Thursday, December 31, 2009

Going For It in 2010

All right, y'all...I'm going to do it. Or at least try to do it. (Like that disclaimer right up front? Doesn't do a whole lot to inspire confidence, does it?) I am going to post every day in January.

HOLLLLAAAAA!

The NaBloPoMo theme for January is BEST. I will try to be at mine. (And here comes another disclaimer...) But I can't promise anything since I've never had the cajones to even attempt posting every day. I'm thinking "Best of My Blog" posts, "Best of the Worst" (meaning people I've worked with posts), "Best of the Blogs" (meaning other people's), "Best of the Friends" (meaning my little ones)....I think you get the point. I hope you're excited. I think I am.

Why am I doing this now? I guess all of a sudden I realized, dude...I'm not in the classroom this year, what the hell am I doing with my time? Because as many of you know, nothing trumps the uber-productivity of a teacher during the school year. I am going to try to recapture some of this teacher mojo by making several public promises right here. Right now. (It's on.)

In 2010 I WILL:

1. Finish my freaking dissertation and make all of you refer to me as Dr. Mimi. That's right...it may not last forever, but probably until the student loan bills are paid off (a.k.a. forever).

2. Post more often, hence this NaBloPoMo insanity.

3. Comment more on all of your fabulous blogs. After two plus years of blogging myself, I am still a sucker for watching that comment number grow bigger and bigger (along with my ego) and so I will try to do the same for you. Try.

4. Attempt to remain relevant and hilarious.

5. Launch a fabulous website a la Mrs. Mimi style. (I'm not sure what "a la Mrs. Mimi style" truly means except that this site will be kick-ass amazing and you won't know how you lived without it previously. WATCH OUT! Clearly more to come on this...)

6. Oh yea, and have a baby. You know, in my spare time.

And I guess I should include my perpetual resolution as number 7: Be more positive. This has not always gone very well for me in the past (as is evidenced in this post here and this one over here.

Oh, and one more...just for luck or whatever. Number 8: I hope to publish another book. Notice the word "hope". It is an important one.

So there you have it. I have made a commitment and I have made it public. Now let's see if I can keep it.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Think I May Be Losing It

And no, I am not referring to my sanity - I got away from the Bacon Hunter, remember? And I'm certainly not talking about pounds - hey, it's the holidays aaaannnddd....you might want to take a closer look at the old avatar of Mrs. Mimi there in the sidebar.

What I'm talking about is my ability to give directions. You see, the other night, the usually fabulous and ever helpful Mr. Mimi (I got one of the good ones, girls.) and I were finishing up the Christmas cards. I know, you're all falling over from shock that I was recieving any help in the first place, but rest assured, I had already written, addressed and stamped over 100 cards on my own. One might say I was a well-oiled card writing machine at this point. Turn on an old episode of the Golden Girls in the background and I can get anything accomplished! Anyhow, Mr. Mimi volunteered to help me with the last few. Since I have teacher handwriting and he, well he does not, I wrote the cards and he was stuffing and stamping. I had organized and incorporated him into my system. Yet somehow, after three cards, we were already falling apart - cards had been stuffed recklessly into any envelope, rather than the envelope that the card was tucked into and therefore cards that read Dear Donna were stuffed in envelopes addressed to Ron. Christmas card system = fail.

Was it me? Have I lost my ability to give clear directions and organize a project? Normally, my family (Mr. Mimi at the lead) usually bristles when I speak to them like they are eight years old. I say it comes with the territory. But this new breakdown in communication has made me wonder...am I losing it? I mean, I am the woman who once was able to coordinate twenty energetic little bodies to create murals...work in centers...put on a freaking assembly!

I'm off to the mall despite all the snow. I have to go do a test drive of my teacher look...I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Egg Nog, Vacation and Freebies, Oh MY!

If you're like me, you've been spending all your free time running around to various malls, shopping plazas, and speciality stores in search of the perfect gift(s) and literally vomiting money along the way. Seriously, it's like we can't give it away fast enough. I'm waiting for the sad little magnetic strip on the back of my debit card to just give up and quit from overuse. After last weekend, I could swear I saw it smoking as I put it back in my wallet. Today alone I went to the Post Office (something I relish being able to do during the day because when I was in the classroom the post office seemed like a far away distant land that was literally impossible to get to...) and spent $44 on festive holiday stamps. $44! That means 100 holiday cards people! 1.0.0. In my opinion, that is a freaking lot...I mean, I had to trade in for the flat! (That's a little teacher Base-Ten block humor for you non-teacher types.)

This is also the time of year when I feel beyond stressed out. I always manage to get my Christmas shopping done early (hate me yet?) but also manage to leave all the wrapping/bowing/tagging until the last minute. Hence, cut to me in a frantic frenzy of wrapping paper scraps, stray pieces of tape and no freaking idea where the damn scissors are even though I saw them just a second ago! When I was teaching, I used to feel such intense panic at how much I had to get done at home AND at work that I sometimes caved and took a personal day. Or a mental health day. Whatever you want to call it. Call it a-day-to-get my-shit-together-so-I don't-stand-in-the-middle-of-my-classroom-and-just-start-screaming....it is what it is.

