Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Cow Says Moo...

(Disclaimer for the lovely male readers of this blog:  While I know that I routinely refer to high heels, I try to make this blog for all teachers, not just us fabulous lady teachers.  However, today's post is a bit personal, a bit lady-centric and a bit...well, it's about pumping.  So, read on or check back tomorrow...thanks for reading!  The world needs more fab male teachers!!)

I know I've been on this personal blogging kick lately where it's all about me, but I promise you, I am not turning into a mommy blogger.  Not that there's anything wrong with mommy blogging - I read a few myself - but I will forever be a teacher blogger.  After I get this off my chest.

For a profession filled, BRIMMING really, with women, why does finding the time and place to pump feel like I'm trying to climb Mount Everest with nothing but a guide book and my best smile?  Other people have offices with doors that lock or lovely bathrooms with plugs or, in the fanciest of family friendly work places, whole ROOMS dedicated to pumping related needs.

It is the stuff of a new mom's dreams.

And not only do I have to figure this out once, I have to figure it out in every.  single.  school.  That means having the semi-uncomfortable conversation over and over and over.

Me: So, I have a seven month old baby at home and... (indicating pump with a brief but casual nod)
Them: Yes?
Me: I need toooo....(more forceful glance at my Medela-desperately-trying-to-masquerade-as-a-handbag-but-really-is-fooling-no-one)
Them: (kind smile)
Me: If you have a bathroom with a plug, I need to...
Them: Yes?
Me: Pump. I need to pump my breasts.

Okay, so maybe I leave off that last part, but MAN!  AWK-WARD!

And while every administrator has been extremely accommodating and lovely, I feel like this conversation presents a new problem for them to solve.  How is this possible with so many women?  I can't be the only educator to pump.

(It's like at my old school - when someone would need maternity coverage.  There was no plan in place and every pregnancy seemed to be treated as if it was this new and unexpected obstacle in a building filled with women in their late twenties and early thirties.) 

I have found myself in many an interesting place trying to balance a pump, bottles, my lady parts and all the other necessary accoutrement in between rushing to classrooms.

Cut to me in a supply closet pumping by the light of the microwave oven.

Or to me pumping in the copy room, squatting next to the photo copier because the only available outlet is behind said copier and the cord on my pump will only reach so far all while praying that the chair I wedged underneath the doorknob with no lock will stall any individual with copying needs long enough for me to put it all away.

Or to me running out to my car, hoping against hope that the windows are tinted enough to protect the innocent eyes of any little friends arriving late to school.

Teachers and mommies.  We are rockstars.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Transitions...No, Not the Lenses

Yesterday I wrote about my work putting together classroom libraries.  And many of you wrote saying things such as, "Seriously, woman, what the heck are you doing  these days??"  Perhaps not in those words, but I hear you loud and clear.  I have been a bit vague on that front.

I'm vague because it's hard. 

I find change to be difficult.  Overwhelming.  Holy-shit-I-have-to-make-a-list-right-now-before-I-have-a-full-blown-panic-attack hard.  Okay, maybe not change itself, but the transition part that comes in between.  That is what sends me into a tizzy.  (Can you tell I'm desperately trying to clean up my language?  A resolution I may soon abandon.)

I wrote about leaving the classroom and how devastating it was to realize that I wouldn't have a group of friends smiling at me every morning and really, without that, a huge chunk of who I am felt like it was just gone.  (And for what it's worth, I received an overwhelming amount of support from all of you that I can never thank you enough for.)

Last year I threw myself into finishing my dissertation, writing, staying up to date on education news and ripping it to shreds on the blog, thinking about what the heck I was going to do next and, oh right.  And having a baby. 

So.  Many.  Transitions.

Right before Mini Mimi came along, I was given the fabulous opportunity to work with an amazing group of people as a literacy consultant.  I get to think about curriculum, see a million different classrooms, build relationships with teachers who are excited about growing, work with children who are excited about their learning and think with a group of women who I have grown to admire and aspire to.

Pretty sweet, right?

But, oh!  The transitioning!  Learning how to balance being a mommy, figuring out a new job, finishing up the old dissertation (yes, it is still lurking), finding time to blog, and every once in a while have time for myself or Mr. Mimi has rocked my high heeled wearing self to my very core. 

So much re-prioritizing, so much transitioning, so much list making. 

I am feeling much more like myself these days.  (Um, only took me what?  FIVE MONTHS to get my shit together?)  But there are always days when I feel so scattered and pulled in a million directions that I'd like to take Mini Mimi and just lay down. 

