the other.  The pull-out kids would get a lot more, the kids that stay would get a lot more, and the teachers would get a lot more.  We have so many great resources such as educational videos, experiments, projects, and such we'd love to do with the kids, but we never usually have the time.  By teaching science and social studies in alternating units, we'd have a lot more opportunity to really broaden the lessons and be a lot more creative with them.  I'm very excited about it.

8.  This weekend, I really need to stay home and get some cleaning done.  I've been pretty busy the last couple of weekends, and my house has been neglected.  I really need to clean, clean, clean and get my house back to the condition I like it.  Being that there's a chance for bad weather on Sunday, we'll probably do our grocery shopping on Saturday, but then I just want to stay inside for the rest of the time.  My house can get some attention, and then my couch can get some attention as I rest and relax.  Plus, I've been working on crocheting the same scarf all week, and it's time to get that finished so I can move on to something else.

9.  I'm thinking that this weekend might be the time I buy a new laptop.  I have a laptop, but the battery is shot and it's about 7 years old.  The screen is also completely messed up, so it will only work when plugged in to a computer monitor.  So, it's kinda just become a place I store all my photos and back up my phone and iPad.  I also use it to pay bills once a month.  When I work, I bring home my laptop from school.  That's also a pain cause the thing is heavy and I don't like carrying it back and forth.  I'd really like a new laptop that I can actually use as a laptop.  Something that's light, can be carried around easily, and something I can sit in the living room with and take care of my work.  I'm also a cheap skate, though, and won't spend a ton of money on a laptop being that I have a sort of functioning laptop and a work laptop.  So, we'll see how my hunt goes.  If I can find a cheapish, decent laptop, I might just buy it.

10.  I actually managed to get out ten things in the thirty minutes I had.  Not exactly the most exciting stuff to read, but when I'm pressed for time and don't really have a whole lot on my mind that I care to write about, it is what it is.  

And what it is is time for me to go and get ready.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Let it Go, Let it Go! The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway


Ah, Frozen.  Probably one of the best Disney movies made in a very long time.  I've been lucky enough to see it twice, and I can't wait for it to be released on DVD.  I know that it will get plenty of use in my house.

I have never heard a Disney soundtrack that had so much power or such a strong message as the song "Let it Go" from Frozen.  When I hear the song, I get those goosebumps all over my arms and that tingly feeling in my throat.  And, I will admit that since seeing that movie and hearing that song, I've tried to live by a "Let it Go" mentality.

                                     The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
                                                       Not a footprint to be seen
                                                         A kingdom of isolation,
                                                    And it looks like I’m the Queen.
                                    The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

                                            Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Oh, how I know how that feels.  Being the Queen of isolation, feeling completely alone.  Sometimes.  No matter what the problem, or who's there to listen, I have often felt like there's just not anyone that can really hear my troubles or understand what's really bothering me.  And, my normal way of dealing with those situations is to just keep it all inside, pretending that everything is A-OK.

                                                 Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
                                               Be the good girl you always have to be
                                              Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
                                                             Well, now they know

What others think of me has always been one of my major problems.  I try and put out this front that I'm Miss Goody Two Shoes.  Having problems is a sign of weakness.  Sharing my problems is even worse.  It's far easier to pretend that I'm someone I'm not, or pretend that nothing really bothers me.  But, what ends up happening is that people end up realizing that it's all just one big production, and then they know that I'm...well...normal.  I have problems.  I have weaknesses.  I have struggles.

                                                               Let it go, let it go
                                                       Can’t hold it back anymore
                                                               Let it go, let it go
                                                       Turn away and slam the door

These words have a double meaning for me.  Sometimes, I've held in my problems for so long that I finally just Let it ALL go.. in a whirlwind of sadness and frustration.  The most minor of things can set me off and I'm going to Let it Go on whoever the helpless victim is that said the wrong thing at the wrong time.  And, then there's the other side of that where I'm learning to Let it Go before it even gets to the point of it bothering me.  Rather than holding it in, I let it out.  I share my problems and feelings with those I can trust, and I'm able to move on and keep the problems from interfering with my normal day to day life.

                                                                  I don’t care
                                                         What they’re going to say
                                                            Let the storm rage on,
                                                The cold never bothered me anyway

This is my way of separating those that matter and those that don't.  No matter how much I try or how hard I try to pretend it's not happening, there will be those that truly care and those that don't.  There will be those people that are nice to your face, and then judge and condemn you the moment you turn around.  The secret is, though, to let them just keep doing what they're doing... let them gossip, let them judge, let them talk.  Because very few of those gossip trains really know the truth about what's going on, and it just goes to show their true character if they act that way.  The best way to deal with those situations is to just keep moving on, cause they don't really matter.  

