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Where my mojo went . . .

25 Jul

I think I know where my mojo went . . . It was sucked down into a black hole with all the hope for the future of the state of California.  Please go read this article on our current budget status . . . it’s short, I’ll wait.

So, you’ll understand why Greg, a native Californian, and I, having lived here and loved it here for the last 30 years or so have actually been talking about our prospects outside the great state of California.

In 2003, I went back to school and got my teaching credential.  I took 2 years out of my family’s potential income and gave up a career that paid better because I wanted to a) work at a job that allowed me to be closer to my school aged children and b) believe that our children need great educations that start at the elementary school level.  I was inspired by the amazing teachers that I saw my children learning from at our little small town school.  We sacrificed a LOT of security in those years to make that happen.

When my credential was finished, I snagged the job of my dreams at the same school my kids go to in our small town and settled down to finish my 2 additional years of state-mandated teacher education (on the job training, what they call an induction program).  I just finished that program at the end of this year.  With that task completed, I am now tenured at my district (more on that later).  I should be looking forward to a long career (very long as retirement is a pipe dream for someone who starts their teaching career in their mid-40’s).  I should be getting into my stride as a teacher.  The state requires that we teachers do continual professional development so I can also look forward to continuing to improve my skills. I say that last party with no sense of irony — I love professional development.  Taking classes, learning new ways to do my job even better, is one of my favorite things — really!  I love to learn! My point is this . . . I should be growing and improving each year as a teacher from now on.

My students do well on state tests and our own district benchmark tests.  Furthermore, they do well as they continue on in school.  I manage to teach art and poetry as part of the 4th grade curriculum along with all the required elements.  I was really proud when I took my daughter to Open House at our middle school and got to see papers posted in the 6th grade classroom from my students who had been in 5th grade the previous year.  They did GREAT!   My school and my district appreciate me and rely on me to do my best in many ways.  I’m on the leadership council for my school and participate in district-wide decision making on technology and education issues.  I run the website for my school and support other teachers with their technology concerns.  I am doing my job and doing it well in all areas.

And, it matters not at all.  In all likelihood, I will be laid off this coming March and be unemployed.  My family will no longer have health insurance and risks losing our house and all the equity we’ve built in 20+ years of home ownership.  In part, I blame the teacher’s unions because they refuse to even consider a program that uses merit over years-on-the-job but, honestly, at my school, there are no bad teachers.  I would HAPPILY put my own children in any teacher’s classroom at this school so who would I like to see laid off ahead of me?  I don’t know.  Most of my anger goes to the state government, however.  Come March, my district will have to make decisions about how to keep it’s budget balanced.  It won’t have the luxury of being able to consider drilling off-shore in order to make up lost income.  It will have to face the horrible prospect that money the state promised us for two years was not paid.  We have had reserves but with the cuts to our budget, there is no hope that the reserves will save our district this time.  We laid of 10 teachers in the round of layoffs that happened in March 2009.  I was the last elementary school teacher standing.  Everyone hired after me was laid off.  Two teachers were re-hired based on projections from the state about funding.  Those projections were not honored by the state and additional cuts will be forthcoming so while we can’t let those teachers go, we can’t afford them either.  So, when they look to cut next year, in all likelihood, I’ll be let go.

I know my principal, fellow teachers, and superintendent will be sad to let me go.  I know they appreciate me.  I know my students and their parents will be sad to see me go.  But, there it is.  We have a system based solely on time on the job and I’m at the bottom of the ladder.  Done, goodbye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

In a state where we were already underfunding education — California *was* 48th in per student funding of education (how embarrassing is THAT?), we have slashed 6 billion dollars from K-12 education in THIS ROUND alone.  $6 BILLION!!!  My 4th graders don’t even know how many zeros that is when they start with me but they will when they leave my classroom.  And, the republican legislatures and governor pat themselves on the back for not raising taxes in our state.  A dear family friend who is a staunch republican complained to my mother-in-law recently that the reason education is in such dire state in our country is that teachers are paid too much money.  I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive him for saying that or, really, for believing it.  His grandchildren go to private schools.

I believe in public education.  If there were a good private school in our area and if we could afford to send our children there, I’d probably still send them to our small town school because it’s damn good.  I’m proud to work there and proud to send my kids there.  But, I’m not proud of what is happening to our state and I’m not proud of the display of our government patting themselves on the back for a job well done.  They should be hanging their heads in shame and going down on bended knee apologizing to Californians for letting us down, for destroying a great state’s economy.  And, please don’t get me wrong . . . I am not just blaming the current government but the state governors and legislators that have been in office since I was an adult and even before.  This problem has been coming for a long time.  The nation’s financial crisis may have been made over the last 8 years and certainly dragged California’s problems from bad to impossible but California was heading for fall and, baby, we’re falling.

