Educator Discount

Sometimes as a teacher you are able to get an educator discount.  Some of these discounts, I don’t bother to try to get.  For instance, at Barnes & Noble, they used to want to only let you use it for books in your subject area.  I don’t know if their policy is still the same, but I dislike the idea of someone else deciding what books are going to be beneficial to me in my classroom.  Many non-Math books have been helpful over the years.

One company that has always been good to educators is Apple.  I remember the Apple IIe with the green and black screen that we had when I was a kid.  I’m sure there was some deal that my parents got as educators.

Yesterday I made the big step of replacing my home desktop computer.  Since I got my MacBook for school, I rarely use the desktop.  Plus, I got it in 2003 and it is extremely slow.  I decided to get the iMac.  Since I already have a MacBook and will soon get an iPad, I felt it would be fine to get a desktop computer.  Maybe that will help deter me from working at my kitchen table…

On Sunday I did the preliminary visit to find out my options.  A very nice man helped answer my questions and give me all of the options for my changeover.  Once I make a decision, I like to just get it done.  So yesterday I figured out what files needed to be transferred to the new computer and loaded up the tower to bring to the Apple store.

Once again, I was helped by super friendly and competent mac experts/geniuses or whatever they are called.  I told the gal that I was a teacher and she asked where and what subject.  Then at some point she asked if I had my teacher ID.  That’s the one thing I forgot to bring.  It’s not like she didn’t believe me.  She was going to give me the discount.  But then another employee came by and chimed in.

Mac dude: Are you a teacher?

Me: Yes…

Mac dude: Were you at East High?

Me: Yeah, what’s your last name?  You look familiar.

So we continue to piece together the puzzle.  He graduated in 2006 and was in one of my quarter long Trig classes.  I hate to admit that I only vaguely remember him.  But it was nice to joke that even though I didn’t have a teacher ID with me, a former student could vouch for me.

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Sticks and Stones…

may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.  I wonder who coined that phrase.  Whomever they were, they were sure mistaken.  It’s a crock of shit.

I’ve been thinking of my students lately.  I know many of them have lived in situations where they have been verbally abused.  It is no wonder that they act as they do.  They build up their shields and everything bounces off of them.  It’s a defense mechanism.  And I don’t blame them.

This past week, I was the target of a verbal assault.  I call it an assault because that’s what it felt like.  I made a courtesy phone call to a parent to explain a situation and didn’t see the rocket fire coming.  I didn’t have time to erect my puke shield.  In fact, I would have never thought I needed it.  This was a former colleague that I was calling.  I’d known him for 15 years.  Boy, was I wrong.

I won’t get into any details.  But I know that the anger was a result of misinformation and directed at the wrong person.

After the call, I was literally shaking.  I was stunned.  I am not the kind of person that evokes that kind of anger in ANYONE.  I am the queen of conflict resolution and non-confrontational situations.  I have never been subjected to that kind of assault in my entire life.  That evening I felt exhausted, but kept re-playing the incident over and over in my head.  I didn’t sleep well.  The next day, I had a dull headache the entire day.  Even when a student asked me how I was, I said, “Better, now that I see your smiling face.” But I didn’t necessarily feel that way.

I didn’t actually feel better until I went over to my parents’.  I don’t know if you can shoulder that kind of abuse alone.  Having the unconditional support of them means everything.  After all, they actually know the perp.  They know and understand what I had just gone through.

The thing that I keep thinking about is, if I were physically assaulted, I could press charges.  It is unacceptable to be physically assaulted.  So why is it acceptable to be verbally assaulted?  People verbally assault each other all the time and it is widely accepted.  Free speech?  That’s crap.  Just because you can’t quantify how much the words hurt in relation to a punch doesn’t mean that it’s ok.

And what good did that tirade do?  Maybe it made the perp feel better.  It made me feel horrible for at least a day.  I know the kid got what he wanted – an excuse to not do something he never wanted to do in the first place.

If I could press charges, I would.  I’m a firm believer that bad behavior shouldn’t be excused no matter what your circumstances.  No one has the right to inflict that kind of pain on another human being.  I don’t care what your excuse is.

Sticks and stones may break my bones.  But at least there’s a consequence for that kind of action.

Planning Time

Last year I went to Portugal for Spring Break.  I had a fantastic time!  And while I was there, I realized that Spring Break is a great time to go to Europe.  It’s not super touristy, the prices are right and the weather is better than here.

This year it will be Italy.  I’m going with my sister-in-law.  We’re mainly going to be in Rome, but will take a side trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.  We decided to head south because we won’t have the summer heat to contend with.  Italy has always been on my list, but I’ve never quite made it.  I’m pretty sure that it will be the first of several trips there.