                                                       It’s funny how some distance
                                                      Makes everything seem small
                                               And the fears that once controlled me
                                                            Can’t get to me at all

The power in this verse is UNBELIEVABLE.  How funny it is to me how minor some of those major problems I've dealt with in life now seem.  Once some time passes, it seems like it was nothing.  At the time, it feels like the earth could just fall away from my feet, but once I've got through it I can look back and laugh.  I'm a person that has gone through being ripped from my home country and moved to a completely different world, teen rebellion, teen pregnancy, an abusive relationship, homelessness, being a single parent, working pay check to pay check, worrying if I should pay the bills or buy food, wondering if I would ever make it through college to better my life, and most recently a parent with cancer.  And, still, a problem that pops it's head can feel like one of the worst situations I've ever been through.  I just really need to remember that if I can get through all these obstacles and still come out on top, I can pretty much get through anything.  

                                                        It’s time to see what I can do
                                                   To test the limits and break through
                                                    No right, no wrong, no rules for me
                                                                         I’m free

This applies to me in my classroom.  Everyday I try and test the limits and see what I can do.  I'm not sure I can entirely go with the "no rules for me", but I can push the boundaries just a little and see what happens.  I tend to doubt myself and my abilities far too often, and I'm my most happiest when I just say "BLAH" to that and go with my gut instincts.

                                                                 Let it go, let it go
                                                       I am one with the wind and sky
                                                                 Let it go, let it go
                                                            You’ll never see me cry

                                                                     Here I stand

                                                                  And here I'll stay
                                                             Let the storm rage on

I don't know about never seeing me cry, but it is highly unlikely unless you're one of my "trusted ones". The people I trust to take my problems to.  The people I use as my shoulder to cry on.  They are very few people in that inner circle, because no matter how much I try and let go of the twisted mentality, I still consider crying as a sign of weakness.  Everything inside me tells me that it's stupid to think that way, but it doesn't change the way I deal with certain situations.  When I want to do nothing but cry, I find a way to push through and just let the power to deal with my problem push through.  Recently, I have been amazed at my utter willpower to not let my guard down, and just the "storm rage on" with me at the wheel driving through whatever the storm blows my way.

                                        My power flurries through the air into the ground 
                                          My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
                                            And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
                                                             I’m never going back,
                                                            The past is in the past

Every single day is a new beginning.  It brings about new challenges, new opportunities, and new situations for me to work through.  What's important is letting go of the previous challenges and struggles before trying to take on new ones.  I have power, strength, and confidence.  I just sometimes forget about them, or let problems build up until they start to crack the surface of that power, strength, and confidence.  I can sometimes feel like I'm being pulled in a thousand different directions, and one kink can throw everything out of whack.  But, I just have to keep pushing through, moving on, and leaving any lingering effects die.  There's no use dwelling on the past.  It's OK to refer back to them once in a while to show how far I've come, but there's no going back.  Ever.

                                                               Let it go, let it go
                                                 And I'll rise like the break of dawn
                                                               Let it go, let it go
                                                          That perfect girl is gone

                                                                   Here I stand

                                                               In the light of day
                                                           Let the storm rage on,
                                               The cold never bothered me anyway

And the final mantra to take with me.  Just LET IT GO!  I'm not perfect.  I will make mistakes.  I will struggle.  I will fall.  People will judge me.  People will stand with me and against me.  People will be there for me when I need them.  But, no matter what, I just have to keep moving on.  I have to keep fighting.  I know that no matter what's thrown my way, I will work through it.  I thrive on challenges, and they are what truly keep me going.  If there were no challenges in life, life would be pretty darn boring.

So, let them all come.  Let them all rage on.

Cause in the end, I know that there is warmth, and love, and kindness, and care, and compassion in my heart.  They are what take me on each journey, lead me down every path, and battle all that come my way.

Plus, anyone that knows me truly knows, the cold never bothered me anyway.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's One of Those Days

Not one of those days... where nothing seems to be going right.  One of those days where I don't have a blog topic in mind, and have no idea what I'm going to ramble on about this morning.  And, it's probably a little too early to make the assumption that it's NOT going to be one of those days, but I'm going to stay positive and not try and think about that possibility.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, for a Monday.  The kiddos worked hard, and I was in a good mood all day.  The weather was pretty nice, even though it's supposed to get really cold again this week.  Which sounds about right, I have morning car duty.  So, obviously it's going to be freezing cold when I have to stand outside first thing in the morning.  

I'm having this inner battle with myself, at the moment, with an issue that's happening in my classroom.  And it's the whole homework debate.  

I've stated on more than one occasion that I'm not a fan of homework.  And when I make that statement, I'm defining homework as assignments I send home for the specific purpose of being done AT HOME.  For example, practice math problems, worksheets, etc.  

There is ONE homework assignment I DO assign each and every week.  And that's a spelling contract.  A menu of activities that has the students using their spelling words in various ways.  They are to complete one activity a night and then turn in the completed contract on Friday.  Each activity should take no more than 10-20 minutes, and the students are able to work on that contract at any time during the week if they need something to work if they finish their assigned work.