Ah, the joys of the holiday season. Kids hanging from the ceiling lights, you desperately trying to wrap things up while also getting everything ready for January so that you don't have to bring it home over the break and your school's tech/AV guy wondering why suddenly everyone is in desperate need of a TV/DVD player/child-appropriate and possible holiday themed movie. (I'll give you a hint Tech/AV guy - it's because teachers just can't take it anymore. Yeah, that's right, it rhymes with "shmurnt out".)

And then there's that last day before vacation....perhaps it's a half day or perhaps you've been cursed with a full day of teaching. I myself had to teach a full day on the 23rd of December. Every. Single. Year. Really that day is just a chocolate/holiday cookie fueled frenzy of waiting. Maybe you've had a little holiday party, maybe your friends brought you some gifts (If you've never heard the story of the Most Inappropriate Gift For A Teacher Ever, click here. I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with Shmee-shtring.), maybe you've had a lovely day together. Sometimes the best days are when everyone has their guard down. However, it is now 3:00. The kids are done, you are done, the requisite holiday craft is glittered and dry and in their bags and it is time to go! (Although because I am such a total dork, I always take one last longing look at my classroom before I shut out the lights...and after that moment, I turn off the lights and take off running!)

I have a hunch about you though. I have a hunch that many of you have a Winter Break To Do List that is a mile long. Raise your hand if you do.

I knew it!

May I be so bold and add a few items?

1. Have a LOT of Christmas-y cocktails and holiday Starbucks drinks. Nothing beats a booze infused egg nog or a gingerbread latte. Nothing.
2. Sleep.
3. Get a pedicure. Or a manicure. Or something for yourself that makes you feel good.
4. And, even though I know we want to leave our classrooms far behind, sometimes it feels good to get ahead. (It's a sick sick reality for us teachers, isn't it?) If you're feeling broke or just want some inspiration, TeachHub is giving away over 500 lesson plans FOR FREE until January 18th!! The lessons themselves are inspired by pop culture or current news headlines, plus they are aligned to national teaching standards and could be just the thing to spice up your already fabulous teaching! Check them out, make them your own and be on top of your game when it's time to make your way back to work. Hey, they're free, they're good and you can look at them while catching up on back episodes of Grey's Anatomy in your pajamas on the couch. Sounds good to me! Plus, you can check out some of my other writing while you're over there...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ah, Sweet Sweet Efficiency

In the spirit of the title of the post, I'll keep this one short but sweet...

Guess what I got in the mail yesterday?

Go ahead...guess!

Got it in your head yet?

I got...you ready? I got brand new insurance cards paid for by the lovely Department of Education from which I resigned SIX MONTHS AGO! Evidently, I am still covered. Which, in my mind, means that the DOE is still paying for me to have coverage. Coverage that I haven't used and wouldn't use because a) I don't work there anymore and b) I canceled six months ago by resigning.

Now some people have labeled me a "complainer." And that is fine. You say complaining, I say "telling the truth about things that no one else (besides other teachers) wants to acknowledge and therefore you (non-teacher) find intimidating because (gasp) teachers are only supposed to smile and hand out stickers while playing their acoustic guitar." (And I'd say all that in one big breath. So there.) We'll just go with "complainer" for now since it's shorter and easier to type. In the past, I have complained about not always having the stuff I needed to teach my friends. (Let's see here, here, here and here. Maybe I am a complainer plain and simple...) Although in all honesty, we had a lot of stuff when compared to other schools. And if I'm really being honest, the stuff does not replace good teaching but it certainly helps. A lot. But that's a blog post for another day.

Regardless, schools are certainly not places where money should be wasted. I think we can all agree on that. I'm pretty sure the money spent to insure my health could be better spent on ANYTHING besides a former employee who has no intention of using said coverage.

To a teacher, that type of waste is unfathomable. And as I type that, I'm thinking of one of my Super Colleagues in particular. You see, I worked with one Super Colleague who refused to waste ANYTHING. (The end result often meant that her closets and shelves made have organizational panic attacks, but whatever, girlfriend had EVERYTHING and was willing to share.) This is a woman who saved old tuna fish cans to use for erasers, always had a minimum of 3 dozen toilet paper tubes on hand, had a basket for "miscellaneous crafts" which contained assorted sequins, rosettes and cut out stars and, for some reason I can't understand, continued to save miles of that velcro tape - you know, the kind that's sticky on one side? Now that stuff can totally come in handy and is great to have, but my Super Colleague had miles of just one side....the rough side...and she insisted on saving it because someday, SOMEDAY, she might happen upon the other side and God forbid she had recklessly thrown out these miles in a feng shui fit of insanity. I mean, talk about knowing how to save a dollar!! While I hadn't yet achieved the hoarding capabilities of my Super Colleague, I definitely packed away old crayons, scraps of paper and cardboard and a hodge podge of markers every year with the rationale, "I might need it someday and then I won't have to go to the store." (Of course, MY hoarded spoils were kept in color coded labeled tubs, but hey, that's just me...)

