Psychic Income

May 22, 2010

Well, another school year of trying to influence the lives of the 11-13 year old set is about to end. My second year of teaching — first year as a full-time teacher. How do I feel? Exhausted, drained, spent, and surprisingly enough, exhilarated. I just had another of my “psychic income” moments, and this year, my psychic piggy bank is more than half full.

After cruising through life unfulfilled, I decided to go back to school and embrace my DNA. When I was in teaching school, my supervisor said something to me during one of our meetings that really caught me off guard: “You’re going to be an amazing teacher.” I wasn’t sure how to respond without coming across as an egotistical bitch, so I quietly changed the subject. But inside, I was furiously nodding my head and saying “DAMN STRAIGHT I AM — MY MOM IS WATCHING.”

I’m a fourth-generation teacher, and it’s a title I wear proudly. When anyone asks me what I do for a living, I hold my head up high, smile broadly and say: “I am a TEACHER. I teach language arts to MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS.”  I’m always amazed at how many people respond with: “You poor thing, middle school.” I’ll tell you, I’d take hormonal middle-school students over snot-filled, leaky primary students any day. Kids in grades K-5 don’t understand my dark sense of humor. I make them cry (not intentionally, however!)

My first year of teaching, I had to learn how to survive in an environment where I was bullied by grown ups who hadn’t really grown up yet — most of them younger than I am. I not only had to learn how to teach, but learn how to maneuver my way around a school filled with cliquish staff members who banded together to make other people’s lives (usually the ones who aren’t willing to play such immature games like these — i.e., me) miserable.  Fortunately, I quickly won the support of my students, their parents, and a principal — the only three groups of people I really need to impress anyways.

Some might wonder why I stayed at a school where I was bullied by staff. It’s simple — teaching jobs are tough to get, and my co-worker and I are so much alike, we were even dressed exactly the same when I interviewed for the position, as she told me after she insisted to the principal that I get hired immediately or “she’s walking”.  And, since God answered my prayers for a teaching job within 45-minutes of sending it up, I decided I owed Him one in return.

I digress. What I really want to say about teaching is this: “Teaching pays me in ways no amount of money ever could.” Oh sure, if someone offered me a high salary, I certainly wouldn’t thumb my nose at it. But, the money isn’t the issue — it’s the “psychic income” that comes from the relationships I’ve developed with some of my students and their parents.

I had one student last year (and again this year) who couldn’t write a full paragraph for me at the start of the year. His words were all over the page, and he wouldn’t capitalize or punctuate in the right places. Many teachers had him pegged as “odd” or “lazy,” I saw him as brilliant and untethered.

I worked with him all last year, slowly encouraging him to write more and more. When he came back to me this year, his writing exploded off the page. I couldn’t get him to stop writing, even when it was time to switch to reading, or vocabulary, or whatever else I had to teach. His stories had characters, intricate plots, development, structure, creativity! His grammar and punctuation were near perfect. His poetry was filled with the full spectrum of emotions. And most importantly, he worked with me and he thanked me — for being his teacher and showing him the joys of writing and poetry. Ka-chink.

This year, I had two students who made deposits in my piggy bank. One boy, who I suspect has dyslexia (yet undiagnosed), can now write clear sentences most of the time. He stops, takes the time to write carefully, and doesn’t slop his words onto the page anymore. The other boy, who I suspect has Asperger’s (working in a private school, there isn’t a high number of Special Ed students with definitive diagnoses to warrant services), has been struggling to write coherent thoughts all year long. His first writings were totally incomprehensible. I couldn’t even tell what shape the letters were supposed to be, much less what they were trying to say. These were my “project” students — two students I decided needed extra encouragement and help.