What I don't include in that statement about not liking homework is work that didn't get finished in class and so I send home to be finished.  Most days, that doesn't happen.  I always try and give my students plenty of time to work on assignments in class, and even give time at the end of the day for the kids to finish up any work that they didn't finish.  If the majority of the class doesn't finish an assignment, then I usually extend it out to the next day to work on in class, or I just take what they did finish.

But, there are a few kids in my classroom that tend to waste their classroom working time.  They talk or daydream or find another way to occupy their mind that's not actually working.  It's not disruptive behavior, so I give them a few warnings about having to take the work home if it's not finished.  For some of those kids, that buckles them down and has them working.  But, there's those select few that no matter how many times I warn them, just don't seem to get much work done in class.

And the sad part is, those kids are the ones I make take home the work to do and then don't ever see it again because it gets forgotten at home or never saw the light of day after it was placed in their backpack.

It's not a situation where they don't know how to do the work.  I've sat with them to ensure that they understand what the assignment is, had them do a problem or two with me to show me they understand, but the minute I move on to help someone else, they are back to talking or daydreaming or whatever else it is that makes them steer off course.

I'd say about 95% of my class never has homework in the form of unfinished work, or if they do have a little to take home ALWAYS bring it back completed.  That same 95% always return their spelling contract, completed, on Fridays.  I'd say that the majority of that 95% didn't even have to work on their contract at home, because they found time to work on their contract after they've finished other assignments or are given a little downtime to work on unfinished assignments.  And then there's that 5%.  The couple of kids (and I'm talking no more than 3 kids) that no matter how much I try, can't EVER get them to bring back unfinished work nor the spelling contract that I assign, even though I've given them upteen million opportunities to work on it in class so that it doesn't even HAVE to be homework.

And even though 95% of my class never has a problem, I always find myself complaining about those one or two kids that didn't bring back work, received a zero, and seem perfectly content with it.  

One suggestion I've received is to just not give them any homework.  Take whatever they do finish in class, and don't expect them to do anymore.  Or, have them work on the contract at select times of the day so that it's not something they have to take home.  

But, I just can't wrap my head around that.  

Asking a student to take an assignment home to finish or have them work on about 10 minutes of spelling is hardly asking a lot.  ESPECIALLY when it is their choice in the first place NOT to finish the work in class.  By taking away that requirement, I'm basically saying "I don't mind that you don't do much work, I'm going to let you slide because no matter what I do you're not going to do it anyway".

What kind of message does that send?  

Now, I know that I have some students that deal with less than ideal living situations.  They are worrying about far worse things when they get home than doing homework.  They have other priorities that take precedent over the five math problems they didn't finish, or using their spelling words in complete sentences.  I get that.  

But, I'm also a firm believer in the fact that my job includes teaching responsibility.  I don't just teach math, reading, spelling, science, etc.  I teach life skills, social skills, and responsibility.  My ultimate goal for EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students is a solid, successful future.  And that all begins by taking some responsibility for their learning, and overcoming obstacles that they are facing either in school or outside of it.

And by just taking away something that they refuse to do is NOT teaching responsibility, it's enabling them to continue making excuses, and telling them that whenever they don't want to do something, they don't have to do it.

Life doesn't work that way.

I believe I am doing everything in my power to help EVERY student be successful.  For the most part, I have fostered a very responsible classroom environment.  For that 95%, I never have to remind them that they have work to do, I never have to ask them to get something out to work on, they just do it themselves.  If they've finished all their work, they know to get out a reading book or go visit the pocket chart that's full of extra practice activities for them to work on.  

Every student in my class uses my instilled "buddy system", meaning if they are having some issues with an assignment and I'm working with another student, they are more than able to seek out a buddy to help them.  I have lots of students ready and willing to help out anyone that needs it.  And they do it without giving answers or just having their buddy copy all of their answers, they actually explain problems, work together, and help each other out.  

I have another system in place that has students signing up to conference with me about any issues they are having.  I work with them one on one, we discuss how they can solve their problem, and I provide opportunities for them to work through their problems coming up with their own solutions and helping them carry those solutions out.

I don't like the message I'd be sending to the 95% of students that work hard and do everything that's expected of them if I just didn't require that 5% to do what the other 95% is doing.

This semester, I made a few changes to the way I grade.  Rather than just grading wrong or right answers, I give credit for effort.  In fact, if a student completed an assignment and missed every single problem, they are not going to receive a zero.  They get credit for the work they did, and every opportunity is given to work with them and have them do a few replacement problems once we've worked out the kinks in order to receive full credit on the initial assignment.

