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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book 'Em...

Sorry for disappearing from the blogosphere yet again. Aside from being unemployable, I have been busy researching my third book, but more of that later.

Last Monday I met with a high priced Boston area law firm. They have kindly agreed to take on the case of Paste vs. Crappy Charter School. I believe the term they used most frequently was "egregious".

The long and the short is I'm going to sue this school until they do what's right by my students. Just so that everyone out there is aware, charter school oversight doesn't stop with the Department of Education. That also goes for regular public schools. Any school really that receives federal funding for Special Education. Why am I telling you this? Because the joy of being a rabid dog chasing down a juicy bone like this one is that I didn't stop at simply filing suit. I also complained to the Office of Civil Rights. When most people think about special education, they think about kids with problems reading or kids with behavior problems. They rarely think about the fact that part of our nation's Civil Rights Movement (which spanned decades and set our nation on fire) also included the disabled and helped close down our state school system which in turn helped develop our nation's plan for serving individuals with any kind of disability whatsoever. So Crappy Charter School will not only be served for a suit but will also be investigated for violating the civil rights of its special education students. Whose proud of Paste?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coming Up For Air

Sorry all but I needed a mental health weekend. Or a lack of mental health weekend. Not sure which. I've had a lot to think about and a lot of anger to channel so I went out to Central Mass to hang out with a good friend and one of my former students from last year. I then went to a bar in Worcester and got smashingly drunk and ran into someone from high school. Go figure.

Meanwhile back at the ranch... I called a lawyer. I called an advocacy group. I called the Office of Civil Rights. I wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Education Charter School Board. I wrote letters to the Massachusetts Public Charter School Association. I called a number of parents and they too are calling these same agencies and complaining.

Anyone for a letter writing campaign?

Oh and in other news... I have poison something or other. All over my arm. Go me.

Question of the day however: I interviewed two very notable figures in disability advocacy. Does anyone want me to share some of the interviews here on the site?

Monday, November 9, 2009

And Now it Turns to Anger

Reading everyone's comments has made me realize just how angry I really am about this entire situation. Today one of the English teachers did me a solid and told each and every one of her classes that Miss Paste would not be back because the administration was not able to remove their heads from their asses long enough to realize that firing her was a bad move. I believe now the hope is that the kids will take it to the administration. Some of the kids have already sworn to me that they plan to sit in the hallways and do nothing. God bless social consciousness in rebellious teenagers.

I do plan on writing a letter to the Department of Education. I do plan on contacting the labor department. I do plan on making their life miserable. The same English teacher also plans to encourage her students to write a petition to revisit the hiring and firing process.

Mom, you're right. These kids crave stability. One of my special ed girls sat in her seat and said over and over, "I'm going to cry. I'm going to cry." Another of my students literally, physically stumbled when he was told I was fired and said it wasn't possible. Yet another said that if any of the other teachers were punished he was getting the f*&k out no matter what he had to do. Now what?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Explanation Time I Suppose...

Sorry I didn't take the time to truly explain. On top of getting fired Friday, my uncle passed away so I've been dealing not only with cleaning out my classroom but with family dynamics as well.

The long and the short of it is, Friday at 6:00 pm, while there were still scads of parents in the building for conferences mind you, the director called me into his office where there sat a young Hispanic woman in Apple Bottom jeans, a tight t-shirt, and large gold earrings whom I had never seen before. He introduced the woman as the secretary of the school's board and all I could think was, "Excuse me, you said secretary of a downtown gang right? Is that what I heard?" There was no way this woman was on the school's board. She looked like the type who only attended school to find other, more innocent girls to beat down for their lunch money. The director then called in his sidekick, the academic director and started his spiel.

"First of all I'm sorry about your uncle. Anyway we have decide to terminate you. We decide a month ago, but we say not until end of term to make easier for us. You give keys to classroom and laptop. You can clean out classroom tomorrow, 10:00 am."

--end scene--

No explanation, nothing. I guess I was just the easiest of the herd to thin. I was also the most dangerous for them to keep on board because I knew they weren't there for the right reasons. While the director and his Turkish following sat combing their dirty mustaches in the back room discussing how they could make money off this silly school endeavor, the rest of us were on the front lines trying to serve the children. I think they finally realized we were on to them....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blogging at Work: The Most Dangerous Game

Yesterday I took the day off from work. Why you ask, when I have such a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to the molding of young minds? Because on Tuesday my blood pressure was at 142 over 100. For those of you not familiar with the measurement of blood pressure, that means my head was about to explode. Literally.

I spent the entire day in my mother's recliner watching horror films because I couldn't stand up without knocking into large pieces of furniture or wanting to vomit on my cat. It's a sad day when you're home sick and you can't even read because your head hurts so bad. Poor, sad, lonely books...

Last night, however exhausted that I was, I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned for hours, having nightmares about going in to work this morning. I know I haven't commented much lately about my job but that's because I'm making a valiant attempt at being positive. The problem with that is that I'm surrounded by a sea of negativity on a daily basis because just about everyone on this staff is convinced this school is going to fold within mere weeks. My dreams began with a normal day at work with small things going wrong on a regular basis, then administration lurking in the corners to make sure I wasn't making unauthorized use of the ladies' room. Then they morphed into full on REM cycle hallucinations of coworkers being hacked to bits by administrators yelling in a foreign language (the foreign language part isn't too far from reality though).

