Sunday, October 04, 2009

I Drew the Short Straw

September is full of unforeseen challenges for teachers. This year, for me, the challenges keep rolling into October. Everyday I am going to 'Work' with a capital W and I put in ten to eleven hour days. There have been other years similar to this but I guess I wasn't emotionally shored up enough to start another one. It has improved. Most importantly, my feelings of competence are back. I am losing less sleep and I do have the mettle to make it through the year. What are the challenges? ....children who have been abused or witnessed abuse, children who are sad because their daddy is dead or in jail, children with autism (diagnosed and undiagnosed), children who do not know how to hold a pencil and cannot write their name, children who are not toilet trained, children who have never been to preschool and don't know the first thing about group interactions, let alone any letter or number knowledge, and of course children with no English and children whose parents are out of work. I see behaviors that need a counselor's attention, but we don't have a counselor at our school. Behaviors like snapping all your new crayons in half and throwing them on the floor, throwing a chair because someone threw a raisin. I have had several meetings with the principal, the special ed. teacher, the family support worker, the speech and communications specialist, the OT/PT specialist and countless calls, e-mails, and after school conferences with parents. I have had one Student Intervention team meeting and another is scheduled for this week. Changes are happening but this is all an uphill battle and it is only day 18 of school. Meanwhile there are the alert, eager, bunch who are so ready to learn and make new friends. They are my bright spots and are deserving of my energy too. We are trying to start up our literacy groups but that has met with a few wrinkles too: we are short one assistant due to budget restraints and scheduling changes. But we (the other K teacher and myself) are more flexible than our age belies. We can and will make it work. To be honest it is really the academically low end kids that suffer when we have less help in the classroom. Enough of classroom talk. Let's move on to the garden...

A long lovely summer has moved into an equally outstanding fall. The first day of fall it actually got up to 90 degrees! It has gotten cooler since than and we began turning the on the heat Sept. 30th, but the weather for the coming week has temperatures in the 70s and not much rain. I have pulled out the sunflowers, tomato plants and beans in the back yard. So this:

Now looks like this:

We had plenty of tomatoes, the last of which are ripening in our garden window. We had more than enough beans too. I even froze a quart bag. There are some Asian pears still on the tree ripening but we have already taken a bucket of them to the food bank. I know of no good way to preserve them. A fall crop of lettuce has taken hold and I still have carrots in the ground but don't know if they are going to get much bigger before the bugs find them. I harvested 5 little sugar pumpkins which match the garden shed perfectly. The chickadees and bush tits found the hanging sunflowers in no time flat.

This Friday Bartlett Tree Service will come to prune the deodor cedar in the front yard and take down the two dead cherry trees in back. I am also sacrificing this old but graceful pink dogwood. It is just becoming too laborious and dangerous (ladders are no place for middle aged women) to keep trimmed. Once it is gone there will also be more sun to the lower east rockery and we will be able to view that sun garden easier from our deck.

And yes, I still run in the early hours of the morning before work. The smell of chlorinated pools is replaced with wood smoke coming from chimneys of quiet houses. My new lime green jacket with all it's reflective stripes is getting plenty of use. I carry my cell and I have an ID tag attached to my shoe laces. Advancing age does make one more cautious. I see dog walkers and some interesting wildlife; always a raccoon a week at least and an owl buzzed my head one dark moonless morning, on another day a plush white rabbit with little black spots (some body's pet?) stood still enough for me to get within 4 feet and then hopped away with a zig and zag.

With less blogging I read more. I just finished Velva Jean Learns to Drive (a 5* recommendation from me) and I am half way through Julia in France which is not as delightful as the movie Julie and Julia. In fact, I find Julia Child to be quite stuffy and full of herself in her auto biography.

This morning we ate at Youngs Restaurant in White Center. It may be Chinese run but the fare is certainly 'All American'. I hope my breakfast of pancakes and eggs is digested before the 1:00 Burien Brat Trot, the 5k which I will run. Chris is outside painting the pickets to the back stretch of fence which he has repaired. His new bus route is between Auburn and downtown Seattle and he likes it just fine. Driving I 5 is easier than driving city neighborhoods, he tells me. That of course could change if the big flooding occurs with seasonal rains.

So that's it for month #2. Next installment: November!


Lisa said...

Thanks for all the updates and beautiful pictures! Glad your work is getting better. You are brave running with the animals, I thought I had it bad in broad daylight with all the dogs around here, oh and the occassional sighting of a bear :) Lisa

Chase said...

Wow...sorry to hear you're having a challenging year. Hope it gets better. Those kids need you, and I know you'll make an impact on them this year.

Your garden is awesome. (as is your workout sessions).

We're on Fall Break this week (yeah, I know, Hawai'i doesn't really have a "Fall", but I'm not complaining, especially since we've been furloughed and are going to be losing days/pays this year). And I actually am off from both of my jobs!

Barbara said...

Man...I am sorry for your complicated year with the children...sounds like you are getting it under control a little...YES??
We are off this week and we need it.
Did you have to change classrooms ????
I bet the running has been your "therapy”. Wish I could but I have a bum knee:(
I think you should take the children on a fieldtrip to see your gardens....they are so wonderful for teaching "Changing Seasons"
Fondly, Barbara
PS...Morris lost his job so we are fighting for our to speak!!
Well this ever end??? so I can stay home and enjoy those grandbabies???

Lynn said...

Great photos and I enjoyed hearing about your morning run with nature and the quiet sounds of morning. It reminds me of Kelby's book called The Paper Boy, which also reminds me of our brothers!
Thanks for the update.

Tishy said...

It is enough to break the best of us now isn't it? Seems like it gets worse each year. I am actually doing reading intervention this year while I finish up my master's. I cannot believe how emotionally charged five year olds are getting and how many are so angry for a variety of reasons. I can;t count the chidlren whose parents are in jail thid year. Seems like it is mostly drugs or charges that stem from drug abuse. So hard to individualize instruction when the levels vary so. You will through it all become their stabling factor and dependable adult. Just hard as you are trying to establish that relationship with them first. Notice me please. If it takes broken crayons, a chair thrown or a quiet stare. Glad you have your running and beautiful garden to give you solace and peace. We need it.

Mrs4444 said...

I hope it's getting easier.... Your job sounds tough; much tougher than mine, though mine has me burning the candle at both ends, too. Hope you have a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.

Geri said...

Wow, you do have a challenging job! I admire you so much. I only teach 2 90 min classes of ESL to upper level immigrants etc..- approx at a 5th-6th grade level. I do that for 10 weeks, then we have a 3 week break. I love it!
I hope that your year got a bit easier, and that you enjoy the upcoming Christmas break. :)