This was a HUGE bonus for some of my lower kids.  I knew that several of them weren't getting much work done or finishing any work at home because they struggle, and just figured they'd get it all wrong anyway so it wasn't worth the time.  To change that way of thinking, I made sure that I rewarded every student that at least tried.  And since starting that little incentive, my ratio of kids not completing assignments rose DRASTICALLY.  I'd say that before Christmas, I had more of a 50/50 split of kids turning in finished work versus those that didn't.

The new incentive plan is what got me to the 95/5 ratio I have now, and I'm very happy with that.

But, what I've decided is that I'm NOT going to budge on the way I'm currently doing things when it comes to sending home unfinished work or the spelling contract.  I'm just not going to give in.  I know that somehow, someway I can get through to those kids and figure out a way for them to help themselves.  

Just yesterday, I had a visit from a parent who was NOT happy with the F's he's seeing on his son's report card.  After some explanation on the problems of not finishing work in class and basically refusing to finish it at home, he was a little shocked.  I'd sent letters home, they came back signed, but not by him.  And, now that he was aware of the situation, promised me that he'd be keeping an eye out and making sure that his son did everything needed to bring those grades up.  

That visit gave me encouragement that I'm doing that right thing by not letting this slide.  At the end of the day, these kids are going to get homework.  Either in 5th grade or 6th grade or when they get in to Jr. High.  If I tell them that they don't have to do it, now, what will happen when they are faced with the same challenges again in a later grade?

So, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and figuring out some way.. any bring out the self responsibility within these one or two or three kids.

And, now I feel better.

Man, I love talking problems out on my blog.  HA!


Monday, February 24, 2014

I am Unbreakable


Have you ever read one of those books where you get to choose how to continue on in the story?  I remember when I was a kid, I used to LOVE those books.  You read a few pages, and are then presented with a couple of options on how the story should continue.  You turn to one page for one scenario and another page for a different scenario.  There are several different ways for the story to play out, and you can end up with a happy ending or end up with an early demise.

When I think about life, I am reminded of those books.  Every day is an option of choosing a page to decide how the story continues to play out.  Not every choice ends up being the best option, but the story continues on until you are faced with another difficult choice to make.

I've been given many, many choices in my life.  And I haven't always picked the best route to take.  I've often taken a much more dangerous or troubled path, but the choices I make after the fact usually put me back on the straight and narrow and they end up leading to greater rewards.

How I decide to continue on my path is the ultimate test each time I am faced with a challenge.

I made a choice when I was seventeen that ended up with me getting pregnant.  Now, I had many options presented to me, many pages to choose if you will.  And, even though the choices I ended up making didn't make my life easier, they ended up making me a stronger person.  One of those choices took me through a few years of being in a very volatile and abusive relationship.  But, I then chose the page that got me the heck out of that.  And even though that decision put me in a situation where I was temporarily homeless with, then, two small children, I chose the option that was the best for my kids and me.

Since that time, I've faced many challenges and made many tough decisions.  Entering in to another relationship, going to college, having another baby while going to college, coping and taking care of a son that went through some mental health issues, trying to find a teaching job, buying a house, etc. etc.

Each option presented with various ways for the story to play out, but choosing the path I chose brought me to where I am today.  Not all choices where the best.  Not all scenarios played out the way I thought they would.  And each obstacle thrown my way, gave me a reason to be stronger in order to overcome it.

Having gone through the challenges that life has presented is what fostered my No Excuses mentality.  I refuse to live a life based on excuses.  There have been so many opportunities where I could have just given up, thrown in the towel, and blamed every future failure on the bad situations I had been through before.

I could have relied on the welfare system to take care of me and my two children, because it was just too hard to take care of myself.  I could have stayed in that abusive relationship, because it meant that I wouldn't have to feel alone.  I could have just stayed single after finally getting out of that relationship. because I might end up hurt again.  I could have given up on my dream of going to college because it was just too hard to live on one source of income.  I could have given up on my son, because it was just too much pain to witness what he was going through and the damage he was ultimately doing to me.  I could have given up continuing to look for a teaching job after the first few dozen rejections, because it appeared like I was never going to find a job and the rejection was just too hard to cope with.

I could have.  But I didn't.  And I truly believe that I am the strong and stable person I am today because of each decision I did make.

I have known so many people that have opted to blame all of their failures on bad situations.  They make constant excuses for having the life they have, because they are never able to catch a break.  

They have no money because nobody will give them a job.  But, they spend maybe an hour or two a week looking for a job, and won't apply at certain places because they are too above flipping burgers or working on a factory line.  They use drugs or alcohol because they had a terrible home life as a child, and choose to mask the pain with addiction rather than seek help.  They beat or neglect their children because that's how they were raised and they don't know any better.  They are in a relationship where they are beaten, because they don't want to be alone and feel like it's the best option for their kids.  And they then, in turn, raise children to believe the same way...creating a vicious cycle that just can't seem to be broken.

But, all it takes, is for one of those children raised in that cycle to stand up, take accountability for the path they are choosing, make themselves responsible for making better choices and not blaming bad situations on their past and BOOM!!!  Cycle broken.  Life is better.  The person involved is unbreakable.