Now it's less about transitioning into a set of new roles and more about transitioning from role to role during the course of a week.  Leaving Mini Mimi to go to a school makes me feel physically ill.  Like someone cut my leg off or something.  I spend the entire drive trying to talk myself off the ledge and psych myself up for the day - because if I'm going to be away from her, I've got to make it count, right? 

Then I get to the school, jump in and find myself actively thinking how lucky I am.  I love my work.  It's challenging, yes (Cut to me putting Band Aids on my ten ho-jillion paper cuts after endlessly dotting book after book after book...I know, I'm still trying to get over it).  But I am so engaged in my work that when it's time to go, I find the transition just as difficult.  I spend the drive home with my mind racing about next steps, what I need to get done after bedtime and trying to transition back into being mommy. 

And yesterday, I realized.  It's not all the change.  It's the transition that's hard.  The in between time when I have to leave one thing I leave to dive in with something else that I love but feels so very different and comes with a whole new set of demands and challenges. 

Are all you parents out there just shaking your heads and thinking, "We told  you this would happen?"

Anyway, thanks for letting me vent.  Time to take off my Mrs. Mimi hat and put on my mommy hat. 

(Again, what's with me and the hat references?) 

Let's try this - off to take off Mrs. Mimi's fabulous heels and rock my mommy flats.  (Yea, I said flats.  I know, change is hard.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Blood, Sweat, Tears and Many, Many, MANY Dots

Of all the non-teachers in my life, Mr. Mimi really does seem to understand the life of a teacher as well as any non-teacher can.  The ups!  The downs!  The rants, the raves, the late nights, the so not 8-3 and summers off life that we live as teachers.  I really believe that spouses of teachers....wait supportive spouses of teachers deserve a trophy, a medal, some sort of bonus - anything for being the sounding boards that they are.  Seriously, Mr. Mimi is a troooooooper.

And then this happened:

Me: Ugh! 
Him: (continues to read his email)
Me: UGH!
Him: (still reading email)
Me: (clearing throat to maximize volume) UGGGGHHHHH!
Him: Something wrong?
Me: Oh, what? With me?  Where did you get that? 
Him: Seriously?
Me: Well, since you asked.  I am exhausted!  I have spent the last few days trapped in a room putting together classroom libraries.
Him: You love books.
Me: Yeah, but...I mean, this is intense!  Box after box after box...and they all have to be checked in, leveled, labeled, sorted...it's insane!
Him: You love organizing.
Me: True.  But this was A LOT even for me.
Him: You almost have a doctorate and find putting dots on a bunch of books challenging?
Me: Wait, I'm not sure you understand.  We're talking about at least a thousand books.  Every single book has to get a dot, every single dot needs to have a piece of packing tape put over it so the kids don't pick it off.  Every.  Single.  Book.  Do you see my fingers?  I have literally bled all over that room!
Him:  It still doesn't sound like a hard day...
Me: We need to stop talking now.

People can sympathize with the behavioral issues.  They can sympathize with the hours of grading papers.  They can try and understand how unappreciated teachers are.  They can feel for our early wake up times.  They can. 

But I don't think any non-teacher will truly understand how much time and energy teachers spend organizing, cleaning, lifting, moving, hanging, stapling, taping, cutting, running, bending, wiping and basically doing anything and everything that needs to be done.  Whether it feels professional, in our job description or even clean.  We just roll up our sleeves and get it done.

So, to all my teacher peeps who are not only killing it every day in front of their friends and then doing more behind the scenes work than a group of four eager interns who are literally working for their next meal, I take my hat off to you. 

Although I don't really do hats...

Can I salute you with a fabulous high heel?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We're All Winners...

...I mean, look at all this brilliant cocktail party small talk!

If you don't know of what I speak, you should probably be reading the blog more regularly.  (Oh, no she di-n't!)  (Oh, yes she did!)  Last week, I reviewed a killer book annnndddd because the peeps over at Little Pickle Press are amazing, I was able to give a book away to one of my fabulous readers!

But, really?  Even if you aren't the big winner, I think we can all consider ourselves winners because of the heaps of deliciously random information you all generously shared in the comments section.

Seriously, you need to get yourself a glass of something interesting and snuggle up with these comments.  If you're having one of those weeks, Mrs. Mimi's got your back.  Here are a few highlights, some of my faves, in no particular order:

* Did you know that wombat poop is shaped like a cube? (You know I had to go with a bodily function-related one, right?)

