Friday, January 29, 2010

Moms Are Like That

I just had to yell at my youngest child because he was playing with the Wii near the space heater (AGAIN!!) and he knocked it over.

His big brother quietly propped it back up while I ranted about staying in the rectangular area between the couch and the TV and how I shouldn't have to keep telling him that and how if I've told him once I've told him a thousand times to stay away from the heater because it's dangerous and he could get burned and why can't he listen when I tell him something. You get the idea.

Then the dryer buzzed and I stormed off to empty it. Then I heard the following conversation:

Twelve: Are you...crying?
Nine: (sniff) No. (sniff)
Twelve: Sorry, man. She didn't mean to hurt your feelings. She just doesn't want her babies to get hurt. She wants you to be safe. Moms are like that.

Indeed we are.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Roller Coaster that is My Life

What a difference a few hours can make. This weekend has been a whirlwind from the depths of mediocrity to the soaring heights of swankiness. I think I have whiplash.

Friday morning: I was at school conducting science experiments with my twenty students and six parent volunteers, covered in Gluep and ice cream ingredients. Two different experiments, just so you know. The kids ate the ice cream and played with the Gluep and not the other way around because I prefer to keep my job instead of poisoning my little pumpkins (most days, anyway). I had permanently green fingernails from food coloring and white streaks of borax on my black pants. There was a lingering smell of Mexican vanilla extract everywhere I went. I was the epitome of a dowdy, frumpy schoolteacher. And then the bell rang and I turned into Wonder Woman. If only I'd had her invisible plane and her smokin' hot outfit.

Friday night: In the hour and a half after school ended I raced home, walked the dog, fixed my hair, changed my clothes, touched-up my makeup, and drove across town in rush hour traffic--a drive that takes mere mortals an hour to complete but I did it in about 35 minutes. Only ninety minutes after locking my classroom door I was sipping free wine (which everyone knows is the best-tasting wine) and enjoying a five course dining experience at an AFLAC banquet with Dan. Here's the menu..

tomato bisque
(which one of the guests at our table proclaimed tasted just like Chef Boyaredee canned pasta sauce, but I liked it--probably because I have very plebeian tastes and I like Chef Boyardee)

(one of those fancy salads with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in and in which they very pretentiously list all the exotic greens that nobody's ever heard of and can't pronounce)

(which is a fancy EYE-talian word for a palate cleanser between courses)
lime sorbet
(which tasted like a cross between a frozen margarita and a key lime pie--two of my most favoritest things on God's green earth. Honestly, this was my favorite course of the whole evening. Too bad they only gave us about a tablespoon of it.)

filet mignon with lump crabmeat and Bernaise sauce
some kind of fancy potatoes
(that I forgot the name of but they tasted like herbed- and spiced-up instant mashed taters)
steamed asparagus
(which I'm sure made everybody's pee smell funny later, but tasted delicious)

Crème brulée
(which was extremely disappointing because it tasted like runny, watered-down Jell-O Vanilla pudding mix that had been burned on top--and even my tastes aren't plebeian enough for that)

The most important feature was the open bar, which I visited frequently throughout the night. After dinner an 80s rock band played (WAY too loudly--or maybe I'm just getting old) and we danced until midnight, which I'm dearly paying for today. Day Girl wanted to lodge a formal complaint against Night Girl's abuse of their shared thigh muscles while seeing "how low she could go" dancing to Play That Funky Music White Boy. Because I'm classy like that. Day Girl insists that Night Girl should stretch thoroughly before the next evening of debauchery.

What was I wearing? I'm so glad you asked.

Since I'm a complete and total cheapskate, I wore my mom's neighbor's recent hand-me-downs: a Banana Republic skirt and top. It doesn't sound very dressy, but it totally worked when I put it all together. It was a fitted white waffle-textured button-down dressy business shirt with wide French cuffs, which I fastened with some really sparkly vintage silver and rhinestone cuff links. The skirt was straight and black with slits that ended a few inches above my knee (all the better to dance with, my dear). I started the evening with sheer hose, but got a runner about five minutes after arriving at the hotel so I was bare-legged for the evening (all the better to develop blisters on my feet while dancing, my dear).