Even though I am not one of the people from that scenario, I've had plenty of opportunity to just give up and blame all my hardships for not going forward.  I could have chosen to go down a much easier path of blaming others that, in turn, would have prevented me from facing my problems head on.  But, as I sit here, I am thankful for each and every problem and each and every way I chose to solve those problems.

Because, something I've realized about myself is the fact that I am one of the Unbreakables.  

I am unbreakable.

I get thrown down.  I get damaged.  I get cracks that show wear and tear.  But, every time I am thrown down, I get right back up.  Every time I get damaged, I find a repair.  Every time I receive a crack, I seal it back up.  And each and every time I do those things, I come out the better for it, stronger, wiser, and even more harder to break.

Up until this past week, however, there has been one part of my life that I just didn't have the courage to stand up to.  I didn't have it in me to chose a different path, and continued to take any form of damage or cracking that came my way.  And that's anytime it came to my immediate family.  Meaning my parents.

Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE my parents.  With everything inside of me.  While I haven't always agreed with decisions they make, or choices they chose, I have stood by and supported them.  I have tried to be supportive.  I have swallowed my own fears and worries in order to not upset them.

When they chose to become foster parents, I was unsure about the decision.  I worried how their decision might impact my family, mostly my kids.  And all the concerns I had have ended up playing out in some form or another, and yet I still continued to push on and let those problems go.  

But, now I've realized that it's time to face the problems head on.  No more choosing the path that ends up with me or my kids being hurt, and then staying on that path.  It's time to choose a new path, and deal with whatever consequences come my way from that decision.

Since my parents became foster parents, I have only EVER heard about the problems and issues that arise from being foster parents.  Any and every time I talk to my mom, that's all she talks about.  No matter what the subject of conversation is that I try to steer her towards, it ALWAYS comes back to the foster kids.

And that ultimately led to my shying away from my parents for a while.  I got tired of hearing about it.  I got tired of watching the problems that were developing in their house because of it.  And, it was just easier to avoid any and all situations.

Then, my mom got sick.  Diagnosed with cancer.  And it was then I realized that I just had to suck it up and go back to dealing with the non-stop chatter about the foster kids, and listening to the problems she was having, because it meant that I was at least talking to her or spending time with her.

Each time I listened, I felt the urge to scream WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THIS??  Her health is first and foremost.  It should be, anyway.  For herself, her husband, and her kids.  Her biological kids.  And her grandchildren.  But, I kept quiet.  Didn't want to cause any more problems.  Just be the good daughter and listen, without comments or opinions.

But, now it's the time where I once again have to put my family first and let go.  

My parents made the choice to become foster parents.  Not me.  I don't or shouldn't have to carry the burdens related to it.  I don't or shouldn't have to worry about it.  And certain events that have played out this week have made me realize that.

And even though the troubles I've been dealing with this week weren't caused by them being foster parents or directly because of the foster kids, I absolutely, 100% believe that had they not been foster parents... the problems would never have happened.  My kids wouldn't have been affected.  My kids wouldn't have had to go through what they've gone through this week.

That's where I draw the line.  For the sake of my children.

I will continue to love my parents.  I will continue to have whatever relationship with them that I can have.  But, I will no longer be involved in any way, shape, or form with them fostering children.

I just can't.

Call me selfish, if you will.  But, it's a very tough decision that I had to make, and one that didn't come easy.  The paths that I have chosen throughout my adult years have always put three people first and foremost:  My children.  Their safety, well being, and happiness are what drive me.  And anything that may conflict with those things are something I just won't have in my life.  I will do everything in my power to remove any danger, threat, or slightest chance of them getting hurt... either physically or mentally.  

It is what it is.  I am who I am. 

I am unbreakable.  I will not be broken.  I will continue to rise above and be strong for myself, my children, and my family unit.

There's just no other option or choice to make.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Forget Retail Therapy... Laughter Therapy is BETTER!!


Yesterday morning, E told me that she was going shopping for some new clothes.  Being that I'm trying to get myself out there more, I did that thing where I just invited myself to tag along and gave her the whole "if you want some company, that is" way of asking.  You know the one, where people are more or less forced to accept, because they don't want to hurt your feelings.

Under normal circumstances, I would NEVER just invite myself along.  I throw hints out that I'd be up for doing whatever people around me are planning, but then I wait to see if I get invited.  If I do, great.  If I don't, no biggie.  

But yesterday, I was itching to get out of the house for some alone time, and I honestly couldn't think of a better way to do it than to get in some retail therapy with the person that has become my emotional sponge.  Seriously.  I've pretty much told her EVERYTHING, and she's one of the few people I truly trust with my problems and issues.  Plus, I also knew that had she not wanted me to go, she probably wouldn't have thrown it out there that she was going in the first place.  HA!