* It has been said that when you die, your hair will still continue to grow for a couple of months. (This one totally creeped me out and made me want to get a hair cut all at the same time...)

*  The cleft between your nose and top lip is called a philtrum. (I love odd words that have the potential to make people blush because they sound a little naughty.)

* Goose poop every six minutes. ('Nuff said.  You will be the life of the party.)

* Caterpillar poo is called "frass".  (Many poop related fun facts...it's like you guys know me or something.)

* A blue whale's heart is the size of a Volkswagon bug.

* Baby puffins learn how to fly by throwing themselves off of a cliff over the ocean. If they fly, great. If not, they just plunge into the ocean, swim back to shore, and try again later. (And I have had friends who are afraid to try a new vegetable.  They would make terrible puffins.)

So you see, we have all won some brilliant cocktail party conversation stoppers. Yay, us!


However, if you are iteachthereforeiam, CONGRATULATIONS!  You entered random comment #36 which was the lucky number pulled up on the random number generator!  (I've been trying to link the stupid image of the random number thingy for the last ten minutes with no success, so you're just going to have to trust me, dear readers!)

iteachthereforeiam, please email me (itsnotallflowersandsausages (at) gmail (dot) com) your information so we can send that book out asap!

Drinks all around!

Monday, January 17, 2011

What Do Cocktails, Brain Power and a Give Away All Have In Common?

Being an elementary school teacher means having a lot of random knowledge about fairly odd topics.  Topics that most adults know little to nothing about, since they haven't really thought about these topics since, well....since they were in elementary school.  In other words, teachers make for pretty rad guests at a cocktail party - we are small talk machines!

Scene - A holiday cocktail party.  A fire is lit, drinks are flowing and, natch, I have on fabulous heels.
Me: Did I hear you all mention the beautiful snowfall we just had?  Well, funny thing about snowflakes...

(10 minutes later.  Same party.)
Me: Did you say you're going diving while on vacation?  How fun!  You know, an octopus is able to camouflage itself to blend in with it's surroundings, so be careful for those!

(10 minutes later.  Same party)
Me: What have I been reading lately?  Hmmmm....does Mo Willems count?  I just finished his Elephant and Piggy series - genius!

Okay, so maybe not the coolest party talk ever.  But, if the crowd is a sucker for pee jokes or a good fart story - man, talk about my wheel house!  I don't know a teacher who doesn't have a good bodily fluids story on hand at all times.

I was just thinking the same thing!  We are a fun bunch.

I don't think we can help it.  After teaching about the ocean, or seasonal change or soil for so many years, these facts and ideas become ingrained in our brains and it's almost impossible to hold them in.  I guess you have to be a bit of a Nerdy McLikesToReadToLearn to be a teacher.

Speaking of reading to learn....

(Cue the pimping!!)

Little Pickle Press has a fab new non-fiction text for all of you out there who want to refresh those non-fiction libraries, integrate a new book into your teaching repertoire or just expand their cocktail party conversation.

It's  Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak of The Deak Group.  I checked out an advanced copy of this puppy and really enjoyed it.



In a nutshell, it teaches children that their brains control what they think, do, feel and remember.  Not only does the book diagram and explain various parts of the brain, it encourages children to be brave, practice, learn from their mistakes and make connections.  Um, hello, lover!

Obvi, one could integrate this book into a study on the brain, the human body, etc.  That's a no-brainer!  (Pun SO intended.)  However, I think teachers could also use portions of this text to discuss the importance of being comfortable with making mistakes in school, practicing a difficult skill to improve or being brave enough to try something that feels scary at first.  All very important lessons and this book could absolutely be a great conversation starter.

Get ready for a give away!!!

(drum roll, please)

Little Pickle Press is giving Mrs. Mimi a copy of Your Fantastic Elastic Brain to give away to a lucky reader!  Cha-ching, people, cha-ching.  Sooooo....here's how to enter to win a copy:

* In the comments section, post the most random fact you know (and sometimes bring out at cocktail parties) as a result of your time in the classroom.
** I'll use a random number generator (fair is fair) to pick the winner!
***You have until Friday, January 21st to enter!  I'll announce the winner on Monday, January 24th.
****Be random!

If you simply can't wait for the contest winner to be announced, head over to the Little Pickle Press Book Store and enter code BBTMIMI for 25% off this book. (Can I get a high five, or what?)