Is this stress really warranted? Should any of us be dreading coming to work? I know I'm not the only one. I also know I'm not the only one who can honestly say I'm never stressed because of the kids. I'm stressed because of the adults who can't seem to remove their heads from their rear ends before passing judgement on the rest of us. There is a clear sense of "We're in it for the kids" for most of us and yet we get daily reminders of how easy it would be to replace us. Many of us are here for 10 hours, some of us more- just to finish what we feel is necessary to give our students a quality education. So how is this added insult justified on top of our already massive injury?

I'm not a pessimist folks. Most of you know that I've managed to keep a sunny disposition even in the worst of times. But if the governor of our great state is going to continue to push funds toward charter schools, shouldn't there be a little more foresight when it comes to granting certain individuals the opportunity to educate our children?

So here are the choices for all of us concerned:
a) We stay and hope to God no one gets murdered by administration.
b) We all bail back to public schools or wherever else it is we hail from.
c) We start our own charter school.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book 'em Paste...

The other day someone asked me what my third book would be about. Of course my first thought was, "Third book? Did I start a third book? Wait...what?" But then I thought about it for a little while. Obviously I'll continue to write about historical subjects but what about the misadventures of life in special education, an historical perspective? Well, for the first time ever, I have posted a poll on this blog. I want to know what you think. Should I, the SPED teacher with the forked tongue, put my wisdom in print along with my uncanny ability to write histories for all the world to read? You vote and let me know!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Sometimes I just get so jacked up about American Lit that I have to say....F*&K"

Where on earth do I begin?

Well, in general I would rather not get fired for bitching about my job therefore I will refer to my plight obliquely and subtly.

I applied for a job at McDonald's today. No not really but that subtly suggests how I feel about my present circumstances, yes? I also paid a small child to pinch me every 3 minutes for 8 hours. Also not true but a great representation of what I would RATHER be doing.

Is it possible that one individual could make so many asinine career moves in such a short span of time? Apparently I'm living proof that yes, one can.

So I screw on a smile and enjoy the time with the kids because, as most teachers will acknowledge, it's not the kids who cause the stress and aggravation. Subtlety is obviously not one of my many talents after all...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Words Fail Me

Words Fail Me by Mike Stilkey. This is also how I feel today. As you can see it's 10:30 in the morning and I'm already blogging so you know it's been a good morning.
It's only Day 3 at our new school. I have a large caseload but overall the kids are great, as is the staff. For the first time in a long time I feel like I really belong to this group and I feel that people really respect who I am and what I do.
Of course, there always has to be the proverbial rotten apple. This time it's a family who feels the world owes them something. Or rather everything. While I obviously can't discuss the details in depth, suffice it to say these parents believe their students deserve my undivided attention to the detriment of others. They are suit happy and demanding and this morning the husband had the nerve to call up, screaming and swearing. Finally I reminded him that his children are not yet Special Ed students and therefore he would have to deal with our director as opposed to screaming at me.
I understand that parents are meant to be protective of their children but where is that fine line between being protective and teaching them learned helplessness by constantly causing a battle and showing them that a little bullying goes a long way? Now, that isn't to say that any of us plan to give in to this family and allow them to call the shots, but what kind of example are they setting for their children? No wonder the kids aren't sure they want to come to school. Maybe it has nothing to do with their academic abilities and everything to do with being terrified their parents are going to cause a scene!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Memories I Never Knew

My grandfather on my father's side passed away recently and we have spent the past few months cleaning out his condo to get it ready to sell. It's been a daunting task- three floors of every piece of paper, every book, and every gift my grandfather ever got. The hardest part though has been digging through a life I was never a part of.

When my parents got married my father's mother made it clear she didn't care for my mother. In fact she made my parents miserable to the point where my father decided to sever ties with his family including his father and three brothers. Throughout my childhood I was aware that normal kids were supposed to have two sets of grandparents but I assumed that since I generally had such a nontraditional childhood that it was just the way things were for me.

One day when I was about 9 or so we were in church and my mother nudged me. She pointed to an older couple a few rows in front of us and said, "Those are your other grandparents. Your father's parents." And I stared at them for a moment, flabbergasted at the realization that yes, my father had his own mother and father, he wasn't hatched or formed out of primordial ooze. I looked back to my mother and asked, "Will they know who I am?"

"No," she said. "They've never seen you before."

As I grew older my parents began to tell me more stories about the other side of my family. My father's maternal grandparents were natives of Italy who came to the United States and settled in New York. A few of them were rumored to be in the mob which thrilled me no end. The idea of being related to mobsters was fascinating to me. He told me stories about his Uncle Gino and his dog Tiny. His father once owned a store that sold televisions, then took up professional baking for a time. He even made my parents' wedding cake.

