Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Best of Intentions

I am able to predict a day off school far more accurately than Nostradamus and all that end-of-the-world crap. Most often it is a snow day, but given the unpredictable freakishness of Virginia weather, that day off may not just be for snow, but for heavy rains or high winds... or something even less disruptive than that.

This is my method- Create a classroom calendar for a significant amount of time, at least a couple of weeks, but maybe even a month. Craft it perfectly, with enough time to cover all your course objectives in an engaging fashion with enriching methods. Accent it with detailed lesson plans, which flow and connect to fit the perfect puzzle frame of that indicated time.

Then... something's going to happen to screw it all up!

The teen girls around here love to post pics of themselves in bikinis in the snow on Facebook. Why? I don't know. So, Cameron threw on a pair of swimming trunks to pose in the snow as a mockery of the whole teen fad.

We did have snow last weekend. Thankfully, it began and ended on Saturday. It made for a pretty day and no messy roads to drive afterwards. I had mentioned earlier that one of the silly little reasons I wanted to keep a blog was to look back over what happened with weather the year before. Well, is there such a thing as a Weather Blog- a Wog? Because it may have taken its own little corner of the Internet to keep up with all the crazy Virginia weather. True to this year's trend, it was 60 degrees the day before, then the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen fluttered from the sky the very next day. Jason said looking out the window was like watching a snow globe.

As I said though, the snow was on Saturday, and not very disruptive to the school schedule. I can't say the same for the rest of the week. I had already planned to take off Monday and just knew Karma was going to chomp me in the backside for taking a "Sick Day" when I wasn't actually "Sick." (Doctor's appointments and such all fall under "Sick Days" with our policies.)


I got "the call" before first block was even over Tuesday that I had to go pick up Benjamin from daycare. I doctored & cuddled him up, feeling comfortable enough sending him back to school on Wednesday. When I picked him up that afternoon though, I learned that he had slept away most of the day. So, I stayed home of Thursday and took him to the doc to find out that he had a nasty nose and ear infection. Very shortly after a couple of doses of antibiotics though, he was roaring through the house again looking for new adventures.

Among MY "new adventures" was trying to get that antibiotic into this kid. I found the fusses and battles to be far easier to overcome with a little bribery- of the Ant Smasher kind.

 A free app that I downloaded to my phone this week, those pesky little ants (and ornery little bees) have been quite the bribe motivator to get Benjamin to do a few things, especially take his meds... and Nope, I'm not ashamed of that in the very least!
Well, before being out the unexpected three days last week (I am not even sure I have been out three days in one week other than maternity leave!), I had mapped out instructional activities to span over the next two weeks. As of late, I have begun detailing my lesson plans down to the exact time from for each activity (8:15 - 8:20 Grammar Warm-Up, 8:20 - 8:40 SSR Reading & log, etc.) I know, I knowww.... another product of my thwarted sense of OCD, but the structure brings calmness to the chaos that can be my day. And, I swear I do not have a mental breakdown when the schedule doesn't follow the minute-by-minute scenario... usually.
I had mapped out the two weeks specifically because I have "adopted" a new class first block. Unfortunately a co-worker's husband has had a very unexpected and ill year, and we are all pitching in to help the situation because "the show must go on," and so must the school year. So I am covering another teacher's first block so she can cover another teacher's first block so he can cover the class of the teacher that's been home caring for her husband. It's an intricately planned scenario in hopes of putting the most qualified teachers in the place they are needed most during this interlude.
But most days? It feels like I am one body and mind trying to cover two classes. So, that hole I always feel from missing time from class feels a little deeper this week. And, ohhh, it's one of those weeks- with a newly scheduled Family Reading night & fundraiser this Thursday, Blood Drive this Friday, Get-together with Convention-goers this weekend to finish competition pieces & shopping for a new suit for Cameron, Relay Team Captains & Committee meeting Monday night & School Team meeting Wednesday morning, Club elections next week, field trip next Tuesday, Parent Conferences next Wednesday, and leaving for Key Club District Convention next Friday.
It's definitely one of those times in life when I have to simply... pause. Remember the job I get "paid" for. Remember my priorities- Education. Family. Not in that order, most days. Remember the reasons why I choose to give of my time, my self, in this way. Remember that it is a busy season, the time will pass, and when things quiet back down (for a very short time) I will feel the reward of what temporarily feels like stress and chaos. And too much. Way too much.
Oh yeah, and add new lesson plans and class calendars to that list.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love Bug

I did it! I did it! (Yes, I totally heard Dora singing that in my head as I typed.)

