Monday, December 22, 2008

Literally Bursting With Excitement

My friends are jazzed. It is almost vacation and it is all they can do to hold it together. I am also barely holding it together as I alternate between panicking over how much I have left to do before the holidays and fantasizing about all that extra sleep...

In my classroom, it is time for wrapping everything up so that we can start fresh in '09. Today I asked Curly Girl (no, not Curly, but one of my new super faves....it just so happens she also has curly hair. Maybe I am curl-ist? Pro-curls? ) to work on a special project at the back of the classroom with Smarty Pants (another girl who I am totally digging lately. I know, what's with all the girls as faves since I typically love the bad boys...). They are independent and basically total rock stars so I knew I could trust them.

The rest of my friends were on the carpet when Smarty Pants enthusiastically raises her hand and says, "We need help!"

Thinking that they just need more paint or something, I say, "What is it?"

Smarty Pants answers, "Curly Girl just peed all over herself and the floor and we need help with the puddle."

Ah, yes. Of COURSE that's the problem. Urine is just what I need to make my tenuous hold on the class' brimming excitement to dissolve into nothing.

Oddly though, no one laughed or said anything. I knew they heard Smarty Pants. So what was the deal? Was this empathy? A mature response? Or perhaps, is no listening to a freaking thing this close to vacation?

As soon as I send the rest of the group back to their seats, I make my way to the back of the classroom to check out Curly Girl and her infamous puddle. Expecting to find her sobbing behind the art center, I am surprised when I see her diligently painting away, with her pants rolled up to her knees to stay out of the puddle, acting as if nothing has happened.

Me: Curly Girl, are you OK? What happened?
Curly Girl: I BURST!
Me: (Trying not to laugh) Why didn't you ask to go to the bathroom?
Curly Girl: I was so into the project that I just didn't.
Me: (Shocked that Curly Girl is handling this better than I am.) What can I do to help you?
Curly Girl: You know anyone who can take care of this? (Indicates puddle of pee.)
Me: Um, yea. (still tyring not to laugh). What can I do for YOU? Do you want to go to the bathroom and I'll call mom?
Curly Girl: Sounds good...let me just finish this up.

And she happily goes back to painting. A couple of minutes later, she cleans off her paint brush, nimbly leaps over her own pee and heads to the bathroom.

When mom arrives with a clean pair of pants, I tell her the story. Mom and I have a good laugh while Curly Girl goes to the bathroom yet again, this time to change her pants. It is close to the end of the day, so I tell her it is OK if she wants to go home with mom. She insists on staying in school, stating, "Hey, it was just a little pee."

Words of wisdom from my little friend that I am going to use to get me through the rest of the holidays. When I am freaking out about not having the right bow, or only getting through the Ws on my Christmas card list, I will think, "hey, it's all just a little pee."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Silver Linings, Whiskers On Kittens and All That Crap...

I heart complaining. I think it's something at which many teachers excel. Yes, we chose to work with children. Yes, we love our jobs. Yes, we love to complain about both our children AND our jobs. (So, get over it!) I don't know what it is about complaining that we love so much...maybe it's the act of venting, or maybe it just feels indulgent to be negative after being so damn positive all day. Whatever it is, we thrive on it.

And gossip.

And chocolate. Complaining, gossip and chocolate. Oh, and kids. Yea, them too.

This week, I had a DOOZY of a situation to complain about. It was like the Mecca of Complaining...the stuff of Champion Complainers' dreams.

Late one morning, the Visionary came into my room with a new student. But not just any new student, a VISITING new student. Why is he just visiting you ask? Well, let me tell you. He's just visiting because he's been suspended from his regular public school and is being sent to our school for five days. (Mind you, the five days before the holiday break in which my job can be likened to keeping the lid on a boiling pot of small child enthusiasm...so yea, awesome timing.)