Though most of my father's stories were fairly lighthearted, I knew that there was little happiness and kindness felt about his family. I knew that his mother was not a very nice person, nor had she been kind to my mother. Fast forward to 1999, the end of my freshman year of college. My grandmother on my mother's side to whom I was incredibly close had recently passed away. She was the woman for whom I was named and I essentially grew up in her house in historic Forest Park. A month or so after we buried her, my father's mother called. When I picked up the phone she asked if I knew who was calling. I told her coldly that I did indeed know who she was.

"Yes, this is your grammy."

"That's a neat trick. Seeing as how my grammy just died." (My newfound ability to be bitingly sarcastic reached new heights with this conversation by the way.)

"Yes well. Could you please tell your father I called?"

"Probably not." Click.

Of course I did tell my father she had called because it was his mother and I didn't feel right not telling him. She had called to tell him she was ill and the doctors didn't think she had long and she wanted to see us. All three of us. I met my grandparents for the first time a few months after that first phone call. My grandmother passed shortly after that, one of the hardest things I have ever watched my father go through.

After she passed, my father took over caring for my grandfather. His three brothers had moved to all points across the US which made it impossible for them to step in so it fell to him to visit my grandfather once a week, help him with his finances, and monitor his health which we suspected was also not in top condition. I visited occasionally as well but it was difficult to bring myself to forgive 19 years of silence and ostracism.

So the hardest part of helping my father clean out my grandfather's condo has been going through photos. There were at least 20 photo albums and 4 boxes worth of framed photos stashed in multiple rooms of the condo. My grandfather loved photography and as mentioned, never parted with anything. As I flipped through the albums, I realized I was flipping through a life I was never a part of. There were no photos of me, no photos of my parents. I was conspicuously absent from family holiday gatherings, summer picnics, and birthday parties. I barely recognized half the people in the photos though I knew many of them were my cousins.

Then I came to the photos my grandfather had taken on various trips to Europe. I was floored as I flipped, page by page through albums that my grandmother painstakingly arranged when they got back from their vacations. As I studied the technique, the composition, the lighting, I realized I was looking at the roots of my own photographic style. Many of the photos he took of architectural elements, city scenes, and landscapes looked frighteningly like my own.

And so with this post comes a photo my grandfather took in London in 1978 of a man walking up a hill. The photo was faded and slightly damaged so I scanned it into my own computer and restored it in PhotoShop. I have found memories I never knew I had as I learn a little more about myself while learning more about my grandfather.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No Rest for the Wicked

Artichoke- I've decided to amp up my Special Ed Cred and get my Doctorate in SPED. I'm really looking forward to it and hoping to God I get accepted so keep your fingers crossed for me!

I got up at the crack of dawn today (ok so maybe it wasn't the crack...) so I could go to Staples for Teacher Appreciation Day. It used to be that on this most holy day you would go to the store and they would hand you a totebag filled with goodies like lesson plan books, pencils, pens, erasers, and so on down the line. Hence why I dragged my ass out of bed when I really wanted to keep dreaming about being on assignment for National Geographic.

The store was supposed to open at 9 so I figured I would get there around 8:30 to beat the crowds and make sure I was in the front of the line. Totally unnecessary as there were only about 30 people there and they supposedly had enough supplies for 100. We all walked in- nice straight line, orderly, no pushing or shoving- where we were greated with a flier from a fitness place and a free sample of Mary Kay hand lotion. A Barbie sized sample of Mary Kay hand lotion. Not a good sign...Then we rounded a corner to get them...the totes. The Holy Grail. The reason I was out of bed and dressed before noon on a Saturday.

People who know me well know that I am a stationery addict. I collect pens, paper, and Post-Its like they're going out of style. If the apocolypse hits and I survive, the cockroaches and I will have a grand time writing sticky notes back and forth in multiple neon colors while the atmosphere around us belches green slime. This is the main reason that the idea of free swag at Staples thrills me no end. I imagine a tote bag full of shiny pens, paper that smells crisp and new, and thumbtacks in various rainbow colors. It makes me sigh with happiness.

Until I reach into my reusable bag that will most likely rip the first time I throw my lesson planner in it. Inside I found a plastic pencil box, a box of the crummiest pencils known to man, ONE mini mechanical pencil, ONE blue highlighter, a box of thumbtacks IN PRIMARY COLORS, and a two pack of eco friendly notepads the size of a postage stamp. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stamp my foot. I wanted to rail at Staples, yelling, "You've deceived me! You don't APPRECIATE me! You gave me CRAP!"

Unfortunately I was too tired for that type of dramatic display so instead I crawled back into my father's minivan with my bag-o-disappointment and drove sadly to my school where I proceeded to spend the next three hours decorating my classroom.

On a happy note, my classroom looks ROCKIN!

Week 1? DONE!

So week one is over and we've had 5 long days of orientation. Today I finally got to move some of my things into my classroom including my JFK poster and a painting from my great uncle.

This morning did not exactly start out well however. I'm not a morning person in any way, shape, or form so getting up and getting going takes a whole lot of effort and I suck at being on time. Therefore I generally plan to be at least 20 minutes early everywhere I go so that if I wind up late, I'm still early. This morning I was running late no matter which way you look at it. I ran out the door with crazy frizzy hair and no makeup, searching for my keys as I stumbled down the front stairs. Every horrible driver in the world was on the road this morning dragging me down even farther. When I finally got to work I went to pull my bags out of the van and knocked my beautiful, expensive camera out of the van and onto my bare toe that was sticking out of my flip flop. I started gushing blood immediately but when I got inside found that I didn't have any BandAids. I managed to get a BandAid from the nurse but my feet were already so sweaty that the BandAid wouldn't stick so I spent the entire day with a bloody foot.

