Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Student #2

The day the state standardized testing was to start at the beginning of April, I received another new student named Josh. I met his very tall, handsome, well spoken father in the office that morning before retrieving the students from the cafeteria. He was quiet shy and very quiet. His stepmother explained that I had to be very careful when giving directions and sit him near the front of the class because he has had problems with hearing his whole life. You can definitely tell from his speech.

Anyway, I have given him a few weeks to adjust and gave his last school time to get us his records. In first grade he was referred for speech help, but it was never followed up on. I've also noticed that he never goes to the bathroom during school hours. I don't know if he's going when I'm not looking or just not going at all, but today he admitted to me that he was afraid of the bathrooms. He's also been throwing things and is constantly interrupting me when I'm trying to give directions, therefore disrupting what little time I actually get to spend teaching. I decided it was time to speak to his father about all of this interesting behavior I was observing.

So I did, today. It went alright I think. He seemed very receptive, eager to help in anyway he could, agreed that I should try to follow up on the speech therapy and wanted me to know that whatever I had to do to keep him on task, I should feel free to do. That statement always makes me cringe a bit because in my experience, parents don't really mean it. Then he said that I could give him some time to talk to his son and in that time I tried to find out what I could about the speech therapy, we could could then meet together and discuss everything.

Meanwhile, the students are freaking out about the swine flu "epidemic." We passed out some literature to the students this afternoon to take home to their parents from the state health agency. This did nothing to assuage their fears. (Ms. Knitter, the letter is really from the state?! Our state, like the state of New Mexico? It must be serious if the state is sending something home!?") I'm sure that if even one case is found anywhere near the La Pasa, school will be cancelled for the rest of the year. Which would be nice, except that I don't really want anyone to get sick and I really worry about what these kids do when left to their own devices with their parents off at work.

On another note, our house is coming together. I shall put up some pictures when more is unpacked and put up and so forth. Finding my computer cord may also be a help.

Have discovered a series of books that I love! Not as much as Harry Potter, but keeps me engaged as much as Harry Potter ever did. It's the Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Without giving too much away; in the future because of a perceived shortage of food, the government has restricted families to two children. When families have more than one, these children must hide. I'm only at the very beginning of the third book (started this afternoon) but I'm pretty sure the books are going to chronicle how these children gain their freedom and no longer have to hide.

Also have been enjoying bathes. Am off for another right now. With the third book in the Shadow Children Series in tow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And the stories continue...

So I knew that Lucia has had an awful childhood, there have been hints from other teachers that have worked with her. I know that she was taken away from her mother a few years ago because her mother was on drugs and put with her father here in the La Pasa. She certainly had an a hard time with me a few weeks ago. I'll tell that story first.

A letter was passed around during performing arts class in the morning that said that Lucia was the class slut and that she went out with all the boys and that (the person writing the note) wanted to kill her (Lucia.) The letter was ripped up and put in the trash, but after hearing about it, I rescued it and put it back together. Upon looking at the handwriting, I deduced the author. The students were unable to meet with Sr. Callejo about the letter until the last hour of school. However, I saw the student I thought was the culprit, Marianna hung around Lucia all day, trying to comfort her.

That afternoon, after a long conversation with Marianna in Sr. Callejo's, she finally copped to the note and was really upset when she realized she was going to have admit to Lucia that she in fact had written it. She along with another girl, Denise who had gone along with the note, received in school suspension for three days. Lucia was devastated. After the ordeal was over, I shared with her my story of losing faith in my high school "friends" my senior year and how things like this stick with you. I talked about how there comes a time in everybody's life when they feel absolutely alone and that when that time comes you learn to depend on yourself and think about what you want and what you want to be instead of what your friends want. She took this in and agreed that it might be nice to focus on what she wanted to do for a change.

Today, I learned a little more about her life before she came to Alma De La Rosa. She handed me a story she had written and asked me to read it and tell her what I thought about it. The pages in the worn notebook she handed me told how in Oklahoma they had had no place to live, so they had lived in her mother's car for a few days before finding a shelter. Living in the car made her sad. The shelter was better but there was nothing for kids to do there. Her mother was diagnosed with diabetes. There was a time in an elevator when her mother collapsed because of her diabetes. When she fell over a crack pipe rolled out of her pocket. This started the process that ended with Lucia being taken away from her mother. A bit of a happy ending; the court decided a few weeks ago that her father could have sole custody and she really enjoys spending time with her step mother and her little step sister.