And that's not even the best part! This new little visiting boy has been suspended from his school for "attacking his teacher" (those are his words not mine.) Evidently the poor woman took a pencil or something away from him when he was being disruptive and that's when the kicking and slapping began. Yea, he's adorable. We won't even get into a discussion here about the ridiculousness of this entire situation. But I would like to say to the person who thought it was a good idea to create a policy in which the children who ATTACK the adults who work tirelessly with them are thoughtlessly placed in OTHER adults' classrooms...sir, you are a total d-bag.

So my friends and I accept this little boy into our fold despite our better judgement because we have no choice. The Visionary comforted me by saying that it would probably be a few days before this kid felt comfortable enough to act out. Evidently, I put kids at ease quickly, because boyfriend started throwing things across the room, barking (you read correctly, I said barking) and hitting other children.

And can I tell you the craziest thing? I don't have any desire to complain.

I know! Shut the front door! Me, not complaining! Pigs flying, fat ladies singing...crazy!

Because I think I may have officially bonded with my class. (Yea, I know it's December...I'm a little slow this year!) It was tough for me after the Dream Class that I had last year (love you Curly!), but I think they have finally broken into my shriveled little heart.

Just like the horribly misunderstood Grinch, my heart grew three sizes in one moment. Suspended Boy had just yelled out some sort of unintelligible something and instantly most of my friends turned around in their seats and gave him a brilliant and quite scathing "What-The-F-Is-Wrong-With-You" look.

And in that moment, I knew we would be okay.

So while deep down (deep deep down in a place far far away), I do feel badly for Suspended Boy because I realize that he goes to a really rough school, probably lives in an even rougher house and most likely has a sad, difficult life...I also know that there is nothing I can do in the next five days to change that. (I shed my Hero complex years ago.) Plus, the kid kicked a teacher...not cool, my friend, not cool. But I have taken comfort in the fact that 1) I did not fall victim to the temptation of complaining in the face of insane odds and 2) my friends and I are closer than I ever thought we would become.

I guess it's all Rainbows and Kittens from now on....

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Getting Hot In Here...

...So Take Off All Your Clothes...or at least strip down to a school- appropriate layer.

Why you ask? Why are we stripping in my classroom? In December?

Because today it was officially 89 degrees in my classroom. Yes, 89. I'm thinking about dressing everyone up in grass skirts and just having a luau. You know, for ha has.

I was snuggled up to a little friend today, chatting about their writing, when I felt beads of sweat rolling down my back. And I thought to myself, "self, WTF, it's December and you're sweating through your SLEEVELESS SHIRT!" I then glanced at the radiator, which was pumping out heat at such an intense level that you could actually see it rising up in front of the windows. Four of which were open. Again, it is December and today it was only 38 degrees outside.

For some reason I will never understand, The Visionary commanded our custodial staff to crank up the heat prior to our parent teacher conferences about two weeks ago. Maybe he wanted to sweat them out, maybe he wanted to show off the radiators, maybe he's trying to lose a few pounds...who knows. All I know is it is freaking hot.

Creeping around my bedroom and picking an outfit at 5:30 in the morning in the dark so Mr. Mimi can sleep is hard enough without throwing in the extra challenge of choosing something that has enough layers to keep me warm on the commute and cool in the classroom. Plus, I have shelf after shelf of fabulous, wooly sweaters (I have a winter birthday...and am on the spoiled side, so seriously, I'm talking about a hideous number of sweaters here) that I have been fantasizing about ever since I decided I was sick of my summer wardrobe.

So now, not only am I mourning my inability to wear my favorite winter wear, but I am also dealing with chronic bloody noses (If you are a student teacher or new to teaching...you need to be real with yourself about the sheer amount and varied types of bodily fluids you are about to encounter..you'll thank me later because no one else will warn you about this stuff.), sleepy children and abandoned sweaters piled up in all corners of the classroom. In the last week alone I have said the phrase, "put your clothes back on" more times than I care to admit as children attempt to strip down to their undershirts.

And every time I picture the germs that must be breeding in our sweltering sweatbox of a classroom, I think I might hurl.

