Is Change Ever Good?

I am an assistant principal this year. I am still teaching a couple classes, but my school day is mainly administrative in nature. It’s been a pretty big change for me, but I have to admit that I’ve loved my new role at our fantabulous school. My fellow educators are extraordinary and I am learning an incredible amount from my principal. This role has truly been a gift. I feel the time was right for the change both at school and in my home life. My kids are a little older and a bit more independent. I work incredibly hard, but can still make it to my girls’ events and am in bed at a reasonable time. I can’t say my mind shuts off, but I am in bed.

My students are taking my shift in roles a bit harder. They don’t like it. They are very blunt about the way they feel. They miss me and want me in the classroom. They want me to be theirs. It’s as easy as that. They don’t like that I’m running around the school. They don’t care that there are other children that may need my attention (even when it’s their siblings). They hate it when I am out of the building attending district meetings. They can’t stand when I have to miss class for other duties. They feel abandoned.

I am literally across the hall from Amy’s room and one door down from my old classroom, but I might as well be eighty miles away if I’m not where they want me, when they want me. I walk the halls and some of my kids yell out to me from the classrooms. Some will come after me or joke with me from their seats. They hang out of doorways and linger in the halls. They stand nonchalantly in the office and hold my hand as we walk down the hall. There are times when the guilt lays heavy on my shoulders.

I love my students. I love them….but my professional role in the school has changed. I will ALWAYS be there for them, it’s just that instead of having 150 babies, I now have 500. And that’s okay. Each student is special to me. Each accomplishment that he or she makes warms my heart. Instead of a classroom full of kids, I am lucky enough to have an entire school. I am so lucky. I am so blessed.

So this message is for all of my babies. Always remember that once you’re my babies, you are always my babies.


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Stress

Strange really that such a simple word effects so many of us in so many negative ways. If you ask Amy, I am always stressed. I worry about everything. I can’t stand it. Sometimes I know I’m being ridiculous, but I just can’t help it. I know I’ll have time to go to the store, but what if I can’t? I should probably stress over it, right?

Why do we do it? Why do we tax our minds continuously over things we can’t change. I preach this same mantra over and over to my kids. I hate it when I notice my children stressing. I feel their stress. I internalize their stress. I suffer their stress with them. But why? What do my daughters really have to be stressed about? They are loved beyond words. I listen to them no matter the time of day or night (usually right about the time I’m drifting off to sleep). My husband and I are in a loving and dedicated relationship which should offer them security. We attend sports functions, school meetings, and just about every activity a girl can be in. For gosh sakes, I even coach volleyball! I’m afraid of the ball!!! Yet my daughters all suffer from some form of stress. My honor student breaks down in tears when faced with a B+ which I personally feel is a great accomplishment. My college student breaks out over the change, and although she did move away, she’s twenty minutes away from my parents and sister. My fifth grader suffers from stomach aches and the need to confess every minor misdemeanor when grade cards are about to be released. Why is this constant worry, stress, and anxiety necessary?

As an educator stress runs rampant down our halls. Students throw up at the thought of giving a presentation. Headaches, stomach aches, and rashes are daily symptoms that children complain over in the office. I’ve watched children visibly shut down when a test is placed in front of them. Kindergarteners break down sobbing and run out of the room when they realize their families are leaving for the day. We have eighth graders pushing away from trusted teachers when graduation looms near. Even though stressors have been in existence for years, why are they so prevalent? Why haven’t we cured the disease of stress?

I’m going on strike against stress. I am going to stop myself from worrying. I am going to stand up for my right to be content and happy. I will do it.

Oh no…I think I’m stressed about not stressing.


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Last year we had several students who were struggling with behavior in the lower school. At our school we often have teachers or other responsible upper school kiddos that check in on those students who need a little extra tender loving care. Life is hard so we do whatever we can to help our kids feel loved.

Last year I had two exceptional eighth grade African American boys who often stepped up and helped out. Ja’Mal would take attendance when I had a sore throat, would carry heavy things, or he would get items down from high shelves that my short self could not. ¬†Shedarion always was willing to help. Sometimes it was almost annoying because he would be late to class or leave in the middle to check on someone. These two boys were “buddies” to the younger students all year. They would eat lunch with them if necessary, or help with classwork, or even just play a game of hoops with them. It did help with the negative behaviors immensely.

