Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It Shouldn't Be So Difficult

One of my Young 5’s students is struggling.  He came in with very few skills and while he’s grown, it's such a tiny gain he is so far behind the other students.  Rarely a day goes by where he doesn't cry.  I try to strive to build independence, but he doesn't dare try anything without my reassurance or help over his hand. "You help me?" is his frequent request.
 As the half year mark of the year approaches I’m amazed at the growth most of my students have made.  My little friend is not one of them.  He gets every extra program we have in place.  I “play” games on the Smart Board part of playtime to help him learn but he isn’t learning.  He works with a loving volunteer to learn to write his name.  I’ve got him staffed into speech services. He sits next to the kindest students I have.  Yet everything, every game, every project, every transition is difficult.
While I know the process to get him extra help is underway he’s breaking my heart. The holidays and schedules put another month of hardship in front of this little guy.  As last week came to an end he left for the bus in tears, twice.  In both situations I know I did what I needed to do, but I still feel sad he is so overwhelmed.  Even in specials classes he’s in tears. 
Over the weekend I thought of him often, I made another plan of how I was going to try and ease his situation while we wait. Monday morning I stood ready to greet him with a need to make his week a wonderful time.  He was absent.  Now I wonder if I’ve misread the situation Thursday and Friday, was he so emotional because he was getting sick?  Maybe, maybe not.  Today I’m going to greet him at the door with yesterday’s resolve to help him have the day and week he deserves.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Moving Day

Our youngest child recently moved into her first post college apartment.  We knew this moment would come and while we did not look forward to the day, we knew it was a natural, healthy step for her to take.   We prepared for the move when we stored our old furniture this summer so she’d have a usable couch and loveseat for her new home.  The Friday after Thanksgiving my husband loaded his pickup truck with furniture, my car was filled with kitchen supplies and our daughter’s car was full of clothing and bedding.  We drove to the building and made countless trips up to her third floor apartment.  As the afternoon became evening we agreed to wait and move the couch and loveseat the next day.  Our aching legs and arms were ready for a break.
The couch and loveseat while rather worn are still usable and solidly built.  They are overstuffed and we had a difficult time moving them out of our house in July.  They’d been stored at my mom’s house for the past months but we still remembered the struggle we had getting them out our door. 
When we first entered the apartment we worried about the small door size and a pesky wall we’d need to negotiate.  As we measured the door we realized the loveseat might fit through the door but we were certain the couch was not going to fit.  Our daughter fretted that her budget would be broken if she had to purchase new furniture.  I dreaded lugging them to the top of the building to find they wouldn’t fit and the subsequent trip back down those three flights of stairs.
That evening as my husband sat at the computer I heard him laughing.  He was watching videos of people moving furniture, researching how to get a couch into a small space.  As the next day dawned my husband had formed a plan to use ropes to pull the furniture up the side of the building to the balcony and in the large slider in our daughter’s apartment. I was skeptical of the plan. “No good ideas start with a You-Tube search”, I declared as I insisted he call my carpenter/handyman brother-in- law, the crazy laughter of the videos still ringing in my ears. 
When Dan agreed it was a good idea to pull the furniture onto the balcony I was certain it was the most foolhardy idea ever sanctioned by my usually wise brother in law.  I filled my car with the remaining things from Amy’s room and followed my husband to Mom’s to load up the couch and loveseat.  Once we’d flipped the loveseat on top of the couch like an oversized Tetris piece we headed off to pick up Dan, they guy with the rope and brawn for this experiment. 
As I followed the truck I fretted about the likelihood of the furniture falling or a rope breaking, so many calamities I was sure could befall us.  The guys began to drive faster, I saw the loveseat move, and it began to shift.   I watched in horror as the loveseat lifted up.
 I knew they needed more straps! 
Nobody ever listens to me!!!
The loveseat was airborne, and flipped over as it flew off the truck.  Landing on its legs, it slid across the mercifully empty passing lane and came to a rest in the grassy median. 
I sat in my car, speechless as I watched Dan and Wayne pull over, jog back to the loveseat and pick it up.  Amazing, the piece was still intact.  The legs were undamaged, the arms were still attached.  The guys flipped it over re stacked it atop the couch, added several more straps, previously unused, and walked sheepishly back to the truck.
When we arrived at the apartment my inspection revealed one scuff mark on the corner of the loveseat, but it was certainly usable.  Dan quickly formed a slip knot, loped up the stars, and caught the tossed rope.  He quickly pulled the rope hand over hand, within moments the couch and then the love seat were sitting in the third floor apartment. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This year my class of 23 Young 5’s includes a cognitively impaired child.  Because she can participate in and learn from much of our day, including songs, movement and table activities I’m pleased to have her with us for most of the day.
As cooler winter arrives in Michigan the cold and flu season has arrived.  This child doesn’t notice her nose needs to be blown and unfortunately when it does she begins to lick her lips and upper lip.  Not only is it huge hygiene problem, it is causing her to get a very chapped mouth. 
After getting her mother’s permission I undertook a regimen to alleviate this condition before the dry school heating system causes her greater discomfort.  I set a timer and each time it goes off I ask her to blow her nose and then I apply lip balm.  After just a few days, her lips are no longer chapped and red.  Because she eats many inappropriate items I store the Chap Stick on my desk.  I lay it along the top row of keys on my keyboard. 
This morning as I sat at my computer without thinking I applied some Chap Stick.  I’m sure my howl could be heard down the hall as I realized my good intentions had just collided with my lips. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Newspaper headlines and television reports featuring; Escapees, Accomplices and Fugitives have made our community on edge.  In our rural community many leave their keys in their cars and trucks.  Unlocked doors are not unheard of.  This week changed our attitudes toward security.  We’ve been encouraged to be on the lookout for 2 escapees and their girlfriends.  We’ve seen news reports of a string of break-ins and we’ve seen helicopters fly over.   Our attention has been drawn away from corn prices.
Later in the week as news reports have tracked the sightings to a nearby state and the danger has seemed to pass, but we’re still being careful. 
Last night as my husband and I prepared to run some Friday night errands we were startled by a knock on the door.  Our elderly neighbor, Gloria was standing at the door, breathless, clutching a dog.  As I slid the door open she gasped, “Lori, I just don’t know what I’m going to do!”  As the story poured out in disjointed worry and fear I realized that in her vigilance for security she’d locked herself out of her house when she went out to walk the dog. 
Her husband is out of town on a volunteer work crew several states away.  Her children all live several hours away, and their numbers all in her phone, were locked securely in her home.  Roger wasn’t due home until late Saturday and she was in a panic. 
My husband offered to see if he could find a way into her house.  I jokingly suggested he try to open the door with a credit card.  The joke started to make sense and we found one of our many “store rewards” cards and dog, owner and my husband headed across the lawn.  I started to plan a quick clean for our unplanned house guest. 
Minutes later my husband returned with a silly grin on his face.  It appears a door really can be opened with a credit card and a quick turn of the door handle.  As he celebrated the success, Gloria started to plan for the replacement of her front door with a deadbolt lock, and a safe place to hide a key.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bathroom Humor