(I’d re-read this for clarity and edits but I don’t have time.  I have to go and meet with my fellow 4th grade teachers.  We are taking time out of our summer to meet and plan for next year.  Even knowing I’ll get pinkslipped in March doesn’t change the way I feel about doing my job.  The kids come first.  Next on my list . . . how to fund all the supplies I’ll need for my classroom.  You don’t think the state lets us have ANY money for pencils and paper, do you?  Not a chance.)


Barely hanging on

3 Jun

Pygmy Nuthatch

So, it’s the end of the school year.  My class is doing a play with another class for the next two days.  My students have projects due.  I’m got a bazillion things to grade. We have a 4th Grade Bash (don’t even ask!).  Staff meetings.  Class party.  My daughter’s 5th Grade Advancement ceremony.   Oh, and I’ve got a freakin’ sinus infection.

Yea.  Life is great.   I think there is a decent chance that I will not be posting for a few days.

So, if I’m not back by the end of next week, send help.  Please.

A day of learning and birding

13 Mar

Elkhorn Slough

I’m getting to go hang out here today at my favorite place to bird:  Elkhorn Slough.  I am going to an all day teacher training which prepares me to bring field trips here.  My goal is to teach my kids about birding with an end of the year trip to Elkhorn Slough.  I’m so excited!  We’re having beautiful weather.  In fact, I need to make sure I remember my sunblock!

Gotta go pack . . . it’s an early day!

Oh, and thank you, everyone for all the kind words. It has been a crazy week but unlike many teachers in California, I’m still employed.  Greg gets home from Boston tomorrow night and life will go on!  Crazy weeks, or no.

Crazy Week

12 Mar

Grandfather's Ties Crazy Quilt - closeup

I searched in my Flickr account for crazy.  This was the first image that came up.  A crazy quilt I did nearly 10 years ago.  I wish my life were this kind of crazy this week.

It all really started last week.  Friday afternoon, my cell phone rang while I was teaching.  The kids and I danced to the song and one kid yelled out, “Isn’t that Rush?  Closer to the Heart?”  Knowing that Greg does NOT call me during the day without reason, I got the kids on a task and checked my phone.  Both a call and a text message.  Yikes.  Text message read:  I am fine.  Truck totalled.

So, we had that to deal with.  He was fine and his sister collected him and his belongings from the wrecking yard.  We love Honda engineering.  When a tanker truck turned from the middle lane in front of him without a turn indicator, the anti-lock brakes, seatbelt, air bags, and crumble zone allowed Greg to walk away without a scratch.

Then he went to Boston and I’ve been running around like crazy.  Weeks only get crazy, hectic impacted for us when Greg is out of town.  Meetings and observations and teaching adult classes and oh-my-god-get-me-off-this-crazy-ride.

It won’t end until I pick Greg up at the airport, Saturday night very late, after being at an outdoor ed training program at Elkhorn Slough to get trained so I can bring field trips through there.

In other news, I had several close encounters with Ravens this week.  One of my students recommended that I write a book that is such a great idea that I am planning to make it my first project this summer.  It involves ravens and school and the ideas are percolating madly right now.

Field Trip Report

22 Oct

The best part of teaching is going on field trips. I do have to warn my students, however, that if cool birds are present, I may stop caring that they are there.  I gave my students permission to say, “Uh, Ms. Miller, please pay attention to me, now!”  Shortly after I took this picture, one of them said just that.  Kids are cute.

Birds at Wilder Ranch

But, pelicans are cuter!  🙂   And don’t get me started on cormorants!  🙂

Trying to keep it positive

3 Oct

Yesterday was a long, long day.  Not a bad day, really but way longer than it needed to be.  There was drama at work (cranky colleagues with a screw the rest of you attitude).  There were injuries.  My very, very dramatic son hurt his finger and really wanted a lot of attention for it.  (Watch, he’ll wake up and it’ll be 3 sizes bigger, purple, and clearly seriously hurt and I’ll feel like a heel.)  Then there was that quintessential mothering moment of staying up late doing something for your child that they should have done on their own but damn it there isn’t enough time and they need the sleep more than you do.

Still, I’m pretty damn proud of my daughter.