I completed my ensemble with black shoes that had shiny leopard print pointy toes and heels, a silver and black chain belt (that almost injured a few people when the extra length of links flung around every time I swung my hips--which I did a lot of) and sparkly (BLING-tastic) rhinestone earrings and necklace.

It was fun, but fast-forward a few hours for another big change.

Saturday: I worked at school for four hours, then came home and graded papers for another four hours. I also did eight loads of laundry and shuffled kids around to their various social engagements.

I think I prefer last night's blisters and disappointing Crème brulée to today's drudgery. I could really use some more of that lime sorbet--with a little tequila.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: The sunny day and spring-like temperatures allowed the boys and I (and the dog) to go to the park this afternoon. (I had to work a few hours at school this morning.) The boys played on the playground while Lily and I walked our legs off all over the park and I listened to a Lisa Scottoline book.

The Bad: All the recent rain flooded many areas of the park and walking trail, resulting in very muddy boys and dog.

The Ugly: Lily decided to both eat and roll in goose poop, which meant I had to fit time for a doggie spa in my already packed schedule.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Race to the Top? Really?

I haven't posted here in a while because I've been busy writing letters to my Senator and Congresswoman about the ridiculous "Race to the Top" grant that Obama's cabinet is trying to foist on the American people as a good thing. It's not.

The goals of the grant look good on paper:

  • Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals;
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
  • Turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Who doesn't want to make education better? Who doesn't want American students to become competitive with international students in achievement? Everyone is agreed that we want our schools to be the best they possibly can be. But the way the Obama administration is going about this is just wrong, wrong, wrong. It's even worse than Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind plan--a feat that I didn't even think was possible.

Mr. Obama said, “This competition will not be based on politics, ideology or the preferences of a particular interest group. Instead, it will be based on a simple principle—whether a state is ready to do what works. We will use the best data available to determine whether a state can meet a few key benchmarks for reform, and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant.”

Sure, sounds great right? The big problem is that Mr. Obama's "best data available" is utter crap. The data is flawed from the moment the test is created, and therefore all information gleaned from that test is useless. The only results that will come from this "Race to the Top" are that the government will wind up driving good people away from the profession. I am a damn good teacher and I love my job (at least, I would if I could cut out all the ridiculous paperwork and just focus on teaching my kids).

Here's the deal with test scores: if you teach at a traditionally high-achieving school you're screwed because the plan looks at growth from one year to the next. Nevermind that a huge percentage of the students in your school are considered proficient or even advanced--they're looking for growth. Well, if you're already earning high scores, it's nearly impossible to show significant growth. My own child made several 99s and 100s on last year's achievement tests. There's nowhere for him to go from there. On the Math section of the test last year, he made 100s in five of the seven sections of the test. If he drops even one percentage point and makes straight 99s this year, his math teacher will be considered an ineffective teacher because his scores slipped. They won't look at the fact that only one percent of children across the country scored higher than he did, they'll only focus on the fact that his scores fell compared to his scores from the previous year. Isn't that insane?

We all know that the test itself is flawed, but even using the flawed system, my test scores were up last year. Not dramatically, but my class showed positive growth from the previous year. Would it be enough for me to be considered a "high performing teacher" under Obama's plan? I really don't know.

Read here (be sure to read the comments) and here if you want to learn more. Basically this grant will use scores on tests that are flawed and biased to determine teacher salary, tenure, and benefits--tests that are taken, in my case, by a group of nine- to ten-year-olds ONE DAY in spring, which falls EIGHT WEEKS before the end of the school year (which means that we have to cram 36 weeks of standards into 28 weeks of instruction) . Tests which have no influence on the students whatsoever, only the teachers and schools "performance evaluation," and both kids and parents know this so they have no vested interest in achieving high scores.

Even assuming that this legislation makes Tennessee competitive enough to be in the running for the grant (only five to ten states will receive any of the $4.35 billion so we have less than a 25% chance of seeing any of that money), it won't benefit MY school. It will go to help the "failing" schools. But the very data that identify a school as "failing" are screwed up. I wish my governor had just said, "No, Obama, you can keep your money. The hoops we'd have to jump through to qualify for the grant are not worth the effort and they're not in the best interest of our state's kids and teachers." But he didn't.

