The school year I never expected

Teaching is a draining and demanding profesion. However,  as the years pass, teachers manage to find a balance between home,family and career. In my 25 years of  experience I’ve managed to raise two beautiful daughters, struggle through the the loss of a parent,  survive a difficult divorce , and meet and marry the love of my life. Through each of these experiences, I  was always able to perform well in the classroom, handle duties of department chair and maintain the yearbook,newspaper and broadcast staffs. Unfortunately, on September  15th, 2015, my ability to juggle home life and school life shattered.  My husband of only three years was hospitalized and diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma.
I had never heard of  cholangiocarcinoma before, but now I am a scholar on bile duct cancer ,its treatments, chemo drugs, pain drugs,nausea drugs and many other drugs. His prognosis, six months to a year, was mind numbing. We have begun a journey that has taken us to Tampa,FL and back to Thomasville for treatments.  He’s endured nine rounds of toxic chemo drugs, two ERCPs, two stent placements, numerous appointments with a pain management specialist, a gasterointerologist, an oncologist, and a radiologist. The journey continues with every day  radiation treatments for 10 weeks. Additionally, he will soon start on a second- line chemo drug while applying for a drug trial. He continues to fight with all he has. My husband told his doctor to never tell him that there was nothing else that could be done. So,the fight continues.
This rollercoaster ride of emotions shattered my ability to maintain my usual attentive nature to my job as 10th grade English teacher. For the first time is 25 years, I’m not researching new ways to present materials, I have missed more days than I ever have in one school year,  and also for the first time ever, my heart is not in it. I have cried over the diagnosis,  I’ve cried over the eventual loss of my husband, I’ve cried over the loss of our lifestyle and I’ve cried because I feel my students have suffered as well.
However, as a life-long learner, I know that every experience, good or bad, comes with lessons. I have learned that in times like these, the true professionals and other compassionate educators step in and take over when I can not. I’ve learned who my true friends are and how I truly appreciate them.  Most importantly,  my husband and I have learned of God’s infinite wisdom. He was preparing both of us for this painful journey long before we had any idea what was in store. As this journey continues,  we will learn more lessons. I will survive in the classroom because educators are the most compassionate people you will ever meet.  Also, the next time I teach Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers,” I will be able to communicate its meaning with new vigor.  I have learned that…..       “Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops-at all-”

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HAVING A SUCCESSFUL FIRST WEEK

Surviving the first week at school is always a battle. Not only are our bodies having to get used to the rigorous schedule again, we must also prepare mentally to be in front of a class full of students for the whole day. After 24 first days, I have learned a few things to help ease us back into the groove. 

1. During the pre-planning time, try not to stress about the fact that you are in meetings all the time. This is a given. KNOW and EXPECT it and plan your day accordingly. Every year I’ve gone back, there are complaints: “When do I get my classroom done if we are in meetings all the time?” – I finally came to the realization a few years ago that fretting about this doesn’t help. It only  stresses us out more. So, go in a little earlier, stay a little later. ( no more than an hour- any more than that and you’ll exhaust yourself)  

2. Don’t over decorate. We all want the cutest classroom , but realistically it is sometimes out of our realm of possibilities. There are those who are super at this and my hat goes off to those uber-creative and energetic teachers. You guys rock! However, I couldn’t measure myself against those who were experts in that area. I’m not that creative . What I decided to do a few summers ago was to research simple ways to make my classroom functional and last a long time. The most efficient time-saving idea I found was buying burlap for my bulletin board. It doesn’t tear, it looks good, and it matches anything. I put that up at the start of last school year and all I did this year was repair the boarder. BAM! Time saved!  ( Summertime is Pinterest time!) 

3. Be prepared for the first day by having easy-to-follow instructions for students as they enter the room. Even though I teach six different classes, I had assigned desks with the students’ names already on the desks. This reduces movement in the classroom and enables me to start on time and transition smoothly. 

  
4. Pretests are your friend! We pretest the 2nd and 3rd day of class. This gives me an opportunity to complete a few tasks that I may not have finished during the ever-busy pre-planning week. Also, since students are in assigned seats with their names on the desk, I have an opportunity to learn their names as I distribute materials. 

These are just a few lessons I’ve learned to help my first week run smoothly and I can end up with a little energy at the end of the day. 

My review of Harper Lee’s latest

This is not the usual “coming of age” novel because our protagonist is not a teenager, but an adult.However, as all young adults, we have that time in our lives when we realize how extraordinarily different our perceptions of people and life are when we are children. Readers are reunited with the citizens of the fictitious town of Maycomb,Alabama, and in true Harper Lee style, the first half of the book is spent on events in the narrator’s life. We read of her traumatic,yet humorous, transition into puberty, her rebellious teenage years, and her decision to leave Maycomb to work in New York. We find out the fate of her beloved brother and we are introduced to other characters that have entered her life since her face-to-face meeting with Boo Radley. My only disappointment was that there was no further update on Boo Radley’s fate.

