A Visitor

I was sitting here at my computer and noticed a grandmother and her grand kids looking at something in my yard. I grabbed my camera and walked out the back patio. Here’s the visitor:

turtle1

He/She has a shell that is about a foot long. S/he saw me as I got closer to take a look. Check out those fingernails!

turtle3

The end is nigh

There are 4 student contact days left. Graduation is on Monday. But the big indicator that end is coming… Locker Clean-out. Yesterday was the big day. It’s a big day for me, because I’m the locker manager. I’m the one that cleans them out and changes all of the combinations. It sounds like a big job, but I learned well from the previous locker manager.

This was my first year by myself. I used to share the job with another colleague. I was a bit nervous because I was on my own this time. But I really had no reason to fret. Each year, I’ve learned something new to speed up the process and make it more efficient. The last few years we’ve had locker clean-out at the end of the day and have students leave the lockers open when they go.

The big key to tackle this job is to hire help. This year I hired six kids to help me. I try to get a few sophomores each year so that they can do it the next year and already know the process. I sent three kids with keys around to open the lockers that weren’t already. The rest of us went to the loading dock to get dollies and big barrel trash cans on wheels. We separate trash from clothing. At the end of the job there is a huge mountain of clothing, shoes and backpacks. It will get sent to Goodwill after school is out.

Since there are about 2000 lockers, this is no small task. For the most part, a lot of them were already empty. We started at 2pm and were done emptying the lockers by 4pm. At 3pm I had two of my workers start changing combinations on the second floor while I changed the band area lockers. At 4pm I got out my cash and paid my first four. I did the bulk of the first floor by myself and headed to the basement while M & B finished the rest of first floor.

When M & B were done with first floor, they came down to the basement and finished off the last bank with me. Usually when we do this we shut the lockers as we change the combinations. This time they left them open. When they finished, M went to the end of the row and ran passed all the lockers, shutting them in a big domino effect. I bet M was wanting to do that the whole time! It was a fitting end to the job. At that point it was only 5:30pm.

The first year I did this job, I think we didn’t finish until at least 9pm. Each year, me and my partner got smarter and better at it. I think last year we finished about 6pm. I was pretty impressed that me and my crew finished in record time. M is my teacher’s aide, so M will be checking a bunch of combos this week to make sure that they changed to correct one. But all in all, it was a success!

The best part will come Monday morning when I see kids trying to get into their old lockers. Why do I get a little sinister chuckle thinking about that? Heh heh heh…

Why we do it

I was having a sort of crappy day. My students were bugging me. I was teaching my last new topic (of the year) that paralleled what they learned yesterday. It’s a cool thing that the sum of an infinite geometric series can converge on a particular number instead of go off into never-never land (infinity). Pretty cool stuff! (Well… relatively speaking…)

Instead of being able to listen and learn, my kids were whiny and needy and trying to take advantage of my niceness. So I turned into the crabby teacher. I don’t like Crabby teacher. Crabby teacher points out when they’re not listening and lets them know that she’s not going to feel sorry for them when they whine that they don’t get it because they weren’t paying attention anyway. When they ask to go to the bathroom with 15 minutes left of class, Crabby says something about being 17 years old and able to hold it at this age. Even the non-whiners were getting fed up with the others. Somehow I got through the material and they realized that it was easier than yesterday’s homework. Hmm, it’s amazing what you can do when you actually try. (Yes, you can read that dripping with sarcasm.)

Tomorrow is the last day for seniors. At the end of the hour, my one senior was motioning to hand to turn in his book. He had stayed after the last couple of days to try to get his grade up. He’s a super nice kid, but math just isn’t his thing. He does eventually get it. It just takes him much longer. The catch? My class is the one class that he needed to pass to graduate. When they handed out caps and gowns a week ago, we were still in limbo. But yesterday he made it over the threshold. I told him that as long as he did his assignment from yesterday and turned it in, he would pass.

Staying after to help kids is just part of the job. I’m there anyway. If they want to sit and do their homework, it’s fine with me. When they show up and put in that extra effort, I’m more than willing to help.

So back to the story… when the senior left class today, he handed me an envelope. I said, “Thanks” and did a little celebration squeeze of his shoulder and said, “you got it.”

After school I opened up the envelope and this is what I found.

thanks

You never really expect these. But when you get them, Crabby teacher disappears and you remember why you do it.

Alternative Funding

Money is tight in education. Besides being highly qualified to teach our subject matter, we also need to be grant writers.

Today we got an email asking if anyone had written a grant for the Bulls-eye Corporation. An English teacher was writing a grant to apply for money to help take her students on a field trip to see a play that tied closely with something she teaches. I understand that corporations want to contribute to their community and help teachers do things in their classrooms. But the red tape on this grant makes you wonder why people even bother to apply. Bulls-eye Corp wanted to know:

1. Tax status date.

2. They want the following information on each of the board members. Middle name, professional occupation, company, street address, city, state, and country.