The first boy, the one with suspected dyslexia (I’m not an expert, just going on a hunch here), has been a poor speller and writer since kindergarten. So says the Special Ed teacher providing services to him (I use that term “loosely”, because I think he’s just feeding him answers, not assistance). When I saw the boy’s handwriting, I asked if there were anything I could do to help him improve. I was told “That’s the best you’ll ever get out of him. Trust me, I’ve been working with him since kindergarten, and he’s never gotten any better.” Well, of course that was the moment when I decided no teacher was ever going to tell me to give up on a student, so I said “We’ll see..” and grumbled off. A month or so later, it gave me great pleasure to walk up to that teacher, show him a thank you letter written by this student (without a single misspelling or grammatical error) and sneer “Told you, I’d get him to write.” Bitchy of me? Yes. But that teacher deserved to be taken down a notch. Ka-chink.

The other boy, the one suspected of having Asperger’s, continues to struggle with writing. But, something wonderful happened today. I made his mom cry. Why? Because I think she finally has an answer to her son’s situation — I sent her a link about the struggles Asperger’s students have with writing. She read the link and was so overwhelmed at how similar the post sounded to her own son, she started to cry and had to stop reading further until she could get herself back together again. All this time, she had been thinking herself  as crazy, because she knew something was “odd” but couldn’t figure out what.

I have had many moments this year where I heard the coins drop into my piggy bank:

Having an entire class tell you that “You’re the only teacher here who likes us, Mrs. B”

and, when I gave a breath mint to everyone “I LOVE YOU, Mrs. B, you’re the BEST!”

and just recently, “Wow, we’ve never had the chance to read for an entire class period! Can we do that again, Mrs. B?”

Ka-chink! That’s the sound of psychic coins plinking into my piggy bank. And I love that sound.

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The Sexiest Men in the World Live in My Area

October 18, 2009

I used to think firemen were the sexiest men on the planet. Well, that was before my area got an NHL team.

I’m often surprised by the lack of positive publicity this sport receives. I’ve written about it on my blog, so I won’t rehash my thoughts here. But, I want to add another element I didn’t mention before:

Hockey players are the sexiest men on the planet. I should probably qualify that with “my” definition of sexy: a man who is strong, brave and tough when needed, but soft, gentle, and caring all the other times. That is not just sexy, that’s intoxicating.

Last summer, when I was involved in my writer’s workshop, I had to write about someone or something in the community that was actively working towards change. I immediately thought of our local NHL team. Why? Because I know the back story of these guys. I know the team captain anonymously sends large sums of money to organizations–just because–and expects no press attention in return. Last year, he gave almost $150,000 of his own money for various causes in and around this area. And, by the way, he also visits sick children in the hospital on a regular basis.

The players make regular stops at schools and libraries to stress the benefits of education (something close to my heart, being a teacher). The team has built a safe playground for children, donating the supplies and man hours. The organization has re-opened one of the local after-school program buildings that had to shut down due to lack of public funds. Everything they do, they do because they want to, not because they are contractually obligated.

And the real tear-jerker…

The NHL’s motto is  “Hockey Fights Cancer”. Last year, one of our local high school hockey players was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Upon hearing this, the team offered the young man a contract — a legit one — to become a “Blue Jacket” for a day. They even paid him a small salary ($1.00) and gave him an official team jersey with his name on the back. Team players would go to his house (or his hospital room) and sit by his side while they watched the other NHL teams play.

Unfortunately, Ryan succumbed to his cancer in May of this year. His last wish? To make it to at least one playoff game before he passed away. The team made sure he got his wish.

Last night’s game was our team’s chance to raise money to fight cancer. The team had this young man’s jersey displayed on the player’s bench, in tribute to his memory. When one of the players scored the first goal of last night’s game, his response to the interviewer went something like this “I just had a feeling I was going to score. I’m not a huge fan of a ‘higher power’, but I think Ryan had something to do with it…” Wow. Talk about a sense of humility and compassion.

So, I apologize to all the sexy, heroic firefighters out there who risk their lives every day to save the lives of others. You are still very much heroes in my eyes. But, in my opinion, you have some pretty stiff competition when it comes to the true definition of  “sexy”.