Yesterday I finally thought to ask The Visionary if we could turn down the heat. You know, just a smidge. My request was met with a resounding, "it's either on or off!" which I find very hard to believe since I witnessed a custodian turn it up myself. I mean, if there's an up, there's a down, friend. As I left the office, I heard the secretary mutter under her breath, "those teachers, always complaining."

Nice.

Maybe I'll just turn this negative into a positive and embrace the sweating. You know, I'll sweat off a few holiday pounds and be ready for bikini season by the time June arrives. See? I can be an optimist too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Kingdom For A Parking Space - The Grand Finale

A while back I wrote about the great Parking Wars of 2008 and how our current union representative was as helpful and well, representative of us as a pile of poo. Yea, I said it. If you haven’t yet read those posts, shame on you...but now is you opportunity to go and catch up. We’ll wait...

Long story short, I found it horrifying that not only would I be expected to work in an environment in which 85% of the adults make my job harder, but now I would get to add the joy of searching for parking prior to dealing with said adults. Now I have been one to cruise the block when a good Kanye song comes on, but please, EVERY morning? Uh, no. Just no.

So after much turmoil, bouts of high blood pressure, gossiping and general unprofessional-ness, the parking passes arrived, and in a move of sheer brilliance our principal, The Visionary, laid the smack down on a bunch of douche bags who lied, cheated and stole their way to a new parking pass. Well, they still got passes, but I’m hoping at the very least that they are embarrassed.

Let me back up a bit and explain. When we requested passes at our B.S. meeting with our union representative, we had to submit our names, addresses, and estimated daily mileage. This genius plan resulted in allegedly mature adults lying about possessing a driver’s license, pretending that they own cars and pulling numbers of miles out of their you-know-whats. We even uncovered a plot put in place by our very own union representative so that she would be ensured a parking pass despite the fact that she lives a whopping .5 miles from school. (She had one of the classroom aides request a pass FOR her because this particular woman lives about a billion miles from school, but is dropped off by her husband every day as she does not possess a license herself. Conveniently, we were not require to prove that we hold a valid driver’s license or actually own a car when we requested a parking pass. Perhaps because The Visionary expected everyone to conduct themselves like rational adults...dumbass. I know that sounds harsh, but it had to be said...I mean, he should know better by now. These are the same people who stuff free rolls into their pockets at staff luncheons and excuse their laziness on the job with the Magical Phrase of Losers Everywhere: “that’s not in my contract.” What did he expect them to do??)

Day after day we awaited the arrival of the passes and the culmination of our petty drama. And lo and behold, they arrived (from where, I don’t know... don’t even ask me to get started on that one) and we were all emailed The List of the Lucky 17. In case you are holding your breath, I did get a parking pass. (Go get a cocktail and celebrate...again, we’ll wait. I can always wait for a good champagne coolie or whatever it is you are drinking these days.)

However, in an interesting twist of events, everyone was actually exposed for what an asshat they really are because along with names of the Lucky 17, The Visionary also sent around a chart which included the names of everyone who requested a pass, their REPORTED mileage, their ACTUAL mileage and, my favorite column, the DIFFERENCE between those two numbers.

Shut the front door! (My new favorite expression and way out of cursing...it works best when yelled emphatically. Go on, try it. Feels good, right?)

To give you an example of the glaring d-bag-ness that was revealed, one individual reported that she lives 55 miles away, when in fact her distance from school is a mere 22 miles. Wrong double digits, sweetheart. Another one of my favorites was the group of people who requested a pass, yet live less than one mile from school. LESS THAN ONE MILE. (Go ahead, yell it – SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!)

To wrap it all up, I got a pass. And so did our union representative. (She argued that her seniority was more salient than the fact that some of our newer teachers live 40 or more miles from school.) What can we take away from this little saga? For me, it just shows that small victories are worth celebrating (champagne coolies for everyone...I can still drive to work!) and that there will always be herds of d-bags with whom I will have to deal. But at least sometimes...rare times, EVERYone can see just what d-nuts they really are.

Who's Peeking?