Today was a professional development, prep type day so I went down to the art room with the English department and the art teacher. I had a little time to kill before I had a meeting with the Special Ed consultant so I helped move a few tables. And consequently knocked my purse down where it landed squarely on my blood soaked toe.

That ended my injurious streak for the day thankfully (the hurtin' generally comes in 3's). I sat with the Special Ed consultant for about an hour, wolfed down lunch, and tried to empty my van into my classroom. Not so much. I realized halfway through that I was sweating so bad it was creating rings around my blouse like an oak tree. I also realized that the 3 giant boxes I had packed most of the important stuff in are too heavy for me to get out. Thanks E. for putting the boxes in the van. And not telling me they were super heavy!

I was however incredibly bored by the end of the day since I had no curriculum to plan, nothing more to unpack, and no files to go through. I had also managed to spill an entire container of thumbtacks on the floor and knock down an entire shelf full of books. Thank God it was Friday and tomorrow morning is Teacher Appreciation Day at STAPLES!!! Someone up there loves me!

Oh and P. S..... I'm finally getting off my ass and applying for my doctorate. Yeah, pound it...

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air!

As many of you know today was my first day of orientation at the new charter school. About halfway through my day I emailed Phoenix Ryzing and told him he needs to move across the state and come work at this school. And frankly my dear, I don't give a damn if you teach preschool! Just kidding. But as you can see from my enthusiastic attempt at recruiting a fellow teacher and photographer into my own twisted little world, I was greatly impressed by my first day. Strangely I am the veteran teacher on the staff with 10 years under my belt. Most of the people I am working with are "newbies", this being their first year in a classroom. Many of the others have taught elsewhere for a year or two but this is their first time at a charter school.

Now, the thing that solidly won me over... DEAR. For those of you who don't know what DEAR is, it stands for "Drop Everything and Read". During homeroom teachers are supposed to yell "Drop everything and read!" (yeah, I'm going to wind up yelling "Stop Drop and Roll!" or something to that effect) and the kids are supposed to stop what they're doing and pick up a book of their choice. The main goal is to start encouraging students to love reading. What I really love about it is that the teachers are required to model. In other words, we too are supposed to kick back with a good book for 25 minutes every morning. Can you possibly think of a better way to start your day than with a cup of coffee and a good book with your class? Didn't think so!

My room is adorable. It's about half the size of the regular classrooms but in this particular building that's still fairly large. I have one wall that is a giant bulletin board and one wall that is all glass, looking out into the hallway. I'm directly across the hall from the art teacher who is an absolute darling! Sorry my dear art teacher, but I'm going to be in your classroom constantly! (Ah if only I could recruit Brazen!) Anyway, there is plenty of wall space to hang my photos and my vintage poster of JFK (yes, I'm THAT much of a nerd) but strangely there is also a standing display case in my room. I'm actually hoping that I get to keep it so that I can display some of the odder things I have collected over the years that may very well be of interest to some of my students.

On to some of my other favorite things that I learned today. The kids are required to wear uniforms. There are no words to describe how much it thrills me to know I will no longer have to endure 12 year olds in booty shorts. Our day is 8 to 5 which includes an hour after school of clubs and tutoring. Everything in the school is done on a database which means all lesson plans, grades, and discipline records are available online. Plans have to be done a week in advance (YAY!) so no more chasing teachers to find out what they're doing for the week so we won't have NO SURPRISES! The school has a major focus on technology so we're expected to be computer savvy as well as familiar with technological gadgets, to which I am hopelessly addicted. It's wonderful to feel at home pulling out my BlackBerry or my ITouch to check my calendar or send an email!

On top of that, there is also a strong emphasis on the arts. I had a wonderful time chatting with the art teacher about plans for an after school photography club (YAY AGAIN!) as well as expandeing the kids' horizons with other art forms that aren't typically visited in a public school curriculum.

I could go on and on but it was only the first day and there's so much more to come. So Day 1 down and so far the score is Charter School: 10. Public School: ZIP!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Benchley...Or Else!

To answer your question Mom, this will be my first time in a charter school and I have to say, I'm hoping to answer that question fairly quickly. I've heard from many that the special education services at charter schools are drastically different due to the differences in philosophies toward education. Now obviously I'm not exactly pro-public school after this last experience so I'm looking forward to seeing a different side of special ed.

What strikes me most about the principal of this particular school is that he believes in "college prep for all". The school is obviously centered on a high caliber education that will direct its students to good colleges but it's a breath of fresh air to have a principal who feels this should also apply to students on IEP's. He also believes that the ultimate goal is to tailor IEP's to the point where it either fits the student perfectly and allows them to succeed regardless of the environment OR the student succeeds to the point where the IEP is no longer necessary. Sounds perfect doesn't it?