If you have read our posts lately you know that we have had several tragically sad weeks due to unexpected deaths of several of our students’ parents. At times like these it is sometimes hard to find the right words to show the students how heartbroken you are for them. Well, Shedarion knew exactly what to do. He showed up at the funeral, went right to his “buddy” held his hand and sat with him to give him strength. I am smiling just thinking about it. What a tender thing for a 14 year old boy to do. What character it took, how proud I am of him.

Now, I realize that those life lessons really do make a difference and do carry a lifelong impression on these boys. Isn’t that we are about, making better citizens, one amazing student at a time?

 


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I have been thinking lately…I know – dangerous. But, I have been thinking. In high school I dated a guy named Carlos (Hi Carlos!). He was from Puerto Rico and he came to Pittsburgh, PA for his years in high school. His native language was Spanish (of course) and he had a few friends at our school who also came from Puerto Rico, so he had lots of occasions to speak his native tongue on a daily basis.

When Carlos entered high school he did not speak much English. He was very quiet and he stayed within his comfort zone with his peers. Little by little he acquired confidence in speaking English with his fellow classmates. He was very involved in basketball (and very good) so this strength helped him make friends and develop a safety net of peers. He and his friends were an obvious presence in the school and because of their kindness, senses of humor, and coolness, they were accepted. The girls liked them too, so this also helped.

Although Carlos came from an educated family back in Puerto Rico (I believe his dad was a doctor), he still had some struggles with his work. The high level of academic vocabulary proved a challenge and the difficult concepts, all introduced in English, created a chasm of confusion.

Carlos was an ELL student.

I never thought of my first serious boyfriend as an ELL student. He was suave and a great dancer. He was kind and considerate and a great athlete. But…he struggled in his academics because of the language barrier.

So this brings me back to my kids in school. They are so lucky because they are coming to us at such a young age. Although they speak Spanish at home (so did Carlos when he went back to Puerto Rico for the summer), they are thrown into a new culture every single day. They live the English language during the school hours and although they still have the comfort of their Spanish speaking peers, they have a ton of interactions with English speakers daily.

It takes about seven years for ELL students to catch up to their English speaking peers. This is a lot of instructional time to make up. Carlos and his friends weren’t thrown into an English speaking world until high school. How difficult this must have been for them! No wonder they struggled.

I wonder how many teachers of older ELL students think of this. How many take the language barrier into consideration while grading English grammar papers, research papers, and while they are grading tests? How many can see through the language barriers to notice the intelligence, bravery, and fortitude these children must possess on a daily basis to enter the classroom on a daily basis? It is time to notice. It is time to scaffold learning at EVERY grade level. It is time to look at the individual student instead of the test scores. It is time!


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So Tired

I’ve been so tired lately. I can’t pinpoint the reason why. I’ve thought about it, I’ve tried to go to sleep on time, and I’ve been exercising. I can’t seem to figure out the problem.

Stress – Darn it….that must be it. I don’t feel stressed really. Nothing more than usual. I work – a lot.

I am balancing my administrative and teaching duties. I am truly loving the new position. I love getting out into the school more and inside the classrooms. The teachers in our building are incredibly dedicated and their love of the students show. I’m enjoying working with my principal and learning from the best. We do paperwork together, brainstorm ideas and solutions, and share possible solutions for behavior problems. The teachers come to me and I am so happy they seem to feel comfortable with me and ask for my input. And the kids….well, I just adore the little ones! They make my day! I am getting to know them and that helps to relieve my tension.

Amy and I are striving to complete our book series. We have two more books within the series, although we would like to add a supplemental picture dictionary for hard words and a teacher’s guide. The illustrations and edging towards completion on the firs four books and then layout. We cannot wait for the books to hit the shelves. We are looking forward to author visits and signings! We’ve recently had a few professional developments in the Ohio area and just loved meeting the dedicated educators. We have one more coming up in November for OCEA.

My home life is good except I miss my first born, darn college! I’m coaching volleyball for my youngest and my middle is involved in just about everything. I’m doing pretty well on keeping up with everything – every birthday party, sporting event, and school meetings. My husband is a gem and I even still like him after 20 years. Always a good thing.

So what is it????? I just want to close my eyes!!!! Not sure, but I will keep plugging on. My kids need me and honestly, I need them. But….a nap would be good.


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