I was so very tempted to begin this post with a list of what I didn't do for Valentine's Day.
Instead, I am going to intercede on my pessimism and herald instead what I did accomplish.

The main goal I set forth for Valentine's Day was to make cards for Benjamin's class.

And... I did it! I did it! (Yes, I am right stinking proud of that fact!)

I went with my first option and I am really glad I did because option number 2, the "Have a Ball," seemed to be quite the popular one this season... which made me realize the real trick to the "Mommy Wars" is to think up your own ideas for classroom coolness domination vs. imitating the latest Pinning sensation.

I used pink cardstock and "dimension" double-sided tape, because it was what I had on hand. The bugs were a little more expensive then I had planned, but that's okay. To the back of each card, I attached a small pack of M&Ms with double-sided tape.

Although I did have the supplies and the plan in hand I, of course, didn't get around to actually making the cards until the night of the 13th... and a crazy night it was.

School ended at 3:15 and I popped in for a quick department meeting, never taking the time to even sit down. Then, back to my room to manage Key Clubbers through organizing the 300 carnations for delivery the next day (fundraiser). From there to grab Benjamin from Pre-School and a quick stop for dinner-on-the-go. Then, to the Library to supervise Key Clubbers hosting a Valentine's Reading & Crafting night. Leaving there at 7ish, to only round-trip, and end up back at the library after having been home, to pick up Cameron's forgotten Chemistry notebook. So, finally getting home for the evening after 8 p.m.

Typical McHenry evening.

The library program actually had its great benefits. I was able to get a little schoolwork done while the Key Clubbers entertained and crafted with the kids. And, when it came time to actually assemble the Valentine cards, I finished within the time span of a 30-minutes sitcom I watched while working.

Then on Valentine's evening, I joined the Key Clubbers to host Bingo at the local nursing home... because I'm such the romantic like that ;)

So, now to plan for St. Patrick's Day. No pressure, right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six Wives and Thirty-three Stab Wounds Later

Last weekend, I went to the Winter Teacher's Seminar at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. This was my third trip to the Blackfriar's Theater, so before too much more time passed, I wanted to record the memories & thoughts. My other two visits were chaperoning field trips- the first to see Hamlet, which was an excellent experience, and the second... well, honestly, I can't even remember because I was so ill that I barely crawled back to the bus throwing the kids from the long back bench seat to sleep a sickened slumber until coming home to a fully-developed flu. Surely the bus could have been likened to a traveling plague on wheels- appropriate to Shakespeare's time perhaps, but not so convenient when over three hours from home with 50+ students.

Thankfully, the most recent jaunt to Staunton was far less tragic and far more enjoyable. I am rather perturbed with myself that I had not visited more. I just so hate long distances, and to drive. I encouraged a former student to attend the adjoining college, Mary Baldwin, just to have a place to stay when I partook of weekends with The Bard.

That was the very plan this past weekend, to bunk in a college dorm and deter from pricey hotel options. Since this plan was birthed though, Amanda gained a room mate and thus lost a spare bed. So, plans were hashed to include an inflatable air mattress and tale of being a beloved (and totally cool) aunt. As the arrival day loomed nearer though, I began to rethink my plan & ultimately decided to take advantage of a special at the Lee Jackson hotel right next door to the theater though. Life has been busy and stressful as of late (always) and I thought a little self-indulgent TLC might curtail a major emotional implosion.

In retrospect though... I should have just stayed in the dorm. The retail therapy that could have been had in trade for the price of lush bedding would have worked just as fine.

So, I did see Amanda upon my arrival Friday night. Being the two classy broads we are, we hit Sheetz so I could grab some snacks for the hotel room. More fun though, was delivering a Birthday care package from Amanda's family.

Workshops ran from 9-12 Saturday & Sunday mornings. It was a whole lot of information in very little time. I was resistant to some of the teaching methods at first. Thinking it would never work my kids or with my administration (such as the Blood Workshop, ha!) Then, I pondered upon it though, and could see how a tweak "here" and a twitch "there" could create some activities that would have students very involved in a little Shakespeare in the classroom.