Trust is something I hold on to at arm's length.  Being that I am a pretty trusting person, I can open up to just about anybody about minor situations and issues that plague me.  I can open up and tell people what's bothering me.  But, I never truly go "all out".  I never give my all.  I may skim the surface of certain issues and problems, but I keep the parts that are REALLY bothering me or I consider to be REALLY personal to myself.  And the reason I do that, is because I don't want to be judged.  I don't want people to be shocked when they learn something about me that isn't of the norm.  I don't want people taking information about me and it altering the way they perceive me.  And, even though I am pretty sure that most of the people in my life that I trust aren't like that, sometimes it just can't be helped.

I, for one, know that I am an extremely NON-JUDGMENTAL person.  I don't judge a person based on their past, or present issues.  I like to think of myself as a person someone could talk to in times of crisis and it have no bearing on my friendship with that person.  But, say for example, someone who has spent time with my kids opens up and tells me they have a drinking problem or a drug problem... am I going to be OK with my kids going off and spending time alone with that person?  No.  I will still be a friend, I will still support and try and help.. but my mind has already made the decision that my kids could be in danger if they spent time with that person.  Or, say for another example, I find out that one of my students has a problem with stealing.  They may swear to me that they would never steal from me, but in the back of my mind I will always wonder when something goes missing, and I'm far less likely to leave that student alone with my personal items.

Those are only examples... but points I'm trying to make about how sometimes judgement is cast and relationships become changed without the initial intention.

And, really, I am pretty open about mistakes that I have made, but being a mother, daughter, fiancĂ©, a sister, an aunt, and a friend... I carry around information and mistakes of those close to me, that even affect me, that I'm not at liberty to divulge to the people I would normally talk to.   

For everyone, except E.  There's just something about that woman that makes me feel like no matter WHAT I tell her, her perceptions of me won't change, it won't alter our friendship, and she will be front and center in offering up her opinion and helping me make sense of what's happening and why it's happening.  

And I truly believe that if I hadn't had her this past week, I'd have been a heaping pile of emotional crazy by now.  I'd be curled up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, tears streaming uncontrollably from my eyes, and just not ever wanting to leave that position.

So, going back to inviting myself to tag along... I did that completely knowing that she wouldn't mind.

We set up a time to meet, and out the door I went.

We met up and left my car so that we could drive around and do some shopping together.  From the minute I got in the car, my mouth was running 500mph filling her in with the latest developments in my crisis.  She listened, and then gave me her thoughts and opinions.  And then, that was the last I spoke of it... every conversation we had after that was filled with the one thing that I truly needed to get over the last of my funk.... LAUGHTER.

I haven't laughed that hard or that much in FOREVER.  I could actually feel my muscles relaxing and the stress lifting off of my shoulders. 

We laughed at ourselves.  We laughed at our problems.  We laughed at our pasts.  We laughed about the similarities in our family dynamics.  

And the funniest part of the whole thing?  The whole "retail therapy" was pretty much non-existent.  After the first store we visited, we both agreed that neither of us was a big fan of shopping... so we stopped shopping.  We drove around for a while.  We found a cute little restaurant, and then we sat, ate, talked, and LAUGHED for hours.  

In the six hours we were together, we shopped for about an hour.  The rest of the time we were driving or sitting in that restaurant.  And, I will honestly say, I'd take six hours of doing that ANYTIME over six hours of shopping.

What I learned from the whole experience is that there really are people in this world that can sit and listen to just about ANYTHING and form absolutely NO judgement.  Not just that, but can hear a problem and then somehow offer up their own version of a similar situation.  It seemed like no matter what we talked about, yesterday, the other had been through or somehow experienced a similar problem.  We have so much more in common than I ever imagined.  She learned a lot about me, I learned a lot about her.  And both of us walked away still laughing, not a inkling of doubt or worry attached to what we now knew.  

Friendships like that do NOT happen very often.  At least not for me.  

I am the person that puts myself out there, waiting for someone to take me in, and then walking away alone.  I am someone that can feel "friendly" with lots of people, but when the going gets tough just can't think of many friends to reach out to in order to seek guidance.  

But, this week, dealing with one of the hardest situations I've ever been through, not one minute did I feel like I was alone.  I always knew, no matter what time of day or night, that there was someone I could call, reach out to.  And that was E.  

We both believe that there was a purpose for us being brought together.  I needed a person to help me pass the emotional tests that are being bestowed on me.  Her tests are in the shape of helping me through my problems.  

It's also nice to know that while dealing with (and passing) the tests that we are facing... a friendship can blossom from it all.  

The truly funniest part about it all, though, is that in her mind she's not doing anything special.  She's just being an ear and a shoulder for me to vent to, and a voice to help me see reason.  When I try to shower her with thanks (and after she reads this post), she'll brush it off like it's no big deal.  It's what she does, and what she's good at.  It's her being her.