3. They are asking for the Total Organization Budget for the school. They also ask for our income sources. The categories are Corporations/Foundations, Memberships , Ticket Revenue and Other.

4. They want a list of the 10 largest donors who are “committed.”

Huh? All she wants is a few bucks to take a class or two of sophomores to a play and pay for a bus. I can see why the teacher was confused on how to answer these questions. Bless her heart for applying. But it does make you wonder about education in the future if we have to write grants like this to do the simplest things. Will anyone want to contribute money to my class so I can have paper to photo-copy exams?

Cooking for…

tooclose

One. I just can’t seem to get myself to reduce recipes so I have just the right amount. And I don’t want to eat a sandwich or salad each day – since those are common single serving meals. (A bowl of cereal works in a pinch too.) I also never seem to plan ahead enough to get someone, or two, or three to come over to help me eat it all. I seem to cook when the mood hits me. Today was one of those days.

This recipe is one that I got from a friend. You marinate the chicken and mushrooms in a marinade that has soy sauce, cider vinegar, honey, canola oil and green onion. When you’re ready to grill, you wrap the chicken in thick cut bacon. It’s best to give the bacon a head start and pre-cook it a little. I cut up a fresh pineapple, but you can use chunk pineapple from a can too.

I did all of this and then I hit a snag. I couldn’t get the grill to light. My ignition switch went out last year and I haven’t had a man-type around to show me how to light it the old fashioned way. I’ve gotten directions from my brother and a friend on how to light it. So I tried it today. No luck. Damn it. Most of the time, the single thing is just fine. But this is one of those times when it would be nice to have a man around. (Grilling and opening jars with lids that are too tight.) Anyway… I’m not a quitter. I problem solve. The alternative? Broiling them in the oven.

They turned out great! At first I thought I had too many kabobs on my baking sheet. So I removed about half and did them in two batches. Like I said, I’m a problem solver. The next obstacle? Making sure I don’t get too tired of them as I eat them for lunch and dinner over the course of the next week! Left-overs anyone?

kabobs

Me and Mic

Last week I had my annual trip to the fancy dinner honoring the retirees of my school district. I’m actually on the local union scholarship committee. We present fifteen $1000 scholarships to high school seniors that are sons or daughters of union members. This year I presented eight of the fifteen. I’ve done it for the past three or four years. I can’t remember how long I’ve been doing this. I’ve been to this dinner several times. My dad is on the Retirement Board and goes each year. At least one year, my mom was sick and I attended in her place. The first year I attended was because my dad was awarded the prestigious award that is given out to someone who has had a large contribution to our local teachers’ union. That was even before I was a teacher.

Being that I’m single and have the same last name as my parents, I do run into some interesting situations. Most of the time they’re good. I’m lucky in the fact that my parents have good reputations for their work in the past and present. My dad is the one who is most well known because of his union involvement and being on the retirement board for several years. Since I’m not as well known in my own right, I’m sometimes thought of as the “date” or the accompaniment to the man. I actually had a place on the program and was speaking in front of the few hundred people at the event. But apparently when they were doing the seating arrangement I was just F’s daughter. Not me – member of the scholarship trust and current teacher in the system that has a purpose for being there that evening. Whatever… I’m cool with it.

The funny thing that I realized after doing my little part of the program is that I like it. It doesn’t bother me in the least to get up in front of a few hundred people and speak into a microphone. I have lots of practice. I’m the announcer at all of our home gymnastics meets. I know to get my mouth up close to the mic so I can be heard. I think it’s the worst when someone is using a mic and you can’t hear them because they don’t realize this. I know that my tone of voice is very important and to be careful to convey the right emotion. If I screw up I know it’s not a big deal and I just act natural. I don’t like reading from a script, so I have the basics in front of me and ad lib the rest.

My first experience with public speaking was when my dad retired. I was the designated kid that spoke at his retirement party. This is probably because I went into the same profession and actually worked with him in the same school. As I said in my speech, it was “take your daughter to work day” for a year. I was incredibly nervous about giving the speech. I put off writing it until about a week before the event. Since my dad was quite well-known, there were lots of people from the district at the party as well as friends and family. It was a big deal. And I did a great job.

Who knew? The shy little girl who never wanted to be in the spotlight was pretty darned good when she was in the spotlight. I think the experience of speaking at my dad’s retirement party was one that prepared me well. How many people can say that public speaking doesn’t bother them? Not many. In fact, I kind of get a charge out of it.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I’m center stage in room 211 every day. When you think about it, that’s probably a tougher audience than a bunch of adults at a dinner. If you’re unsure of what you’re saying, they’ll pick up on it. Teenagers are probably the most critical audience you’ll ever have. So I guess I’ve had pretty good preparation.