So please, DOE, PLEASE! Cancel my health insurance!! There are teachers out there frantically saving egg cartons, muffin tins and old soup cans in an effort not to spend their entire pay checks on their classrooms....do it for them. Just do it for them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's Your Sleep Number?

And no, by asking you what your "sleep number" is, I"m not implying that the good people at Sleepys have gotten to me with their hilarious and adorable little sheep, flooding me with cash to pimp their goods. That's not it at all. I mean, geez, I still haven't heard from the geniuses at Sharpie and I am 100% ready, willing and able to Pimp. Them. Out. With a capital P. (Call me.) Yet as I wait for that call, Mr. and/or Mrs. Sharpie, please know that my devotion to you and your products remains unwavering. Unwavering.

By using the term "sleep number" in this post I'm actually referring to the number of days you brilliant teachers have until you get a good night's sleep (a.k.a. the number of school days left between now and the first day of your vacation). It's a funny thing...we love our jobs and feel lucky to go to a place we find so challenging and full of energy each and every day yet, at any given time, we can tell anyone the exact number of days until our next day off. Is that weird? I never quite understood that whole love-hate thing, but whatever, I guess it just comes to the territory. (Again, this is NOT a place for ANYONE especially NON-TEACHERS to make some sort of douche bag remark about teachers and days off. If you even feel tempted to utter such words, stop reading immediately and meditate on why you are so bitter that you must rip on teachers. What does that say about YOU, hmmmmm?) (Like how I turned the tables there? If that doesn't work, I shall swear to chase after teacher nay-stayers with a big old stick. Now that I'm not in the classroom and faced with the daily task of working on my dissertation in isolation, I can find the time.) (Yes, that is a threat.)

Maybe it's something particular about the holiday season that makes us feel the need to cross our days off on the calendar with a big old fat X. (Most likely done with a fantastic new Sharpie...See how I just worked that in there oh-brilliant-leaders-of-Sharpie? Seriously, I'm here and waiting by the phone.) I mean, to me dealing with my friends during the holiday season always felt a bit like keeping the lid on a boiling pot. A boiling pot of crazy that is. You see, the holiday season brings with it many issues that a classroom teacher must deal with that do not include a) making progress in math, b) silent reading time or c) getting anything productive done. Now that I think about it, maybe it's because the kids have their own mental calendars and are also counting down the days. Hmmmm....my giant ego never let that thought occur to me before. Huh.

Regardless, with the holidays come furtive discussions about the existence of Santa (I come down heavily on the side of letting them believe as long as possible...they were only 7 and 8 years old after all). These discussions can often turn into hot headed debates and, on a bad day, disillusionment-fueled fighting. During which I'm supposed to be teaching geography. Riiiiight.

Also with the holidays come whispered conversations about wish lists, the occasional Toys R Us insert casually shoved into the back of the desk where they thought I wouldn't see it (I SEE EVERYTHING FRIENDS), and general distraction. Kids are allowed to stay up later for some reason, they are taken on shopping trips with their families that send them into a tizzy for days and are most likely being stuffed with the same holiday treats that are causing me to gain a few myself. All in all, it's no party in the classroom.

What's worse, is that many of us work in environments where the drum was always beating - move on, make progress, keep going, don't stop for anything....

Teachable moment? Forget about it! Move on.
Opportunity for a moment of fun and classroom community bonding? Insanity! Must get to next math lesson...
Ability to let kids be kids every once in a while? Never!

Between the kids being nutty and the Powers That Be forcing us to press onward (like the good little soldiers that we are), the holiday season can feel impossible. Try to take a moment and enjoy yourself and your friends. Just shut the door, turn of the lights and have a math lesson handy in case someone walks in. But that's just me.

How many days until YOUR vacation again?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quick Moment to Pimp...

No, it's not Sharpies this time. (Although they are still amazing and on my Christmas list - a girl can never have too many. Plus, now that I have my own book to sign and have spent many hours crafting posts about them, I feel as if I need to have one on me at all times which means in EVERY bag I own.)

This time I am pimping out fellow writer and friend Roxanna Elden who wrote the book See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. Basically, this book rocks. Roxanna, who is hilarious (Dave Barry gave a quote for the front of her book y'all...that qualifies as officially sanctioned funny in my book), gives practical, manageable, do-able advice for new teachers. She talks about things like how to set up your "piles and files", how to manage all the procedural paperwork and friends, there's even a before school starts shopping list. A LIST! You know I was sold when I saw that the book included actual lists.

Now while this book was most likely intended to help new teachers who feel as if their world is crumbling around them and have made an awful mistake deciding to work in a school (I mean, as Roxanne says, "One part of being a great teacher is learning to function in a dysfunctional environment." ), it is also relevant for us who have "been around the block" so to speak. Roxanne includes passages of her own insight (again hilarious AND thought provoking) as well as straight forward survival tips - we could all use a little bit of that from time to time now, couldn't we?

So, long story short, check out her book and/or spend some time on her website.

And scene on the pimp squad. For now...

Oh- and on a semi-related note, I FINALLY added some new picture books to my widget in the sidebar. (That is all kinds of a crazy sentence, but it's true. Check them out!)

Who's Peeking?