On another note, everyone knows by now that I'm the biggest book nerd in the world. By the time I was done packing I had managed to fill 17 climate controlled boxes with books, not counting all the ones I managed to bring home with me and the ones still in the back of my father's minivan waiting to move into their new home at the charter school. Anyway, I picked up a biography of Dorothy Parker the other day, given that she is one of my favorite authors. I've flown through the first half of the book and decided it was time to pick up a few books by those who were her closest friends. Therefore I decided to check out Robert Benchley's book, "Benchley...Or Else". It's a collection of Benchley's short stories, some of which were originally published in the New Yorker when it was in its infancy. The very first story is about Benchley's hatred of pigeons in which he suggests he would like the opportunity to punch the daylights out of a pigeon. Much like Mrs. Parker, Benchley has an off beat, often self-depricating sense of humor that makes for easy reading and a few good giggles! I recommend you read both Benchley and Mrs. Parker. You'll quickly see where I get my penchant for literary lunacy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The J O B

Ok Ms. Mom! Here are the gritty details... I got hired on at a charter school that just completed its planning year so this will be the first year that the school is actually up and running which means no cliques, no preconceived notions, and fewer barriers to break down (I hope!). I'll be the only special ed person for grades 6 through 9 which is my favorite age span given that 6th grade is about the time that most students start to really develop a solid self image and decide how they feel about education.

I got to see the building where the school is going to be which, coincidentally is where my other half attended high school which is a neat connection. The principal has promised to teach me Russian (I learned how to read and write it but can't speak it to save my life) and he plans to take the staff on an international field trip at the end of the year.

Otherwise, this new job is a great big unknown quantity given that the school is brand new. So for all I know it could be nothing but darkness and maybe a few dragons but I'm hoping that's not the case!

On another note, since I start work on the 17th (two weeks of orientation before the first day of school) I have decided to spend my last week of freedom taking the most out of every day! I know, I sound like a convicted killer off to death row but my nights of going out until 3 am are quickly coming to an end since I'm old and can't function on less than 9 hours of sleep. This evening we decided to drive down to Connecticut to see what was going on with the car scene. It was my first time going to this particular strip and I was in awe almost the moment we made it down there. There were cars everywhere, taking up almost every parking lot of every fast food joint, gas station, and strip mall. Hot rods, muscle cars, giant trucks. There was even a firebird jacked up on 42" tires.

In the parking lot of a small strip mall, all the import cars were gathered, turbo engines screaming every time they spooled, blowoff valves spitting air as guys blew by in their mortgages on wheels. We decided to give them a little show and took off to drift the 240 around the light poles in the empty half of the parking lot. It was crazy to see the crowd that gathered to watch while the tires billowed smoke and the front bumper of the car rode just inches away from the pole, pulling into a perfect circle.

Of course, this inspired some of the other clowns who got their licenses from a Cracker Jack box to attempt to show us up. (Cue ominous music.) The first MENSA candidate to try pulled into the empty parking lot in a brand new, $90,000 car. He kicks the car into gear, starts to slide sideways, then totally loses his shit. The car goes crazy and the kid can't seem to get it under control. Five seconds later he's pulling back out of the parking lot after damned near wrecking the most expensive vehicle in the parking lot. Needless to say, he didn't come back after that.

The next up was a brand new Corvette Z06 who also managed to hook the car sideways, made it halfway around the light pole, then lost control and went careening towards the center island. Near accident number 2!

The only car that came close was a beautifully built Subaru Impreza Sti. Being an all wheel drive car, the Sti can't drift but it certainly made a great show of doing donuts in place, looking like it was floating in circles on a cloud of smoke.

Then the cops came. Whoops. See what we started?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back in the 413

Yes folks, the epic move of the century is finally over and guess how many book boxes it took to contain my overflowing collection? SEVENTEEN! And that's not counting the 5 shelf bookcase I shoved into my childhood bedroom and the giant pile of magazines sitting on my floor that have yet to find a home.

All in all I'm happy to be home. While I dearly miss my independence already, I realize I missed my parents, my neighborhood, and my roots more. So while I continue to sweat my ass off putting stuff away, I have some good news!

I found myself a new job. Now I know I ranted and raved about not wanting to teach anymore after my last horrid experience, but it was all talk. I can't ever leave teaching, even if I was offered the most fantastic, dream-like photography job in the world. I love teaching. And this time around, I'll be at a brand new school with brand new kids who have actively chosen this school because they want an outstanding education. Maybe this time I'll get my wish and actually get to teach! I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

4 Days and a Second Ticket

This afternoon as we were making our way home, the cop who usually sits, bored senseless at the corner of my street watches us pass by onto the main drag where we pull up behind yet another officer in a marked SUV. All of a sudden we see lights in our rearview mirror, then the SUV in front of us lights up. We pull over next to the laundromat parking lot where the cruiser pulls up behind us and the SUV pulls into the parking lot next to us. I look down long enough to put my seatbelt on (I know, "at all times" means at all times...), and when I look up again... BAM... there's a cop face in both windows, each of them grilling us at the same time about seat belts, inspections, exhausts, and front license plates.