A much younger and more enthusiastic participant in the blood workshop.
Another thing really affecting my engagement in the methodology I think was this looming to-do list in my head. I brought more bags of work for the weekend than I brought of clothes and such. Finding quiet time to get work done was another reason I favored the hotel room option. Two things happened though to prohibit that- I was out late (at Sheetz or the theatre) or getting up early (the wee hour of 8 a.m.) for workshops, and the beds were just too nirvana-sleep-inducing for working late or rising early.

The other thing that happened was...

On Sunday morning, I could not quiet the to-do list churning in the back of my mind, until...

I saw a fellow teacher sitting in the row in front of me jotting away furiously at her carefully organized and categorized To-Do list... and it made me sad. How often is that me? So lost to living in the moment because I can only think of what needs to be done next... and after that... and after that.

And after that.

Now, I have to admit I wasn't completely caught up in the exercises about acting like a hero, growling like a tiger. Unfortunately, I even shied away from the Blood Workshop, which I quickly regretted. But, I was engaged... and finding tidbits to bring back to the classroom. The other lady had no idea what was going on. It was as if she were stuck in a class for which she had no choice to endure while she had other- more important- things to be doing instead.

Again, I have been that person.

So, I allowed myself the epiphany of...

It can wait.

School will still be there come Monday. The kids will still arrive come 8:15 a.m. Key Clubbers will still keep me running and Relay will still keep me spinning. And no snippets of work or planning carved into the few free minutes of time during my day was going to save- or ruin- that. So, I enjoyed a lunch with the co-teachers that went to the workshop also, and I stayed for the afternoon play that was included with the workshop.

I saw three plays within 24 hours, which by Blackfriar's lingo meas I was "indoctrinated." First, there was of course Julius Caesar, upon which the whole workshop was based. It was an excellent production and really forced me to break out of my expected stereo-types; much to my despair there were no togas involved! Saturday night, Amanda and I went to see The Country Wife, not a work of Shakespeare but close to the same time period It was the epitome of "bawdy" humor. Most of my reflections about that production revolved around the lack of ingenuity of modern culture- how so many of the very same plots today can be traced back to audiences over 500 years ago. To my chagrin, that production also had an unexpected twist. At no point during the play's development would I have expected the final lines of the script to transition in a flash mob dance scene with the cast singing "Private Eyes." Lastly, on Sunday afternoon before returning home, I joined a very small audience for Henry VIII. I really debated staying for the show since it would have me arriving home after 8, rather than 3ish (with much more time to tackle that To-Do list). Alas, I decided to enjoy the full scope of get-away the weekend had to offer and partook in my first Shakespeare history (I honestly could not say "enjoyed" it).

Experiencing the production did help me reach an important conclusion though. I am very familiar with Julius Caesar. I am not at all familiar with dear Henry. It gave me the experience of being audience to Shakespeare that I didn't understand. I know all about the King and his wives, and that part of the play I got. I had no idea what was going on with the bishops and cardinals and such. I must admit there was even some head-bobbing... not of the enthusiastically agreeing kind (or of the beheaded wife kind), but of the snoozing after a very long weekend... and being bored-to-tears by most history related things kind . So, I am still very glad that I stayed for the production in great part because I realized the need for my students to know the play before they saw the production of Julius Caesar next month.

And while I did not fall in love with Shakespeare's histories, I most definitely did fall in love with the town of Staunton. I even did a lil vicarious drive-by house-shopping as I sadly headed out of town Sunday afternoon. Jason & I went to St. Augustine for our honeymoon. It was the first (and maybe) only time I just dropped in and explored a (although very touristy) town. We were just driving by and had not even made plans to stay... but left three days later. Except for the very unfortunate absence of a nifty coffee house for a college town, Staunton reminded me me very much of St. Augustine. Throw in the crunchy granola factor of the shops and restaurants downtown and it reminded me of the town in There's a Slight Change I Might Being to Hell. I remember as I read that book thinking, THIS is where I would love to live... and I found it.

I am hoping for many many return trips to Staunton and really hope I do not let my aversion to road trips keep me away- especially since so much of the town was closed down for the winter season and my weekend was so busy that I got to see so little.