      As a kindergarten/Young 5's teacher I'm blessed to have two restrooms in my classroom, but sometimes two just isn't enough.  Each evening when our saintly custodian cleans them he  leaves the seat up.   He then props open the door with a wedge. Each morning as I enter the classroom I flip on the restroom lights, with really high switches, I remove the door stop and I put the seat down.  Midyear I neglected part of my usual routine.  As a kinder went into use the toilet she came out and  announced wide-eyed, "there's a man in the girl's bathroom!"  When I went in to investigate I found the undeniable evidence of male presence; the seat was up!
     This year I'm teaching Young 5's.  Waiting for every child to use the restroom, with a huge preoccupation on how badly they NEED to go, takes forever and could have dire consequences,  until the children relax on this issue we use the galley restrooms in the first grade wing.  In a few weeks we're safely and calmly using our classroom for all our toileting needs.
      Yesterday we arrived to find our daytime custodian, Mr. Steve cleaning the boys room and a wet floor sign sat in front the girls.  I asked if we should go to the other facilities in the middle of the school.  He assured me he was just finishing.  I sent 3 girls in to use the toilet, and 3 boys in to use the boy's.  When I noticed one girl not going in a stall she said, "there's a boy in there!"  "No there's not I replied as I shooed her into another stall.  "Mr. Steve just cleaned for us."  This year I knew the mind of a 5 year old!
     A little later as she exited and I checked to see how many more girls I should send in the next wave, I saw a locked stall, I asked the same girl I'd spoken to earlier to crawl back under and unlock the stall.  I assumed she'd left crawling under the door.  "NO!" she answered, "there's a boy in there!" Smiling knowingly, I made a show of  checking the floor for feet. No feet.  "There's not..." Wait, way back in the corner, were those feet?
     Thinking one of my girls was hiding I said, using my best teacher voice, "unlock this door."  Sniffles. "Come on, open up, your friends need to use the bathroom."  Sobs, and the door slowly opened.  Head hanging, chest heaving a young boy exited.
"Why are you in here I asked?  "I don't want to talk about it."  he gasped between sobs.  He was clearly mortified"  "What happened?" I asked crouching down, I thought he'd wandered into the wrong room, after all it was only day 4 of school.
"I had to go really, really bad, and Mr. Steve was taking a long time," he began to cry harder yet.  All those girls' eyes watching him was making him even more upset.  I put my arm around him as I  walked him back down the hall toward his room to reassure his teacher he wasn't in trouble, and to give an explanation I'd have to make without laughing.  As his teacher complimented him on his smart thinking on avoiding an accident I herded my flock back to my room reminding myself to never assume anything, ever again!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11

On September 11,  I was student teaching in 2nd grade.  Mid morning the principal came to each room tell us what had happened.  At the time I don't think I even realized what the Trade Center was.  At lunch we gathered around the staff room tv.  Our usually chatty group silent.