And I wonder why I have problems sleeping...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Field Trips

I have noticed of late, reading back over the last few blogs that have to do with teaching that I have not sounded all that positive. Forgive me. Believe me when I say, I feel like this is the only career I was made for and I do love it. I don't mean to sound so negative.

Ready for more negativity? I don't like field trips. Especially with Alma De La Rosa. Going on field trips with my students in Bennington and with campers at BDC on the cape were fun. I enjoyed it. Field trips at ADLR are extravagant 'ventures where rules forgone for fun and what's easiest by all involved, teachers, parents and students alike. I think what drives me the most crazy are employee parents that don't do their job that day because they "have" to be with there child, parents that come to help that go off with their children without saying anything, parents, children that bring money and the list goes on, educational assistants that are assigned to a class and then wander off without telling anyone.

The main rule about field trips is that it has to be educational. Totally agree with that rule. So we go to the state fair every year under the pretense of "education" but the kids never want to spend time at the exhibits where they can learn things about energy or animals. They want to spend their time at the insurance and health care booths where they get cheap pencils, paper fans and other free stuff. So frustrating, because that trip if done properly could be a great learning experience.

Today we went to see the "Earth" movie. I think this is a great idea and I've done a lot of preparation for it with my students. We've talked about photography in nature, watched some of the BBC's "Planet Earth" and so forth. However, not once has a student asked me what the movie is going to be about. All they want to hear is how much candy they get to buy and whether or not I'm going to buy it for them. It's ridiculous.

In other news, we have quite the love quadrangle going on my class. Fonzo, Cosmo, Raul are all head over heels for Fiona. Those boys are always trying to find ways to show her how much they like her. What's funny is the lengths they will go. After Fiona won the Science Fair she was standing with Fonzo gushing to me about excited she was about it and he turned to me and said, "She won because she's so perfect and pretty looking." He was trying to give her a round about complement. Fiona turned to him and said, "I'd rather think I won because I'm intelligent." (I had Fiona in my class last year and I'm so impressed with how she has matured and become so confident. She is constantly showing me that she really believes in herself.) Cosmo was sitting next to her at lunch and she had a sick look on her face. I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I'm hot." I said, "So take off your sweatshirt." "Right!" she said. Cosmo looked at me and said, "She's hot because she's sitting next to me!" So obvious. He's going to be a real heartbreaker.

Fonzo came in this morning in tears. He wouldn't tell anyone why. he just sat at his desk and cried. It's odd to see a boy-man sob. They sob with their whole bodies. I tried to coax out of him whatever it was that was making him so upset. I asked about his dad, where he was living with his sister, if anything had happened last night that had made him upset. He refused to answer and just continued to cry. Then later on the field trip as we were walking to the movie theatre he tossed a piece of paper which I picked up. It was a picture of a heart with tears coming out of it, eyes and a sad face. At the top it said, "Can you help fix me?......" There are weird drawings at the bottom, something that looks like a wrench and a screwdriver. The wrench has 7/14 on it. It smells like some sort of cheap cologne, perhaps he has been carrying it around for awhile. I'm going to turn it into the principal this afternoon. I know Fonzo tried to throw it away, but being a mandated reporter and all...It makes me so sad.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Closing is finished...

The Boy had to sign his name and his parents' names about a hundred times! It's over! Finally!

Let the moving commence!

Waiting, Waiting...

We are supposed to close today. It's out of the hands of the guy that was doing such a poor job and somewhere in Omaha getting finished, should be emailed to our title company sometime today.

While I was in bed this morning, I heard the man come and shut the gas off. Electric is going soon...come on house!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Science Fair!

Today was the the annual Science Fair! It went really well. I think we had some really great projects. This year the focus was on creating an experiment instead of a model. Once the students understood the difference, they really stepped up the plate. The winner, a student in my class named Fiona, created an experiment in which she tested which dance got a dancer's heartbeat to speed up the fastest. I was really impressed with most of my students.