But, it IS a big deal.  To me.  One of the biggest.  

She has helped me understand that NO situation is always as bad as we think it is.  She has helped me understand that pretty much ALL problems can be resolved by talking them out and thinking through them.  And most of all, she has helped me understand that laughter really is the best medicine and therapy there is.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Great Night to Drop It Like It's Hot!


Last night was the much anticipated 7th & 8th grade Winter Formal.  A night of dancing, fun, and dressing up.

And wouldn't you know, Mother of the Year here didn't take a SINGLE picture of the whole night.  Which, I am now kicking myself over... but I didn't want to carry a phone around with me all night.  I was more focused on dancing and having a good time with the kids.

Thankfully, I had some people take some photos for me.. but I haven't gotten the pictures yet, so this picture of Butter and I is all I have for the time being.

Doesn't he look handsome?  He's growing up so fast. *sniff*

I'm sad that I don't have a picture of Peanut to share.  She looked BEAUTIFUL.  She had the most beautiful pink and black dress, her hair was curled, and she looked stunning.  But, I will definitely share the pictures when I get them.

The dance was supposed to be a Valentine's Dance, but because of all the nasty weather we had, we had to postpone the dance to a week later.  But, we still went ahead and decorated with a Valentine's theme.  There were heart decorations everywhere, and the cafeteria was set up with a chocolate fountain complete with strawberries and marshmallows for dipping.  There was also punch served.  

I spent the evening doing what I do... dancing.  I was given the pleasure of chaperoning the dance floor.. and that's EXACTLY where I want to be during a dance.  I shook my tail feathers all night long.

I went with a knee length dress, which probably wasn't the best idea being that I'm not very "girly" at all.  When I dance, I really do like to move it, move it.. and ended up spending a good amount of time pulling my dress down so not to reveal anything.  Thankfully, I was smart enough to wear a pair of bike shorts under the dress, so there wasn't anything to worry about in the "accidental reveal" department.

The kids all had an amazing time.  They danced, they laughed, and the night ended with everyone happy that they'd attended.  

When I got home at 11PM last night, I was absolutely EXHAUSTED!! I think I was asleep by 11:15PM.

This morning, I got up and felt the aches and pains that come from an evening of dancing.  I must be getting too old to do what I did last night, because my legs hurt, my back hurts, and my shoulders hurt.  Not sure why my shoulders hurt... didn't exactly raise my arms or lift anything heavy.. but whatevs.

Today, I'm going to get out of the house for a while and do some shopping with E.  We are both in desperate need of some alone time... away from the kids and the crazy that has been our week.  It'll be great to chat, laugh, and shop without being at work.

And because of that, I have to cut today's post short so that I can go and get ready.  

I'll share more tomorrow..


Friday, February 21, 2014

I Can't Save Them All.. But That Doesn't Mean I Won't Still Try

It has been a very emotional, terrifying, and sad past couple of days for me.  For the past 48 hours, I've walked around almost in a comatose state.  I've been running the motions, watching the world move around me, and have kept that "happy face" imprinted on me.  Everyone around me has seen a normal, cheerful (I guess) me...while on the inside everything around me has been nothing but a blur running in slow motion creating a low humming sound that has been almost deafening.

On Wednesday, I told you all about the Love & Logic training I attended.  It was a good training, one that gave me some great information to use... but after the past couple of days that I've had, there was one statement made on that day that I absolutely REFUSE to listen to.

"At the end of the day, you have to remember that you just can't save them all."

And that sentence was made in reference to troubled kids.  Kids that have behavioral issues or trauma issues or attention issues.  Those kids that come from backgrounds that have history of abuse, neglect, lack of parental support, or just from a home where basic needs just aren't being met and all the child cares about is if there will be enough food to eat or enough blankets to keep them warm.

Unfortunately, ALL of those issues are very apparent and prominent in the field I work in and even more so in the town where I teach.  

But, being in that environment, around kids with those issues, and seeing and hearing the backgrounds of some of the kids I work with has made me realize one very important thing about myself.

I may not be able to save them all, but that doesn't mean I won't EVER stop trying.

You see, the situations that have unfolded in my life over the past 48 hours have made me apparent to one important thing I've learned about myself.  I absolutely, 150% believe that I was put on this earth to care for children.  Not just care for but nurture, support, be a refuge for, and a provider for the kids that I work with.  It's engrained in to my blood to just want to make a difference in the lives of my kiddos, to somehow help them rise above the struggles and the issues and the downright horrifying situations.

Absolutely NO child that ever walks through my classroom door will EVER be considered a "lost cause" or a child that just can't be helped.  I may not be successful, I may not be able to give that child the ability to deal with or cope with their situations... but what I can do is let them know that I am not going to give up, I'll keep pushing them, pushing myself, and be front and center ANYTIME that they need me.

