Day #6

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10 inches of snow. Even here, that’s a lot. We’ve got great snow removal, but even the best have to err on the side of caution. I’ve been up since 5:20am. The robo call came while I was in the shower. The winds are ~40 mph, which makes it worse. Since I live in a ‘burb, my street looks pretty good. Since I live in a town home, my driveway was cleared overnight. My drive to work is only about 5 miles, but as soon as I get into the city, there is a noticeable difference in plowing.

It’s our sixth cancelled day this school year. This has never happened. Well, at least since I’ve been teaching in this district AND when my parents taught in this district, starting in 1967. It’s crazy. The polar vortex is supposed to come back for a visit next week, but hopefully it won’t be that bad.

So in the meantime, I brought enough stuff home last night to make sure I had stuff for the weekend. I corrected tests and had a pretty productive evening of planning and correcting. So for today, I’ll be glad to be warm and safe at home.

Denial

What have I learned in the last few weeks? I had a pretty good case of denial. About what? Snacking. Random eating. How did I learn this? After having my Invisalign braces for less than two weeks, I’m down four pounds.

I have pretty much gotten used to them. I’m still aware that they’re there. But it’s not such a strange feeling now. I’m almost ready to switch to my second set, so my teeth have moved since I started. Talking is fine. There are some words that I find more difficult. The “s” and “th” sounds can be tricky, but not impossible. When I went to church last Sunday I realized that singing is harder. I think that one produces more saliva with these, so I was afraid I might accidentally spit while singing. Yeah, you really wanted to learn that, right?

Since it’s a hassle to take them out often, it’s much easier to eat at the usual times. Breakfast is usually 15-20 minutes for me. Lunch is about 30 minutes total. At school my “lunch” is at 10:06, so I eat half of it then and half during my PLC prep 7th period. For dinner I usually have them out for an hour and try not to rush myself. So I think I’m getting my roughly 22 hours per day with the liners. I’m more conscious of my food choices and aware of when I’m “full.” After dinner, I do the cleaning and brushing process and I’m good to go until the next day. Am I hungry when I used to snack? Nope. Not at all. Another benefit? I’m ready for bed earlier so I think I’m getting more sleep.

I have yet to go to dinner or be in a social situation with them. I definitely like the weekends when it’s easy to brush and clean them after each round of food. The only tricky thing about having these is your eating and drinking habits are altered. I have an event in late February about Prohibition Era cocktails that I’m attending. Snacks and beverages will be provided. So that will be a little tricky. I’ll test what it’s like to go out to dinner on Monday. So I’m still in the learning process with these things, but so far it’s going well. And my little bit of weight loss: bonus!

Surprising the Kids

We had our first pep fest in about seven years yesterday. I must say that it went really well and the kids had a great time. It was organized by one of our student groups – the Asian Culture Club. There was a group from each grade that did dances. And in the middle, the teachers surprised them with our own dance. I mentioned in an earlier post that we learned and practiced our dance during our “cold days” last week. We had one last practice on Thursday after school. I think it’s safe to say that the kids were surprised and now have a different view of their teachers. And what value does it have? Building relationships with students is one of the great ways to boost achievement. Having them see their teachers as real people, willing to do something a little crazy for them, will go a long way.

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Talking to Myself…

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Look what I got today. It’s the beginning of the Invisalign adventure. I’m starting out with 5 sets of liners. After 2 weeks, I swap out these and go onto set 2. And so on, and so on. They are kind of cool. I can definitely tell that something is happening in my mouth. Depending on where I’m at in my treatment there’s pressure on certain teeth to move. Some won’t be moving until late in the process. Others will be along for the entire ride.

The goal is to wear them 22 hours per day. So basically, they’re in unless you’re eating or brushing your teeth. Today was the last day that I will be bringing my morning tea to school. Water is what I’ll be drinking throughout the day. I’ll probably bring an extra tooth-brush and paste to keep at school. It will be interesting to see how I do with it all. I’m known for being a slow eater. Now I’ll have one more thing to do during my already short lunch period.