And, if you want to double down, click over to the Little Pickle Press Blog to enter to win a whole bag of amazing books for your classroom.  Fab titles, my friends, fab titles.


Scene - a cocktail party.  Again, the heels are amaze balls.

Me: Speaking of headaches,  do you know where your amygdala is?  'Cuz I do.

Life of the party people, life of the party.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Perhaps We've Confused "Innovation" With "Insanity"

When I saw this item in the paper this morning, I thought it was a joke.  A tongue in cheek commentary on education innovation.  And then I had another sip of my coffee and realized this is no joke...some (Pardon me.) ass clown (He may be a lovely person, but c'mon!!!) thought it was a great idea to stick 60 small children in one classroom with four teachers.  

I mean, WHAT?!  Not only does the idea of 60 first graders running rampant in a 2,000 square foot classroom make me want to poke myself in the eye, it kind of makes me angry.  Because OF COURSE this "little experiment" is taking place in a low-income neighborhood with a high population of children with physical, emotional and learning issues.  OF COURSE IT IS.  You know, because those are totally the kids who have a year or two to spare in their learning.

Again, WHAT?!

I think this little friend, who was quoted in the article, summed it up best when she said, "We don't know what we are supposed to be doing, but we are learning about math."  Girlfriend doesn't know what to do because her poor teacher is running around like a chicken with it's head cut off just trying to keep order, much less do any actual instructing.  Do you just want to run to this school, scoop this child up and teach her how to tell time??  (And maybe hand the teacher a big old drink?)

What is the logic behind this insanity?

Evidently, Mr. Waronker (I'm envisioning suit guy with a power tie...maybe a clip board...) says his "inspiration" (How can I NOT put it in air quotes?) was an elite boarding high school in New Hampshire where students work collaboratively in small classes.

Um, how did we get from an elite group of high school students working in small groups to a whole shitload of primary grade children in a high poverty neighborhood running around all Lord of the Flies style? 

I imagine this is how the conversation went:

Mr W:  I'm feeling innovative today.  This tie really brings out my innovative side.
Some other guy: What are you thinking?
Mr. W.: Well, I'm thinking why listen to all the research on small class size?  Why consider the effectiveness of small group instruction that is differentiated to meet a student's needs?  Why worry about the sanity or potential efficacy of teachers?
Some other guy:  I'm listening....
Mr. W: Okay, okay, I'm just spit balling here, but if small collaborative groups work in elite private high schools, then why wouldn't it work if we put like 100 kindergarten children from a high poverty neighborhood in one room with four teachers?
Some other guy: Make it 60 kids and I think you've got yourself an innovation!
(high fiving)

Notice a teacher was not present in my imaginary conversation.

Mr. Waronker believes that this style of education values "student independence over teacher-led lessons, inquiry over memorization, freedom and self-expression."  But really, who knows if they are expressing themselves?  Who knows if they are active inquirers?  Who knows if some of them are in the bathroom?  HOW ARE TEACHERS SUPPOSED TO KEEP TRACK OF ANYTHING?!

And I know there are four teachers which yields a ratio of 15:1 which is smaller than almost every city classroom but (and it's a big BUT) I'm not sure this is even a valid argument when they are ALL IN THE SAME ROOM. 


Another facet of this innovation, according to Mr. Waronker, is the idea is that teachers and students will collaborate.   He feels that having teachers' struggles out in the open allows their colleagues in the same room to offer advice.  (Pssssstttt....we do that anyway, even when we're NOT in the same room with a ba-jillion little people milling about.)  And really?  Does he really think that the other teachers have a spare second to take their eyes off the chaos that is happening in front of them?  From the 60 5-year olds trying to quickly and quietly transition to another part of their gigantic classroom turned circus. If they can hear one another over all the screaming and penny shaking that is.

Get this little gem from the article.  "Eight weeks into the year, the only student work visible on the blue-painted walls was a poster with finger-painted hand prints and the words "Hands Are Not for Hitting."  Ah, yes, feel the learning, people.  Feel the joy and celebration of student success.  Feel the sarcasm, dripping from these words.

The reporter says that there have been some improvements since September.  For example, one student chose to play with pencils rather than do his work but at least this time he was in his seat.  Are we thinking hooray for small victories or holy shit, it's January and this is what we're calling progress???? 

I want to hug those teachers.  And those kids.  And then I want to build them some walls.

Who's Peeking?