I do not feel that the critics were fair in their vicious attack on the character of Atticus. Yes, Atticus attended a KKK meeting and was overheard in the ‘community’ meeting using the ‘n’ word. And, yes, I would have the same initial anger that Scout had,but Lee restores respect to the character in Atticus’s discussion of why he attended and the purpose behind his actions. One also has to understand the setting of the novel. The novel cannot be read with today’s standards and fully understand Atticus. According to Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor, readers must ” find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical moment of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background.” If a reader can do this, then there can be some understanding of Atticus and others in Maycomb.

The novel is true to its title, as Lee quotes from the bible, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go,set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” Lee shows readers Jean Louise’s return home to experience the realization that while as children, one does not see the flaws of those respected. Jean Louise found her own conscience (‘watchman”). One apart from Atticus and those she respected growing up. Growth is painful, and as she listened to Dr. Finch and to Atticus, she does gain some compassion, but is still firm in her own beliefs about the need for equality of mankind.

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Need input to find a road to success in educational blogging

I’m hoping to get some feedback on this one. I am a high school English teacher. I have taught for 24 years in elementary , middle and high school. I have read many different types of blogs, and I notice that the blogs that receive the most attention are the ones that offers helpful information. With that being said. I would like to know, from blog readers, what type of education blogs would you most likely read ? or what do you see as a need in the area of educational blogs?

Thank you in advance for your input!

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Strap in – scream your lungs out and enjoy the ride!

Teaching is a profession that never ceases to amaze me. Maybe I’m just a tad crazy ( actually one has to be to be a teacher), but when one goes from the lowest lows to he highest highs in only twenty-four hours, something is either gravely wrong or that person is a true educator.

In the last 26 years, federal and state standards and testing have taken the art out of teaching and made the job more of a scripted science project. if we use method A and Method B, then test scores will be high; but if we use method C or method D, scores will dramatically decrease. No longer is it up to the professional to observe a situation , get to know students and use our talents. Instead, we are bombarded with prescribed units and tests to teach. So, it is no wonder that we see educators leaving the profession in droves. However, if we continue to believe that teaching in an art and not a prescribed science, we persevere and continue to look for ways to create an opus that can be shared and enjoyed.

True educators see the potential in situations that seem bleak, and even though we disagree with the over-testing and prescribed units, we are still able to take those prescription and make them into our very own works of art.

So, if you are a struggling educator, ready to leave the profession, remember that artists struggle many times before a true masterpiece is achieved. Keep searching, keep observing, keep loving and keep creating. Teaching is the monster of all roller coaster rides! Strap in, throw your hands in the air and scream your hearts out- but most of all- enjoy the ride!

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Yay Days

As many veteran teachers know, not every day is successful in the world of education. However, when those successful days arise, we feel a high that comes only with the satisfaction of knowing ~they get it! They really get it! I refer to these as my ” Yay Days.”
Today was a “Yay Day.” Building on an idea from Sara awes sling from the Teaching Channel, my students participated in what Sara called “pinwheel discussions.” My students have just completed reading three works from Ray Bradbury: “The Pedestrian”, ” There Will Come Soft Rain”, and Fahrenheit 451. The longer this discussion continued, the more excited they got. After a passage was read, in response to a comment made during the discussion, the students were actually cheering! It was enough to give this teacher of 26 years chills!
For innovative ideas and to connect with other educators, I would suggest using Teachingchannel.org. This is an awesome resource that has helped me have a few more “yay days”!

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Fame, shoes and discipline problems- Just another day as a high school teacher

I guess you can say I had my five minutes of fame today. Well, as famous as one can be who teaches 10th grade English… in a rural south Ga school… the last class period of the day.

What, you may say, made me so famous? My shoes! I had NO idea!

So, here is the play-by-play: I was standing in the hallway between classes as I always do. As I took a moment to glance outside, I was accosted by five large male teenagers snapping pictures with their cell phones! I felt like a movie star. I hear them begin chanting ” Oh, Mrs. Davis got on them Tims!”
I had no idea that Timberland boots were so male-teen popular. Not only were they impressed with the fact that I had them , they were also enthralled that I had pink “Tims” .

I have to tell you that this is “that” class. The one that makes me consider early retirement and cause me to doubt my career choice. In this class there is a group of boys who usually instigate and proliferate the problems, and, you guessed it…this is the same group that were snapping pictures of my boots! Needless to say, today’s class was a breeze! Who knew? All I had to do to solve my issues in this difficult class was to wear the right shoes!

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