Only one student, Fonzo, didn't turn one in. The worse part of my job is definitely the stories I hear about the home lives of the students. I'm pretty sure this is one of the reasons I have problems sleeping at night or awake with a start...I worry...I worry about the students when they are at home in my subconscious. Fonzo has a particularly sad story. He came to us as a new student about two weeks after I started in the sixth grade. He had a really hard time adjusting...constant disrespect, refusal to work, obvious homophobia, the works. Not a lot of teaching went on the first few days he was with us.

Spring break happened and he did a complete 180. Out of nowhere, I never had to ask him twice, he showed me that he was great a math and a good writer. Then we found out what he had been doing on Spring Break. He had moved to La Pasa with his mother, because his gay father is dying of cancer and didn't want to talk to him. Over Spring Break, he got to go and visit him. Then about two weeks after Spring Break, his mother left him with his sister and her husband and she went back to her boyfriend in (not his father) El Paso. So not only does he feel like his father doesn't want him and is dying, he mother left him he feels completely abandoned. He admitted to me that now he is afraid his sister doesn't want him...and if she doesn't then he has no where to go because his uncles in town are all alcoholics and drug addicts.

What the hell do you say to that? I think I was able to say that instead of flipping a kid off when he was having a bad day he should come and tell me he's having a bad day and I can cut him slack with heavy duty assignments and give him some time to just do some journal writing. I think I also managed to get out that perhaps he should try to help his sister out as best he can so that she appreciates having him around. We've already offered counseling services to this family and have been turned down, so there is nothing more we can do unless we think he is being abused or neglected.

In other news, the school day went particularly well today. The students were in a good mood, excited about their science projects and excited about starting geometry in math. We finally finished the unit on fractions and decimals.

We may actually close on the house tomorrow. Please. Please. Let us close tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Denver, Colorado

You are not my friend.

Why I HATE Wells Fargo!

*I rarely use the word "hate." My parents taught me as a young girl that I was only to hate war. As you read the following, I hope you will find my use of the word justified.

The Boy's parents are trying their dog darnest to buy this house to retire in. Beautiful huh? The best part is that they want The Boy and I to live in it for the five years that The Boy is working on his PhD in Computer Science here at the University of New Mexico. We began our house search after this past Thanksgiving. We saw a ton of bad places. But we all really like this one and they have been in the process of buying it since the middle of March. Wells Fargo gave them a really great interest rate and we were set to close on the 17th of April.

This was also extra exciting for us because the lease on our very old, not very well kept up pueblo style duplex would run out at the end of April. Perfect we thought. As the date got closer, The Boy and I slowly began to pack up our belongings. Bit by bit boxes piled up. Bit by bit Wells Fargo starting dropping the ball. It started with simple things; not asking for everything they needed from Ben and his family, not calling back...well ever, etc. It was frustrating but we figured would all be over soon enough.

Fast forward to the 16th of April. We found out that Wells Fargo, unbeknownst to us had decided to restructure the loan so that it only be in The Boy's parents' names. The Boy's name was to be on it so he could build credit and so that when we left La Pasa we would have a down payment squirreled away for the next place. (That First Time Homebuyers tax credit from Uncle Sam was also an incentive.) But it was decided to just get it over with and we would figure out what to do with The Boy after all was said and done. The restructuring meant that we would no longer be able to close on time. We were disappointed and angry but thankful that the Sellers didn't mind too terribly as this is the first offer they have had on the house. (It was finished in early 2008.)

New closing was set for the 22nd at four. Which meant that I had to fly home from work in order to get The Boy and make it to the Title Company in time. So, I left Alma De La Rosa about eight minutes early (I hate doing that, because inevitably tomorrow someone is going to say they were looking for me two minutes after I left.) Arrived home and The Boy said, "Well, sit down and make yourself comfortable, we aren't closing today either." I thought he was joking, but no. Not at all. It seems one of the underwriter's had a question that had never been answered and so the papers were not sent down here from Wyoming. I'm not sure anger is a strong enough word. We are so out of boxes these last few weeks and not to mention the fact that our lease really is up on the 30th. Homeless...lovely...exactly what I thought I would be at 26th.