The cop in the cruiser makes us wait an eternity while he runs licenses and such. My other half is fuming, yet again when suddenly a third cruiser drives by, lights up, and throws on his siren. The cop in the SUV hauls ass to his car and hops in, Super Troopers style and speeds off, and finally the officer in the cruiser runs to our window, throws the ticket at my boyfriend, mumbles something about driving safe, and blows by us.

The only thing I can manage to get out is, "Where the hell were all these guys Friday night when we needed them?"

We drive a couple blocks farther up my street to see all three cruisers in front of the local funeral home. And what praytell did Winchendon's finest rush off to do? Stop three small children from fighting over a bike. Thank God. I've never felt so safe in my life!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

5 Days and Counting!!!

I have 5 more days left in this white trash cow town hell and after this past Friday night, I'm glad of it!

Driving back from Western Mass after a concert, this yahoo in a BMW gets right on our tail. And I mean right on our tail. He was so close that when I turned around all I could see was hood. I'm pretty sure he could smell my perfume from where he was. The guy starts weaving from side to side, getting ever closer to the car when my other half locks up the brakes and the BMW slides to the left, nearly making contact with our back bumper. Then this clown decides to try to pass us in the breakdown lane while moving towards the side of our car, basically trying to shove us into oncoming traffic. 

Once our exit comes up, my other half hits the gas, full tilt around the exit that is basically a U-turn and pins it. We're going at least 80 on a residential road and somehow the BMW is still with us. At this point, I'm freaking out because this guy is obviously following us and manages to land on our bumper once again the moment we have to slow down for traffic.

My bright idea? Well, I'll call the state police! They'll help! So I dutifully dial 911 and speak to a trooper, telling him what route we're on and what mile marker we just passed. The trooper informs me that he is going to transfer us to the local police for my town so that they can intercept this genius who has now just tried to shove us off the road for a second time. I wait for the call to transfer and speak to the dispatch officer in my town. I tell him where I am and he starts to "hmm" and "umm".

"Well, you're technically in the village of Baldwinville. You would be better calling the Templeton police."

So I figure, ok fine. I'll call Templeton. I call the state police back and I say that the Winchendon police have told me I should talk to the Templeton police. But by this time I realize we have crossed the town line into Winchendon and ask for the Winchendon police again. I explain that this punk in the BMW is still following us, still riding our ass, and now has his high beams on while flashing a bright blue flashlight at us from inside his car.

What do the fine, brave enforcers of our town's laws tell us to do? "Pull into the police station. You'll be safe there."

At that point I hand the phone to my already fuming driver. He starts asking this brilliant dispatcher what on earth this solution could possibly do for us in light of the fact that the BMW has now tried to KILL US TWICE. For this, the cop has no answer except to say that all the officers on duty are currently "out on a fight". This incenses him further and he starts to swear at the police officer (not such a good idea by the way) and asks him if he's retarded (another not so great idea). The officer tells him the only way he can help us is if we can get the license plate number on the BMW. 

Fine. So this car is obviously following us and there's no way we're pulling into our driveway and letting this jackass know where we live so we pull into the gas station on the corner of my street and get out, trying to see what the car's license plate is. Unfortunately neither of us can see it and my other half is back on the phone with the police, letting them know that the car has now turned onto my street with us and wants to know if they can send a cruiser for "when this kid gets his ass kicked".

The dispatcher continues to tell us there's nothing they can do for us unless we have the license plate so we hop back into the car and speed down our street to catch up to the BMW which has since turned into the parking lot of the local school. We creep around the school building, James Bond style, and watch this kid get out of his car. With about 3 of his friends. Being that we're outnumbered, we decide to try the police yet one more time. 

For the final time, the police suggest that we try to get the license plate number.

Dispatcher: Sir, can you get close enough to the car to see the license plate?

BF: Um, they're parked in a deserted parking lot with like 4 of them and 2 of us. You want me to roll up on them and get their license plate? What the hell kind of police academy did you graduate from?

Dispatcher: Sir, we can send a cruiser out in about 15 minutes if you can stay there and box him in.

BF: You want me to sit here all night, parked across the exit until you d*ckheads can send a car? Because we're not going home so this kid can come to my house and f*ck up my car. I should have locked up my brakes in front of the police station and let the kid hit me right there."

Long story short, the cops did zero. So what did we do? Stormed into the police station ready to do battle. While my other half wound up, getting ready to rip the dispatcher apart, I stepped in front of him and did my best Linda Blair impression, pounding on the counter, spit flying everywhere while I loudly informed him that we would be camping out in the station until he got off his ass and checked out this kid's car.

After sitting in the station, listening to the kid who caused the fight that took the entire police force to break up yell and cry like a 4 year old girl in lockup for 45 minutes, the dispatcher finally hopped in a cruiser to check out our complaint. He comes back after 10 minutes, laughing and shaking his head. Immediately we know that this is not going to end the way we hoped.

Dispatcher: Yeah. So I know this kid and um, he said he was out getting rims for his car. He even showed me the rims (BF: I don't give a f*ck if he showed you the rims a$$hole.). So it was just a coincidence he was following you. And uh, he says you were the one driving like an A-hole (his word, not mine). But I know this kid, I'm going to court with him on Monday and he's going to lose his license anyway because he drives like an idiot. So yeah."