But the thing I find interesting is that I didn’t really figure this out until now. Me? Like public speaking and being in the spotlight? I’ve always thought of myself as someone who blends in and is never the center of attention. What am I going to do with this new-found knowledge? I don’t know. I’m open for suggestions.

The Catalog

I’m done with the dating service! It kind of sucks that I met 20 men and nothing panned out. But then again, I’m completely fine with it. Right now I really don’t care. I think it’s still a tough way to meet people. You do have an opportunity to talk for an hour or longer. But you have to make the decision of whether or not you’d want to see them again in a relatively short period of time. That’s tough. Plus, it feels rather unnatural. They advertise that there’s no pressure. But I don’t think that’s true. A date is always a pressure packed situation.

If I could share some advice, I’d tell people to avoid the question about how long you’ve been using the service and what you think about it. From my experience, that’s an indicator that the date won’t go any further. If you’re really interested in the person, you’ll have enough to talk about and won’t have to resort to that one thing you have in common.

#20B had only been doing the service for a few months and had only been on a “handful” of dates. He probably hasn’t figured out that one yet. I don’t think I figured it out for awhile. Tonight, it was one of the first things that he asked me. Was I a turn off that quick? Maybe. We did talk for an hour and a half and he paid for my drink – which is not normally the way it works.

So what was my answer to the question? I certainly wasn’t going to say that he was my twentieth date and my last one. And I did leave out the part that I was having a mini celebration that it was over! So you wonder how I could have gone through that many? Here’s a summary of my 20 dates.

1. Chad – nice, but would fall into the “buddy” category. I was glad when he showed up, because some drunk guy at the bar was hitting on me while I was sitting there waiting.

2. Brad – great. Went out again, but I could tell he wouldn’t be calling me back. Maybe he could tell that I wasn’t a dog person when I met his.

3. Al – the A-hole. The worst date of all. He’s an ER doctor. I wish I knew where, because I’d avoid it like the plague. I felt like the service owed me an apology for that one.

4. Kevin – total sweetie of a guy – but must have gotten hit by a truck because he never called or emailed me back.

5. Aaron – fresh off of an office romance break up. And a Republican.

6. Craig – What were they thinking? I knew as I sat down that it would be a long night. I learned to trust my gut instincts on this date and how to avoid giving my contact info. Also – missing a finger. Once you notice it, it’s hard to not keep looking.

7. Callan – too much baggage. Had gone through major addiction and recovery. Needs another addict for a mate so they have that in common. (my opinion)

8. Eric – so uneventful that I hardly remember him.

9. Dan – happened to go to my high school, but the other campus. Nice but he started dating someone else at the time. Plus, I wasn’t super interested anyway. Lately I’ve seen his profile up on an internet site – so obviously it didn’t work for him either.

10. Dan (different one) – I learned about the pharmaceutical industry from a chemists standpoint. I could have fallen asleep while he talked about his job.

Here’s the point where I took a 6 month break. I started back up in October of 2007.

11. Tim – nothing special. On my way home I stopped and ate at a sushi bar by myself.

12. Lalit – interesting to talk to, but very different culturally.

13. Mike – funny guy, but not much in common with me. He thought I was great because I was his first date that didn’t ask him for a deal on a plasma TV. (He worked for a major electronics company.)

14. Greg – another teacher. Easy to talk to, but he had knee problems and had trouble walking. I’m not saying I’m in fantastic shape, but he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me on the simplest of hikes.

15. Ray – nice guy and interesting. Persistent. I figured out that Indian men (East not Native) just don’t do it for me. Plus, it’s really hard to have a phone conversation because you’re missing the visual cues.

16. Dennis – interesting, but had the unfortunate political conversation. Plus we ran into one of my least favorite people. I went through the Taco Bell drive-thru on my way home.

17. Tim – was so busy that it took a month to line up the date. Not worth the wait.

18. Paul – nice. Answered all of my questions with a short, “yes.” Lots of work to talk with this one. I met him for coffee another time to see if he was just nervous. Nope. Just another socially awkward engineer. He sent me the strangest email ever and I’m pretending it got lost in spam. Apparently that strategy is working for me.

19. Jeff – I’d rank him in the top three of the twenty. But he obviously wasn’t interested in me. “It was nice meeting you – I’m parked around the corner.” And off he went in a flash…

20B. Mike – interesting to talk to. I learned about Real Estate. Has joint custody of the dogs with his ex. Hmm… I think he was looking for someone flashier – if you know what I mean.

I don’t think I’d do it all over again. But I wouldn’t necessarily trade the experience. I did learn a lot about myself while doing this. But after twenty of them, I just don’t want to think about it anymore.