The school opted to not mention the attack to the elementary students, but slowly during the day parents came to pick up their children.  During the afternoon many children left school While no mention of the attack was made, the student body picked up on the staff anxiety and many negative behaviors happened.  At the end of the day a short statement was made so the children wouldn't be exposed to new information on the bus ride home because all our grade levels ride the same buses.

My own children were in middle school and high school at the time.  Our son had visited New York City the year before.  The differences in my children's reaction was  difficult to manage.  Amy, a middle schooler had seen the news coverage at school and was upset.  She did not want to listen or hear any more of the news.  Brad, was horrified, yet couldn't turn away from the news.  He came home from school and sat in front of the tv.  Frustrated by the lack of answers he kept switching between stations, and even moved a smaller tv into the room so he could have information from two or three stations on at once.  This raised Amy's tension even higher.  She spent most of the evening avoiding the TVs.
My husband was on the last day of a business trip to Cancun Mexico.  He had seen the coverage from the Miami news stations.  He'd been 4 or 5 days and we were already very ready for him to come home. We were hopeful he'd still return the next day.

The lawn needed to be mowed so I went out and rode the riding mower for a couple of hours.  I now see this as my needing to be alone to process the situation, and unfortunately  I isolated myself from the children's hugely differing needs and conflict.

Over the next days my husband was grounded in Mexico.  His trip was extended indefinitely.  He, and his boss and the travel staff went to the airport every morning and they would be told to go back to the resort because the flights were not leaving. Since the resorts had no new customers flying in the comped the rooms for the group.  Day after day they'd arrive early and after waiting several hours they'd go back to their rooms.  At one point the group he was traveling with even explored renting a car and driving out of the country.  He was scheduled to leave again for Canada within a few days, a trip that would later be canceled due to the length of their first trip, and their reluctance to fly again once they finally arrived home.

I remember as I rode the lawn mower feeling very sorry for myself.  The kids were fighting, I was in the middle of student teaching and my husband was gone.  While I was frustrated by all that, I knew that at some point my husband would come home.  I sadly lay awake that night thinking of all the  families whose loved ones had died, thinking of the mothers who would be left to raise children alone.  Thinking of the children mourning their fathers and mothers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

I think one of my favorite things about teaching is the chance to have a new start twice a year.  In September we’re all freshly tanned and well rested from our summer break.  I go back to school with personal goals and feel empowered by the professional reading I’ve done in the summer.  In January we all have a party to bid the old year goodbye, and with a new year, we celebrate with resolutions and changes.  While I usually don’t change a lot in my classroom and teaching midyear I still love the new feeling.
Today as I celebrated a new year of teaching I have made some resolutions:
1 To work less.  I’m not sure how this is going to happen, but I’m not willing to put in 12 hour days at school.  I’m hopeful that not teaching a split grade class will help with this.
2   To find me.  I’ve purposely worked at reconnecting with an old friend.  I’m going to take time to meet with her and rekindle our friendship.
3   To make time for me.  I’m very seriously looking at getting some help cleaning the house. 

    To make me healthier.  I’m going to plan and shop for better foods.  I’ll consider deleting at least one pizza place from my contacts. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Step at a Time

I first noticed him last fall.  The days were getting shorter.    I saw him as I drove to school, the mornings were dark, and soon would be darker.  He walked slowly, along the side of the road, no sidewalks this far out of town.  His feet were barely moving, his shoulders stooped and his stomach rounded, with his head down he looked miserable.  Trudge, I thought, as I noticed him day after day.  He did not swing his arms or even smile as he walked.  He trudged. 
All winter long I saw him.  Our scheduled meshed, he’d be walking somewhere along the cemetery as I drove to school.  I saw him nearly every day, snow or mud.  Reliable, I came to expect his slow march.  As summer break gave me later awakenings and less frequent morning drives, I forgot the morning walker.
Each August our local town holds a Summerfest.  The weekend before Labor Day the town is full of craft tents, beer tents and even a 5 and 10 K run/walk.  Monday as I drove to school early on this soon to be  fall morning, I was delighted to see my faithful friend walking proudly wearing a Summerfest Walk/Run 2012 T-shirt.  The shirt looked good, and so did he.