The law passed Friday night in Tennessee. I'm happy that my Senator voted against it; I'm disappointed that my Representative voted for it. I'm furious that my union compromised with legislators to make this law happen. I realize that it could have and would have been much worse without TEA's input, but I still question why the frick I'm paying $500 to be a member of a union that's just going to roll over and let the legislators walk all over them. I'm angry that my job security is potentially on the line because of people in government who have no idea what goes on in our schools.

Bottom line: I'm scared. I'm pissed off. It makes me seriously wonder why I bother. But, I love my students and I love teaching. I just hope the bureaucrats don't drive me away from it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

You Never Expect the Quiet Ones

Nine pulled a fast one on his brother tonight and impressed us all mightily with his sneakiness. None of us saw it coming because he's so sweet and quiet and doesn't usually have a mean bone in his body.

I'd just cuddled up on the love seat to pretend to watch football with Dan when Twelve came in and said, "Hey Dad! You said you'd save my seat!"

Dan shrugged and replied, "She's cuter."

Huffing, Twelve walked to the other side of the room and sat in the other chair.

Nine quietly took all of this in without appearing to be involved. Then he went into his bedroom and said, "Huh. Look at this light," while messing around with the dimmer switch. Twelve said, "What? What is it?" and got up to go check out the light. As soon as he entered Nine's doorway, the little rascal scooted out of the doorway, scampered across the room, and plopped down into the seat his brother had just vacated, laughing hysterically. It was a full, riotous, giggly belly laugh because he'd just tricked his brother out of the only seat left in the room.

It took the rest of us a minute to realize what had happened because he was so smooth about the whole thing. Twelve messed with the dimmer switch for a few seconds before he noticed his brother's laughter and realized he'd been had. "Hey!" he yelled, "Get out of my chair!" as he laughed right along with us.

I'm telling you, you have to watch out for the quiet, sweet ones.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

College Fund

I'm sitting here listening to my husband patiently explain to our youngest child that it's really not a good idea to have his Wii quarterback run fifty yards behind the line of scrimmage. Or attempt a 93 yard field goal. Okay, so we're not holding out a great deal of hope for an athletic scholarship.

Then my oldest cub scolded the two of them for leaving a Wii disc out on the floor. When they explained that they left it out because they're planning to play it again soon, Twelve said, "Well, it's really irresponsible to leave it out on the floor where the dog could stomp on it. You should clean up after yourselves." Okay, so he takes after his OCD mother. Maybe his college fund will be a therapy fund instead.

That same ADHD child, who has been on a drug holiday for two weeks, just spent almost two hours of intense concentration building an erector set tank thing for his brother. Very sweet and thoughtful act, right? Except, now that it's finished and he's not totally focused on that, he's driving the rest of us crazy with all of his pent up energy. There may not be anything left of his college fund, after we spend it all on his meds.

I'm not ready to go back to school yet, but I'm kinda over the whole "two weeks straight with my kids" thing. In case you hadn't noticed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Decade?

Why does everyone keep saying we're starting a new decade? No we're not! The decade ENDS with 2010. Duh. A baby doesn't turn one until AFTER they've lived a year. They turn ten AFTER they've lived a decade. We don't start counting with zero and end with nine. That's always bugged me. Why is it that every single channel is showing a "Best of the Decade" look back? Why doesn't anyone in the math world call them on this?

Let's just hope the rest of the year doesn't continue in the matter in which it began--which would be with me lying on the couch, blowing my nose every five minutes, and trying to keep my antibiotics from making an encore appearance. Ugh.

If I don' t get these Christmas decorations down today, I'm going to have my man cubs drag everything up to the curb and dump it there. Seriously. It was all pretty at the beginning of December, but now I'm so sick of looking at it all that I could scream.

And Day One of the exercise plan is not kicking off quite the way I wanted. I don't even have the energy to take a shower, much less walk some miles, plural.

But we are starting a new year and, despite its less than auspicious beginning, I'm sure it's going to be wonderful. It's my last year to have a single-digit child. Because, see, he was born in 2000 and he won't turn ten until November, which is ten years after he was born. When the decade really ends. Okay, okay, I'll stop with that now. Anyway, here's to a great new year.

Happy New Year, everyone!