Great. Of course he knows the kid. And of course the fact that the kid tried to KILL US makes no difference because he showed this yokel his RIMS THAT HE BOUGHT! I'm pissed but I can see that my other half is ready to boil over. We get in the car and there is steam pouring out of his ears as he jams the car in gear, backs out of his parking space next to a cruiser, and...

Peels out in front of the police station.

We don't make it more than 100 feet before we see blue lights behind us. They can't send a cruiser out to catch the kid who damned near caused our deaths but they sure as hell can jump in their car pretty damned fast to give us a $200 TICKET!!!!! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mass Health

The notion of free health care for those of us who are say, unexpectedly unemployed, those of us who find ourselves fallen on hard times, is one that I can staunchly and wholeheartedly support as well as appreciate. However, it must be nice to get free health care on the state's dime and still be able to afford your Dolce and Gabbana (definitely real) sunglasses.

I went down to the city office of Mass Health with my other half today to keep him company while he waited to file for health benefits as we are now both out of work. He's a mechanic and right now, with people selling their cars or simply taking them off the road, he's generally screwed. However, he still needs to have regular health care. So we sat in that office for about 45 minutes while I marvelled at the individuals coming in for benefits.

The first woman to come in after us was a very thin blond woman. I'm fairly certain she was caucasian though it was difficult to tell behind all the jail house tattoos. She was complaining loudly to the receptionist that her benefits had been interrupted due to her recent incarceration and she was wondering if she could get them restored as soon as possible.

The next to come in was an overweight African American man who also informed the receptionist that he had lost benefits while serving time in the local maximum security facility. It seems the facility, upon his release, sent him to Mass Health with forms that would allow him to receive emergency benefits. Why? Because he's overweight and diabetic and therefore needs insulin.

Mixed in amongst these individuals were women who looked like they couldn't be much older than 25 asking if they could add their 15 year old daughter to their free health care plan. There were young men talking to their "boys" on cell phones that cost more than my rent payment. There were 12 year old girls also talking to their friends on their cell phones (Why does a 12 year old need a cell phone again?) about how they were going to leave the Mass Health office in a few minutes to go buy a new pair of $125 sneakers.

Every single one of these individuals was asked to produce a paystub to prove that they were making a salary that placed them below the poverty line, which is a requirement to receive the free health care. What did most of these high rollers with nicer wardrobes than mine answer? "Oh. I ain't workin' there no more. I ain't workin' at all."

And I felt guilty filing for unemployment.....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good to be back!

Well thank you for the hearty welcome back Mom!

And Phoenix, not only have I witnessed that particular breed of "rink mom" but I used to be one of those kids out on the ice thanking God that my mother was outside smoking a cigarette instead of inside the rink. The only skating advice she ever gave me was, "Fall on your ass. At least that part of your anatomy never swells."

I competed for the final time in my career when I was 18 years old and while other kids' parents were browbeating them for coming in 3rd, my father's response to me after seeing my standings posted was, "Well, technically you didn't come in dead last. There was that girl who dropped out..."

Being a teacher I will never understand why some adults react to children the way they do. Telling your child or student that he or she is a failure certainly does not, in my opinion, constitute a good use of your adult wisdom. Even if that child is in the corner talking to sock puppets at the age of 16 or wildly trying to pound a very square plastic peg into the very round ear of a classmate, you never tell that child that he or she will be a failure. Hey, my dad ate paste until he was 7 and he turned out pretty damned good. No one ever told him he was a loser for snarfing up the kindergarten adhesive like it was frosting on a cupcake. Sometimes you just have to remember that kids are kids- not miniature adults.

On that note, I'm off to be artsy out on my porch because I'm tired of packing my giant amounts of crap.

You should be required to pass an IQ test to be a parent...

I know, I know... I disappeared yet again. I took a brief hiatus but I'm back and better than ever. Well, not really but at least I'm back.

And my pearl of wisdom for you today is that I found something more horrifying than pageant moms. MOTOCROSS MOMS! I went up to Crow Hill Motocross track today to shoot a friend who was racing and in between the motos he raced in I got to witness the little tykes racing their tiny screaming motocross bikes while their large screaming mothers stood on the sidelines, shouting at them to quit being losers and step on it! Half these kids can't be more than 6 years old and as they're riding their bikes back to their trailers, fathers are barking at them to kick some more ass in the next race.

Now, call me crazy, but I don't think calling your kid a loser is such a great motivator. Although since I don't yet have kids, I suppose I'm not one to judge. However, once my kids pick up motocross after watching their uncles race, I'll be on the sidelines trying not to slap the shit out of those other mothers!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big Lots is Dangerous

"I just fell off the handicapped toilet..." ~Kate

"If it had a stick I'd ride it..." ~Beth

"I'm obviously talking to myself here. How are you Mr. Lettuce?" ~Mom

"I just drooled on myself." ~Kate

"Notice how no one's surprised by that." ~Beth

"Would you just bite the big one Anderson?" ~Mom

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Silver Lining

I've now missed five days of work in a row. I got sick sometime last week and just finally dragged myself to the doctor yesterday where I was told I have a sinus infection, a virus of some sort, and possibly appendicitis. This would be another reason I can't wait to move out of this white trash cow town hell. People out here are idiots.