In other exciting news after taking a reading test (I placed "College Reading Level" to which The Boy replied "What? Not Graduate Reading must be getting rusty!" hehe...such humor!) this morning, I am registered to take a clase de Espanol at the community college this summer. The Boy also did some research for me and discovered that if I pay a little more and go to the University of New Mexico, I can take Espanol Uno y Espanol Dos! Ole!

Also as a funny, check out this link as it shows how close we will be to our favorite sushi restaurant as compared to where we live now...well you know...once we actually get to move in.

Also Cheers to The Boy and I as today marks two years of being together! I'm a lucky girl!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Technology is AWESOME!

So, this post was written on my iPhone! Rad! There is a whole "app" just for this!

Back to the Basics

When I was working on my Master's in Teaching, one of the main tenets of my program at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont was reflective teaching. This meant quite simply that we were to spend time writing about what we did that day, what worked, what didn't work and think of ways to fix it for the next day. While I was teaching my fourth grade class, I was very good at this...I had to be because it was all going to be incorporated into my final portfolio project. This project called "Knit One, Purl Two: A Guide to Knitting Knowledge" which was the inspiration for the title of the blog. Also, as anyone who knows me will tell you...I live to knit!

When I moved to La Pasa in the Fall of 2006, there was not a full time teaching position here for me at Alma De La Rosa (a 50/50 Bilingual school), but the principal assured me that if I stuck it out as a paraprofessional, he would give me a class of my own in the fall of 2007. So for a year I didn't eat much as paraprofessionals are barely paid...but that was alright with me, I was waiting for what was next.

As I began the 2007 - 2008 year, I dived into my class and the curriculum. I had a four/five combo class. On top of that, I taught third grade science for an hour in the afternoon. Think about that: three grades to plan for each week, three different sets of standards to become familiar with and on top of that, English was the only the second language of most of my students (Espanol was the first). It was daunting. I spent most of the time with my head buried in the curriculum and not trying to think outside the box. So, I was not very good about reflection (like, at all.) It was a very stressful year (as any first year teacher's would be.) Epic might be a good descriptor. By February, there was barely any sleep to be had. I ended it, ready to put it behind me, take what I had learned and begin the next year.

I had a better situation for 2008 - 2009. I was going to be teaching ONLY the English component of the fourth grade (my FAVORITE) and I was going to have a Co - Teacher to teach the Spanish component. I was so excited to be working with a partner again the way I did when I was teaching in Bennington, but mostly I was excited about only teaching one grade at a time. It was amazing. My Co - Teacher, Sophia was a constant source of support and I was getting back to stepping outside of the box with my lesson planning. We had a great crew of fourth graders, many of them I had known since I began working at Alma De La Rosa. I was happy!

Why the past tense you may ask? Because at the end of January I was pulled from my fourth grade classroom and put into the sixth grade classroom! The sixth grade teacher at the time, we'll call her "Teacher Ronda" (not her real name, but it is true that she has the kids call her "Teacher _______ ," which I think is absolutely ridiculous, but that's not the point right now) was so incompetent the principal Sr. Callejo could not let her continue in that position. I was asked to take over because I was in one of classrooms with two teachers and because Sr. Callejo knows that I like to teach with a strict routine...which is exactly what he thought these kids needed. My fantasy world came crashing down!

As my stress level over the past few months has begun to rise again and the hours of sleep a night continue to dwindle, it dawned on me that it had been three years since I had written about my daily life as a teacher. In the past, after nights of no sleep it has been suggested very nicely to me by amazing boyfriend of two years from here on out known as The Boy, that perhaps I should to go speak to someone (i.e. get my head shrunk). Reluctant to go that route (though too terrified is probably the more accurate description) I realized after reading my very dear friend (and !Swingle Sister!) Erin's blog that perhaps going back to the basics would be a less drastic option. (Another plug: my friend Shani has also started a fun food blog!)

It's almost (actually not quite at all) unfortunate that school will be ending in five weeks. But that's alright. I have all summer to learn how to code and perhaps not sound so boring in these posts. This summer, I have a house to put together, (we FINALLY close tomorrow) a clase de espanol to take through the community college, a puppy to buy and hopefully some road trips!