Even if the only thing I can do is provide a safe haven for 8 hours a day, where they can take their minds of their situations for a short time, I'm OK with that.  I may not be able to swoop in and make all the bad disappear from their lives... but I CAN make it disappear for as long as they are in the confinement of my classroom.

I will confront their troubles right along with them.  Standing strong on their side.  Accepting their issues, and guiding them with situations that helps them understand that while they are in my care, they will get all the love, support, and guidance I give my own biological children.  Because, you see, for those 8 hours a day, I don't have 3 children of my own... I have 25 of them.

I can only imagine that going through what I've gone through the past couple of days is somewhat comparable to what some of my kiddos live with day in and day out.  A comatose state.  Just running the motions.  Not really aware or even caring what's going on around them... but just putting on that "happy face" so nobody knows about the pain that's reeling around on the inside.

And my issue is a minor inconvenience compared to some of the horrors that plague some children.

But, as a person that has love and support at home, all of my basic needs met, no abuse or neglect happening to me... I can only imagine that what I've felt is a tiny portion of some of the burden some of my kids carry around on their shoulders.

I may not be able to save them all, but can't I at least take some of that burden away for a few hours a day?  Can I not help them be OK with taking off some of the burden and handing it to someone else so that for 8 hours a day they can be a kid, enjoy themselves, and feel safe for just a little while?  Can I not confront them, push them, and challenge them to want to rise above their issues in order to break the cycle and WANT a better life for themselves one day?

In my classroom, my kids have grown to understand my motto:  NO EXCUSES!

That's the mentality I live by, and enforce in all aspects of what I do.  It goes from being as simple as no excuses for not turning in an assignment, to no excuses for being mean to people, to no excuses for giving up, and no excuses for not trying.  

And the kids that I challenge the most are the kids that really do have valid excuses.  But, if I can get them to adopt a mentality of "no excuses", then there really isn't ANY excuses.  If they are able to rise above their challenges, problem solve to prevent excuses, and just care enough so that they will at least try... I've achieved a major accomplishment.

Some kids are very aware of the struggles that are facing them.  They have almost engrained it within themselves that they aren't worthy for someone to care enough about whether or not they do their homework, or show up for school, or try a few math problems that they absolutely don't think they can do.  They don't understand why I care so much... nobody else does.  They've been led down a path where their struggles have been a crutch for them to lean on, depend on, and convince them that it's just not worth the time or hassle.  

Guess what?  I absolutely DO care, and absolutely REFUSE to continue the cycle of letting them slip under the radar, or let them skate by because what's happening at home is far more important than what I'm offering up in my classroom.

Some of my kiddos just aren't used to the kind of force and resistance I show them.  They are used to not doing an assignment and just taking the zero.  Big whoop.  They got an F.  Who cares?  They are used to not coming to school if they don't want to, nobody is going to notice, nobody is going to care. They are used to being mean to others and knowing that they'll end up in the principal's office with maybe a paddling or suspension, and they can just go right back to doing it the next day because they know the routine and if that's the only attention they can get... that's OK with them.

But not in my classroom.

If they don't do an assignment, I'm going to be on their case... pushing them, hounding them almost until I find out why the assignment wasn't done.  Most of the time, it's the "who cares?" attitude, some of the time it's because they just don't have a clue what to do and don't see any point in trying.  So, I have to make them realize that I CARE.  It's important to ME that they do well.  I am noticing and even if they aren't that bothered by their grades, I am...and failure is not an option.  I will help them, if needed, I will guide them until they are comfortable, I will praise them when they make the slightest of successes... because that's pretty foreign to them, and when they realize that at least one person cares if they succeed, it's enough to keep them motivated.

If they don't come to school, I notice.  I am hounding the assistant principal to call their house, speak to their parents, and even drive to their house to pick them up.  Because they have to understand that I want them there.  I want them to not miss out on what's going on in the classroom.  That I think they are important enough to worry about, and those hounding phone calls and follow up when they finally return to school are my ways of telling them that SOMEONE cares and notices when they are gone.

If one of my kids is mean, there's no cycle of visit to the principal's office for them.  They are getting me, in their face, wanting to know what's going on inside that's causing them to feel like they have to be mean to someone.  They're not going to get yelled at or immediate punishment... I'm going to TALK to them, problem solve with them, guide them through figuring out what it is INSIDE of them that's causing them to want to cause hurt to someone else.  

So, there's not a part of me that can accept that I can't save all the kids that step in to my room.  I can accept that I won't make all the bad disappear.  I can accept that I won't succeed in helping them do better in school or even want to do better in school.

But, not for one second will I EVER accept that I can't at least try.  Every single child that I ever come in to contact with is at least deserving of that.  Someone that will try.  

I can accept my own long as I know that I've done everything in my power to succeed.

The minute I look at a child and just throw my hands in the air and accept that they can't be helped, and that it's not worth my time to try.... my time in the classroom will be over.

And, I don't see that happening ANY time.  Ever.