In the meantime, I’m finishing up another one of my wine classes.  This time it’s Wine Tour of Italy.  It’s very exciting learning about Italian wines and knowing that I already have my ticket.  I’ve got most of the lodging figured out.  I still need to learn about the train system.  The travel is fantastic.  But I have to admit, I enjoy the planning and anticipation just as much!

Collective Bargaining

There are a lot of attacks on unions these days.  Many states want to strip away the rights of unions to collective bargaining.  There is so much misinformation out there, it’s sickening.  For the last 8 months I’ve been a part of a collective bargaining process and I can honestly say that the beneficiaries of the process will be students.

In the latest round of negotiations, my union tried a new approach.  Open bargaining.  Anyone could come and watch.  Every Thursday from the beginning of school until last week, we had negotiations from 5pm to 7pm.  There weren’t any confidentiality issues because anyone could come and watch.  Our members always knew what was happening and which topics were up for discussion.  They knew that the contract updates were their source of accurate information about what was happening in regard to the contract.  There were a few stories in the newspaper.  But the reporter never bothered to actually come to a session before reporting on it.  Shame on you.  Never assume that the newspaper is giving you accurate information.  This is a clear case where it was always wrong.

As my 2nd time on the bargaining team, I was a little apprehensive about this new approach.  But as it became routine and people were getting interested in the process, I realized that it helped the process immensely.  Depending on the issue, no matter who was actually sitting at the table, we had people behind us that were experts in the field and we could call on them for practical examples and experiences at any time.  While we were bargaining, they would look up information for us and pass us notes that would answer the questions brought up in discussion.

When people think of unions and bargaining, many think about money.  We barely talked about money at all.  The monetary portion of our contract seemed like a footnote this time.  All of our discussions revolved around working conditions and what is best for kids.  Smaller class sizes, Special Education workloads that make sense, a robust Peer Assistance and Review Program, Labor Management training sessions, discussions about new initiatives, Home Visit Projects, and a whole host of other issues were the pillars of what we accomplished this round.

Did we get everything we wanted?  No.  But we had some really good discussions.  I often wonder if productive discussions ever take place between labor and management other than at the bargaining table.  It is true that most of the new agreements in the contract were issues brought up by the union.  But guess what?  We’re the ones that are in the classrooms every day and know what issues we face.  We are the ones that know what needs to be fixed because we live it day in and day out.  Of course we’ll be the ones that want to make the most change.

For all of you that are anti-union, you really don’t know what it’s all about.  Everything that we have accomplished is for the betterment of the profession and for students in our district.  It may even be ground breaking contract language that could have a nice ripple effect elsewhere.  Unions are responsible for making working conditions better for ALL.  Even if you are not part of a union, your working conditions have been made better because of various unions across the nation in many different fields.  Everyone in the US wants to think that they can do it on their own and they are the ones that are in charge of their destiny.  But guess what?  Every individual is standing on the shoulders of someone else who has already fought the hard battle to get you rights that you would have never had all on your own.

Finally…

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I woke up this morning to this beautiful scene.  If you haven’t seen hoar-frost, it’s quite a sight.  This has been an eventful week and there’s been a nice shift of the priorities in my life.

I haven’t written a lot lately because my life has been so incredibly busy.  Some of the busy-ness has been fun things.  A lot of my time has been spent on our contract negotiating team.  We finally came to a settlement agreement late Monday night.  It still needs to be ratified.  But I feel good about all we accomplished and the unique process we had this round.  At some point, I’ll probably describe our process, but that will be later.

This was the first week of a new semester.  I have two Pre Calculus classes and one Algebra 2 class.  My kids are wonderful!  I love my classes!  It makes such a difference when you have motivated students and don’t have major discipline issues.

I started a new wine class on Monday.  It’s called, Wine Tour of Italy.  This week there were four Italian wine makers in town.  The instructor had them come to our class, tell us about their wines and then taste them.  It’s always so interesting to hear from the wine maker about their process and decisions about making their wine.  I have several friends taking the class and had a lovely time.

When I arrived home, I realized that I had missed a call on my cell.  Shortly after 10pm I was at the union office because the district wanted to settle before our planned informational picket the next day.  Everything was signed about 11:30pm and the picket was called off.  I got about 5 hours of restless sleep that night.

The rest of the week I could literally feel the stress leaving my body.  I had symptoms of a migraine (I don’t get the headache) on Wednesday during Algebra 2.  We joked around about my inability to see a few things but I felt completely fine and knew it would subside within 20 minutes.  The realization that I now had my Thursday nights free to do what I like was such a relief.  It’s so hard to describe the inner tension and frustration of this process.  But my body definitely knows that it’s time to let go.

So waking up to this beautiful hoar-frost this morning was a nice signal to me that things are changing.  I have a lot to look forward to and I actually will have time to write about it.  So thank you, dear reader, for being patient with me while life has been rather crazy.  There are lots of fun experiences to come!