The other thing that will be interesting is to see how this affects my snacking habits. I’m wondering if this might turn into the Invisalign weight loss program. I’m sort of hoping that’s a side effect. But for the time being, I’m talking to myself. It’s a little different to talk with these on your teeth. So far my talking seems fine. But every once in a while when I come across a word with several s’s I can tell that I need to practice. The feel on the inside of your lips where they rest on your teeth is different now since the plastic is there. That’s the other new sensation. Talking in class tomorrow will definitely be different than usual. So for now, the adventure begins!

Wonderful Wacky Week

This week was weird. We started with not one, but two days closed due to the cold. This time the district had teachers report to work. In the 8 days we’ve had of second semester, I’ve now seen my kids five times.

What are teachers to do without students? It was weird. I wasn’t in a big rush to get to school. I could ease into my day. I had time to plan. I had time to catch up with colleagues. I had more than 20 minutes to eat my lunch. I could go to the bathroom whenever I needed to. I could do things that had been shoved down to the bottom of my to-do list. I set up my second semester grade book, did my yearly health assessment for insurance, took a survey about our PLC work, prepped for my re-scheduled math meet. For one week, I did not bring home work to do in the evenings. Even though the district technically violated our contract by having us come in, most of us were fine with it. We got stuff done.

In the 187 contracted days, we only have one day that the district allows for us to determine our own work. For senior high, it’s the day between semesters. We just had ours on January 21st. Finalizing grades and getting ready for new students, new classes is the purpose of that day. We work like fiends to get it all done on time so we can have a nice fresh start to the new semester without the old one hanging over our heads. So lots of us stay late and work throughout the prior weekend to make sure we’ve finished everything. In other words, we put in a ton of time even prior to having that one work day. And you still feel like you don’t get everything done that is needed. So when we had to come into work without students this week, most of us were already caught up since we had only had two days with them.

In the midst of planning ahead, we took a little time for some staff activities. We’re having a pep fest next week. We haven’t had a pep fest in years. As a fun little surprise, we’re doing a “flash mob” dance. There were at least 50 of us learning and practicing the dance both days. Now that’s a fun way to get to know your colleagues! On the second day, a few of us took a little time out of working for a quick game of volleyball. I hadn’t played volleyball in years. It was a blast! Then I went back to my desk and got more work done. So in these two crazy days, I really enjoyed spending time with my colleagues. We’ve really got a great group of teachers that work extremely hard and care deeply about our students and their achievement.

Wednesday the kids were back. I think they were glad to be back in school. My math meet went off without a hitch. The 100+ mathletes that came to my school and participated were great.

Thursday. Because of the lack of progress with our contract, we had a planned union action. My district doesn’t have a defined day. We are expected in the building 15 minutes prior and 15 minutes after students. We are not required to be in the building to prep for our classes and do the additional work that all teachers do. It is understood that you get the necessary work done outside of that designated time in the building to be ready for your classes. As a result of this policy, we cannot do a “work-to-rule” action. This is good. Teachers have one heck of a time with that. There’s no way you can get everything done in 8 hours per day. When districts do work-to-rule, teachers are torn about participating because it’s just not in their nature to leave work undone for the next day. Work-to-rule is a drastic step when contract talks aren’t going well. Our action was much different and has a much more positive tone.

At 55 sites, with approximately 2500 teachers, parents and students, we organized Walk-Ins. Thursday morning’s snow storm just made it more dramatic. With the worst commute of the winter thus far, we gathered outside our buildings, with signs and our colleagues to welcome kids to school, wave to drivers, and all walk in together, prior to our 15 minutes, required by contract. My building started at 6:50am. Considering how bad the roads were, our 40 teachers that made it in that early were fantastic! We had signs, red scarves, glow sticks, and a nice crowd on the main street in front of the school, waving at cars going by. It was actually really fun! The crappy weather just showed that we’re determined to fight for better learning conditions for our kids. What’s good for kids is good for teachers. Our signs were all about what our kids deserve. Smaller class sizes, school nurses, counselors, librarians, art, music, phy ed, special education, less testing and more learning. At 7:10 we all walked into the building together, brushed off the snow, and got down to the business of teaching and caring for our kids.

I don’t know the impact of our walk-in on the district. We did make the front page of the paper on Friday. The news media is always reluctant to side with teachers and unions. They’re coverage was pretty vanilla. But if you took the time to look at the photos from so many sites, you can easily the dedication of our teachers to students.

It was definitely an unusual week. But one of the most fun weeks I’ve had on the job in a while.