Sunday, October 25, 2015

Time to Recalibrate: Retail Therapy isn't Real Therapy

Are you Christmas shopping yet? I am.

Last year was the first year I used the internet to shop. This year, I have already ordered.

Work has created enough anxiety for me recently, that agonizing over presents and prices is not something I want to do!

I have had my eye on the "perfect" gifts for my nieces for a month now. They are Animal Babies. Link to the giraffe I went into the store and there was a sale on the item, but the store did not carry the giraffe, nor the white tiger. I went to the store's website and they did not list all of their on-shelf items, and not even a whisper of these particular toys. So, it was back to my amazon cart; always faithfully holding these items for me. I found better prices and clicked "proceed to checkout". Done.

How did I unwind this weekend?

I went to a concert. The parking garage had me on edge. I'm NOT a parking garage person. I don't have much experience with these 'city' things! But I did okay.

Colton Dixon

Britt Nicole

Toby Mac and Hollyn
It was so much fun! I took my sister and youngest son. It was his first concert. Mommy-son bonding time! Plus, I have always wanted to go to a Toby Mac concert. Always. I get to check this off my bucket list. <3 p="">
How should I be unwinding?


At the concert, I was reminded of my dreams and desires. I threw off the anxieties and pressures of late, and I was open to listening to my heart instead of my mind. We were asked what our dreams were and challenged to live what we love and have a passion for.

With all the depression and anger and anxiety at work, I have been seeking solace in retail therapy; getting items for my classroom, for my nieces for Christmas, and even needed clothes for my boys. I have also been watching Netflix shows and Hulu, and I have been reading. None of these are real therapy. None of these solve any problems, push me forward, nor help me reach my dreams. They are escapist, avoidance behaviors.

I haven't been writing. Not a blog, not a letter, not a ficlatté. I have worked on them sporadically, but not like earlier in the year.

I have felt more like a lost soul than ever.

That's not right.

This is not me.

It's time to re-calibrate.

I'm beginning here. I wrote this blog post. I am going to finish a letter to my friend. Then I'm going to open up Ficlatté in a web browser and type something. ( I'm going to reclaim myself. Writing is a way to deal with the feelings. Most of my dreams and goals are author-related. My empathetic being cannot keep pouring myself out to my students, my tutoring students, and my family, and never fill myself back up.

I need to dream, to live, to love, and to be happy again. My therapy, real therapy, is inside; and is expressed through writing, journaling, and drawing.

This is who God made me.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Learning from My Mistakes: Being a Good Leader

I've been VERY busy with school. I have had to make some significant changes to my classroom schedule including adapting for a new student and making changes required by my supervisor. I have begun to deal with the changes that giving my students a Standardized Test which pulls me away from teaching for at least a whole day have wrought upon my schedule. Schedules and plans are the center of my day.
It's also been stressful with adults in my room, my support team, not supporting me. Sometimes it is completely justified, and sometimes it is not. I'm human. I make mistakes. I fall for manipulations, I break things, I forget things, and I get distracted.

I'm on the comeback from some of those mistakes. The student who was such trouble the first 7 weeks is responding to the changes I have made. My support team has been able to de-stress about me and my leadership and again supported me.

I need to find a way to thank them. I need to thank them all year.

But most of all, I need to learn that to be a good leader, I have to be mean sometimes.
I have to change schedules, making some changes that people won't like. Secondly, I have to take their criticism of my actions less personally. That's the hardest for me. I take so much personally. I have cried, lost sleep, and stressed out hard over these personal attacks which I have made worse on myself.

I learned 3 things.

First, that I have to stop explaining my actions and do things to show them I am trying and working. I always want to be an example, but I can't see myself and how I appear to others. I may be doing my job, but appear to be sitting, observing, avoiding, ignoring, or even procrastinating. I have to work with the students, with a clipboard, with a visual schedule right there in front of my class.

Second, their opinions are often skewed. I may be falsely accused. It is far better to talk to me, ask me, and trust that I am telling the truth. Once, one of my staff felt that I was a liar and all my defensive answers to her questions were covering up the truth. They were not. It's hard to convince someone you are being honest when all they hear are lies. In this instance, I was able to later acknowledge her claim, bring evidence that I was not lying, and she had cooled off enough to accept my defense as truth.

Lastly, if I need to confront them, I have back-up in my supervisors. I can present the issue to them and take heart in the fact that I don't have to fight this battle alone. They will intervene if necessary and they will do so tactfully. I hope my 'bosses' are leaders, as I haven't given them the change to 'develop' me and 'coach' me as the pic above defines.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Teaching A Functional Class is Tough

One of the disappointing and stressful parts of my job is when you are the one in charge and a problem comes up that you cannot fix.

In my case, a student has decided to present challenging behaviors.

Yes, there are protocols. We always change the environment, use positive reinforcement, change our strategies and redirect. These always come first. We never know with this student what will be motivating. Sometimes it's saying that Dad wants something to happen, while other times it's using a timer or alarm with a beep that does it. Once the student might work beside the others, seeing that everyone is working, and another time the student wanted to go for a walk and get out of there, so they worked to earn some freedom.

But lately, the mood swings, from working to suddenly hitting the teacher or peers and fleeing the table, have been all-consuming. It takes a lot of energy to stop a speeding train and that is what this feels like. The behaviors escalate quickly and are headed straight for me.