“Social Committees” = “Us versus Them”

August 18, 2009

My buddy Bill just tweaked my “bitch bone”.  I’ve been meaning to write my next rant about this issue for some time, but when I read Bill’s post about reacting to others’ comments, it sent me into a froth. Ironic, huh?

The subject of this rant is:  obligatory office/school/work parties. I can’t stand those things. These are the parties where some young, annoyingly, chirpy bubble headed “life of the party” chick comes up to you and says: “Hey! Wanna donate to the social committee fund? Only 40 bucks for the whole year!”

Social committee, my ass. This is just one more way to suck money out of my wallet while making me realize how much of an invisible person I really am where I work. Let me give you an example (names have been removed to protect the obnoxious).

At the start of the last year (yes, I am in education), a staffer put a sign out that said “Social Committee: 40 dollars , sign up here”. Well, I was part time and worried more about paying my electricity bill and feeding my hungry children than contributing to a “social” committee. (So, I never bothered to sign up, nor did I ask what exactly the “social committee” was in charge of doing.) Allegedly, the committee was “created to raise funds to purchase cards and a candy bar for birthday celebrants, and generally any other occasion that requires buying a cake.” Oh, yea, sure. I just call it one more way to shake down people for money.

Not being on the committee, I didn’t think anything of it, until IT happened. My big day. Okay, I admit I didn’t TELL anyone it was my birthday before it came, but my birthday date was posted in the staff room. And, the sparkly tiara I was wearing all day should have been a big clue that “something” was going on with me (Yes, I DO have a tiara I wear on my big day, I’ve been doing this for 5 years now.) I wasn’t expecting a card or chocolate bar. After all, I never DID pay my money so that wouldn’t have been fair. I’m the kinda gal who doesn’t expect special treatment or feel I am above following the rules.

BUT, not one single person on said “social committee” even offered a “Happy Birthday” to me. The entire day went unnoticed, unspoken, unacknowledged. If it hadn’t been for my team worker bringing her kids into my classroom to sing “Happy Birthday” at the end of the day, the issue would have never been mentioned (my team worker is GREAT!!!) Meanwhile, “Chirpy Shirley” and her crony “Psycho Bitch” were showered in praise, chocolate bars, cards and a cake for their birthdays. And that pisses me off. It became nothing more than another “popular crowd versus the nobodies” event.

Yes, I know this sounds like I’m whining and begging for attention, but that is not what this rant is all about (is it ever really about the story?)

I am sick and tired of being asked to participate in “work parties” where I know I am not wanted. I don’t care that so and so is having a bridal shower or a baby shower. If I don’t hang out with them on a personal basis outside of the work place, then I don’t feel like I should have to fork over much needed cash to purchase them a gift. (Conversely, I wouldn’t expect them to do the same for me).

And the bad part is, if I don’t get involved, then I become the “snob”. If I do get involved, then I am giving away hard earned cash for NOTHING in return — not so much as an invitation to go to the local bar for after-work drinks. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

I’m pretty sure this whole issue started back when I first entered the workforce. I have always been “the odd woman out”. Very few women “get” my sense of humor or are willing to accept the fact that I don’t give a damn about shoes, purses, shopping, designer labels, vapid conversation, Cosmopolitans, Brad Pitt, etc. I also don’t have the time, desire or energy to sit around bitching about men. I love the way men think — it’s the bitchy women who sit around bitching about men who annoy the crap out of me.

I’m not a cold-hearted, uncaring bitch. I can be very generous when the situation calls for it. One of my colleagues has been battling breast cancer. She has a “meals on wheels” deal set up for co-workers to bring her and her family pre-cooked meals so she doesn’t have to worry about that while she undergoes the fight for her life. I eagerly and willingly volunteered my hubby to cook up a big ol’ pot of homemade chili (he’s the chili expert, I just delivered the food) and even included a bag of cheddar cheese with that.

But, my generosity should end there, guilt-free.  So please, folks, stop with the incessant “obligatory office parties” shit. It makes me want to join the post office just so I can go postal on some unsuspecting, chirpy, bubble headed woman.