Our school does something called Town for the 5th graders.  They get to earn money in their classrooms (fake money, of course).  They get the opportunity to create a Town business if they want to.  My daughter and two of her friends created a bookshop.  They are making journals and selling them.  Ruthie wanted to make comic books and sell them too.  All the other kids get to come and buy the wares of the Town businesses.  Ruth has been addicted to comic books like Garfield and the like.  The amazing thing is that she learned a LOT from reading them.

She drew up her cartoons but in typical Ruth fashion, she eschewed the idea of using pre-printed layouts for her comics, did them on binder paper with her own lines drawn and the like.  Now, to be honest, I love what she came up with but it was messy and hard to read and full of eraser marks and misspellings.  Soooooo, I needed to come up with a solution that helped her do something that looked better but didn’t say, “Wow, honey, all that hard work you did . . . just not good enough!”  I know that kids like Technology best — whatever it is if you tell a kid they can do it on the computer, dang, they are all over it.  So, I went to a site I’d played with a year ago called Toondoo.  And, we had a solution.

Here is Ruth’s first comic strip.  I LOVE it.

Ruth's First Cartoon


Life . . . it’s what happens when you are trying to sleep . . .

25 Sep

So, most people know that being a teacher is a butt-kicking job.  I come home most days absolutely REELING.  Then I have to run my household — cook dinner, check homework, clean something (ha!), keep up with laundry, and all that.  So anything that throws my routine (if you can call it that) off is a serious annoyance.

Yesterday, was an early-out day at our school.  The kids go home around 1pm but we teachers stay and work all afternoon.  These are days when I am very glad my husband works at home (although our on-campus afterschool care program totally steps up and watches my kids for me on those days when he’s otherwise occupied).  Still I honestly thought that I’d be getting home and washing Ruby with the chemical mix I mentioned yesterday before I could cook dinner and all that jazz.

Instead, I came home to excited children tripping over one another to tell me that they had washed the dog.  “We knew you’d be tired after all those meetings, Mom, so we did this for you!”

Talk about a burst of energy.  I’ll say it now — to make it official — I have an awesome husband, an awesome daughter, and an awesome son.

I also still have a stinky dog.  Only a little stinky though so I think I’ll give her one more bath tonight and hopefully we’ll be done with it.  Fingers crossed!

The cold that’s stalking me is waiting for the weekend.  I feel the symptoms coming on a little bit more each day.  Yesterday, it was a sore throat.  The day before, sinus pressure.  We’ll see.  I have decided that if I get really sick, I’m not going camping.  So, I figure it won’t hit until I’m halfway to our campground.  That’s the way life works, right?

On being stalked . . .

23 Sep

At school yesterday, I realized that I was being stalked.  In the copy room in the morning, I could feel the unwelcome presence.  In my classroom, later that day, I sensed something in the room with me.  Everytime I turn around, I get the feeling that something just ducked out of sight.  Behind that pillar, around the corner, but always, always following me.  The footsteps get closer.  Everyone around me has succombed to this stalker . . . do I stand alone?  Am I the last survivor?

Stay tuned to see if I, too, surrender to the first cold of the school year.

Don’t miss iatb!

4 Sep

The amazing Wren at Wrenaissance Reflections is hosting. [click]  I wish I had time to look at it today . . . gonna have to wait for the weekend.  Tonight is Back-to-School night.  Oh joy!  It’s supposed to be well over 90F which means we’ll all be sweating.  Oh well, that’s a good thing . . . they won’t linger then and I can get to at least one of *my* kids’ classrooms!  🙂

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

It’s all just Ducky!

24 Aug


School starts tomorrow.  Am I ready?  Nope.  Will I be ready?  One way or another.  That’s life.  I know there will be an adjustment period for me as I swing back into teaching.  It’s one of those overwhelming jobs that will dominate your life if you let it.  I’m already trying hard not to let it.  I’m trying hard by trying not to take work home with me every single day.  I’m trying hard by making sure that those times when work MUST come home with me that I am scheduling it and letting Greg know about it so that we can plan on it and not have things interfere.  I’m trying hard by trying to take care of myself a little bit.  Yesterday, I went and had a manicure and pedicure and got my hair cut.

My husband said, “Wow.  Those 4th graders are going to be really impressed by your pretty nails.”  I shook my head sadly at him and said, “Honey.  It’s not for the kids . . . it’s for their MOTHERS!”  He doesn’t get the “impress the parents” thing — of course, he wouldn’t be impressed by that so that MIGHT be part of it!  🙂

So, if I’m not around much — please understand that my focus is elsewhere for a little while.  If I am around, then please be very impressed at how under control I am!  🙂 Have a good week, everyone!