Here's the thing to remember; this class is the only place public education has to offer. This is the bottom rung. I must provide learning opportunities that address what the state and government wants and fits the needs of my students at their developmental level. It's a challenge I accept most whole-heartedly.

When a student misbehaves this violently, safety is first. This means safety of all the humans comes before education. Not comfort, or making things easy, but safety. Are you hearing me?

This means, other students may move to another area of the classroom to work, or even be removed from the class altogether right in the middle of their lesson. This means that no matter how loud or how violent the student gets, we cannot give in to the urge to let them sleep, or to let them go home, if that is what they want. This is not comfortable for us, as teachers, nor the class, but it is what is best for the student who needs to learn boundaries. School is for work.

And boy is it work!

The part where all the interventions and strategies do not seem to be working from day to day is maddening. I understand that this student has a 2-3 month adjustment to new routines. This is a new school year. Everything is new. Just like counting your blessings, you have to reward the student for the small steps and breakthroughs that they give you. I hand out rewards that are earned like they are Halloween candy. But sometimes even that is not what the student wants.

I know that all the things I am doing are right, however it still wears on the body. I'm tired physically when I'm deflecting blows and doing any kind of physical restraint that I am trained to do. I'm tired mentally when my thoughts are bouncing from one strategy to another. Thank goodness for my teaching partners who take over for a bit when the student isn't responding to me! Emotionally, it's exhausting to think that you have to go in to work on a new day and could see a replay of the day before.

Preparing yourself for a day like this requires a lot of energy. It requires patience, doing what you can to prepare the physical environment, prepping and debriefing the wonderful people who help, and finding the positives in the negative.

If you can't do that, even for a moment, it feels very depressing. I have to really chill out at least one day of the weekend before I can focus on making the changes necessary to prepare for a new week.

Then I deal with all the other things that come up: consults with therapists, students who forget their lunch, health problems of students, signing up for meetings, late buses, paperwork, and band-aids, for example. I hope no one ever says that teaching is easy.

I love 3 day weekends. More time for me. More time to prepare. My students asked me if I were going to be thinking about them Monday when we don't have school. I can always answer "Yes!"

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Friday, August 7, 2015

How Setting Up My Classroom Is Like Writing

It's back to school time! I've been frantically trying to set up my classroom. I've moved furniture, put up posters and borders, and sorted items into areas in the room. I haven't located what I did with the batteries, but I'm sure they will turn up.

I found a pedometer and put it on halfway through my day. I logged 2 miles in my classroom. It says 4,598 steps. I came home tired. It didn't feel like I worked that hard, but I guess 4 miles of walking will do that.

The next day I put on the pedometer as I walked to my car. When I walked out of school hours later it said 5 miles.

But besides the exercise of the back to school frantic rush, there was this one revelation...

I've realized I set up my classroom the same way I write a book. 

First, the outline.  I make a floor plan of my room and decide where all the students will go and where all the academic parts will take place. I make a schedule and decide which groups go where and when.

Next, the rough draft. I pull out all of the things pertaining to that area, making it very cluttered. Every toy, device, paper, file, or writing utensil as needed are right there in the right place. But they aren't all used at the same time.

Then, I have to edit these areas like I edit stories. Is this really necessary right now? Can I put it someplace else? I have taken out the things I'm going to use first and left them in the areas in an organized way while putting everything else in the closet. I can rotate toys and books and vocational work tasks later. I don't need a shelf of them hanging around looking slightly messy.

Then it's time to work on the cover art. In my room, I decorate with posters, bulletin board borders, and pictures. I make it look fun and cool and presentable as best I can.
Now, to spend my last free weekend of summer NOT worrying about school!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Went to the Zoo Again and Had A Blast!

Despite it being extremely hot, we went to the Indianapolis Zoo. We went early to see the animals when it was a bit cooler, so they would be willing to move around a bit. By 10AM we were sweating! The animals that had water were in it. The animals that had dirt, shelter, or shade were in it; anything to stay cool! We brought umbrellas because the weather forecast was 60% chance of rain, but the only rain we saw was on the drive in. It was already hot, then, too.
I took 475 pictures. I shared 100 of them on facebook. I can't possibly do that here. Well, I could, but we'd be here forever! I'll share the highlights of my trip.
Firstly, being early, we were able to watch the 10AM Flamingling. Flamingo-Mingling. They let the flamingoes out to see the public!

 This is how close the flamingoes got to my boys. It thought maybe they would come closer but my sons kept moving and scaring them off.

 I love all the birds in this tree. This was the first year we got to see the birds. For me, the more colorful the better!

We saw all the traditional aniamls, lions, tigers, bears, sea lions, walruses, polar bears, giraffes, elephants. Oh, here's a baby elephant.
This zebra picture is one of my favorites.
Then we were able to see the new orangutan exhibit. This building allows them to go climbing outside!

We also got to go to the butterfly gardens. I had not been inside this building before.

Since it was now blistering hot, we spent time in the oceans section with the penguins, sharks, fish, and dolphins. We ended the day with the dolphin show. This year, I actually got some pictures of the dolphins. They move fast, so I was unable to capture them previously.

Dolphins are my favorite animal. I'd go back to school and get a degree in Biology for them. I have so many more pictures. If you want to see an animal, request it in the comments and I'll add it to this post.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.