When I first moved out here my mother called to see how I liked it. She asked the usual rapid-fire questions that my mother is known for- "Are there any restaurants? Is it safe? Are there any cute guys?"

"Mom. There's a giant f*%king horse in the middle of town."

Pause. "Excuse me what?"

"There's a giant f*%king horse. That's their claim to fame. It's a f*%king tourist attraction for Christ's sake!"

Pause. "....What the f*%k?"

And people wonder where I get it from. It's true though. There's an enormous, anatomically correct rocking horse in the middle of the town because it used to be the largest producer of small plastic toys back in the day, especially little plastic rocking horses. Know what else? They reenact the Civil War every year. AND NO ONE KNOWS WHO WINS!

Everyone always says that you should have a passport in order to go from Boston to Springfield. But what about this hideous no man's land in between? If I had known what a cultural void I was stepping into, I would have slit my wrists somewhere between Route 202 and the middle of f*%king nowhere.

Needless to say I'm pretty happy that I'm going to be moving home. I miss the few really good friends I had made before I left and I definitely miss my parents. It's funny because when I moved out, I couldn't wait to get away. Now I'm almost 30 and I can't wait to get back. I guess it just goes to show how the bond with your parents changes with age. That and I don't trust my father not to fall out of a tree or saw off his own fingers. Again.

When I had my interview a couple of weeks ago I got to the school really early and sat on the steps to read. It's a typical downtown Springfield, neighborhood school and I couldn't help but pretend I was Carrie Bradshaw in my head for a minute. I missed my city. She may have had NYC but I've always had Springfield. I was born there, I grew up spending weekends at my grandmother's house in Forest Park. I learned to ice skate at a rink in Springfield which would lead to almost 20 years of dedication to the sport. This is my city and I belong in my city.

So yes Matt, when one door closes, another one opens. Or sometimes it's a window and you just have to take a chance and fly. It took me three years of living out here in the back woods of Massachusetts to realize I needed to fly but now I'm headed home. Finally!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stand Up and Be Brazen

Brazen's right. It's time to make you all proud and find a job I can love. Never once have I gotten up in the morning and said, "Teaching isn't for me." Not only is teaching FOR me...but it IS me. I've been a teacher since I was in 4th grade. It's true! I used to be the first one out of my seat helping the other kids finish their work. While most kids were collecting Barbies or riding bikes, I was out in the playhouse setting up desks and handing out math lessons. I will always love to teach. It's just time to find the right place to teach. A place where I can bring my heart along with me and not have it stomped on and fed back to me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Back on the Bicycle

Phoenix makes a good point. Like his name implies, everyone must eventually rise from the ashes of their collective mistakes. I know that I made the right decision today to go home early because it was better to lose my s*$t at home and lose a day, than to go through my school day off my game, not serving my kids the way I should. I have 8 lousy weeks to survive with these people and even if they're hell bent on making them the worst 8 weeks of my life, so be it. Onward and upward, eh?

Nervous Breakdown????

I'm sure this wasn't the right thing to do at all but today I finally broke down at work and walked out. Well, I signed out. Then I walked out. I'm still a professional after all.

It started this morning when the principal sent an email out to my team "clarifying" that I would no longer be working with the group of 9 kids I usually work with. My TA would be doing that instead and I would be working with the other 3 kids for the final eight weeks. I emailed him back, angry beyond belief, asking him what the issue was. Apparently, he believed my TA and I were going to switch yesterday. I reminded him that in my infinite educational wisdom, I had told him before vacation that the kids would need a day to be prepped for the change and if it was an issue, someone should have talked to

So I went about the rest of the morning with my new group of kids. One of my girls was doing a crossword and while she had put the words in the right places, she had spelled them all wrong. I grabbed her pencil from her, made her laugh off her frustration, and erased the misspellings. As I was helping her correct them, the regular ed teacher came over and started yelling at my student that I should NOT be doing her work for her, that her pencil should be in HER hand. I said nothing at the time because embarrassing my students is not on my to do list. I waited until prep and asked if I could speak with this teacher. I told her flat out I was helping my student with spelling. Her response? "No you weren't. You were doing her work for her. HER pencil was in YOUR hand and YOU were writing. This can't happen. This isn't going to happen."

What did I do? I broke down. I started to cry. After almost 9 months of quietly sucking up every horrible thing that was said to and about me, I couldn't take it anymore. I started to say, "We only have 8 weeks left, can't you just LEAVE ME ALONE!" But she had already stormed out of the room, shaking her head like I was a petulant, misbehaving child.

I went back to my own room where surprisingly there was an email waiting for me from the principal apologizing for what seemed to be a miscommunication about the kid switch, saying he was glad it was handled. I fired back an email that the other teacher had just gotten in my face and as much as I appreciated professionalism, I couldn't work like that today and I was going to take advantage of the opportunity to go home. I signed out, and cried the whole way home.

Now what?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting What You Deserve

Well I am taking everyone's advice and seeing all this as a blessing in disguise. Phoenix is right- it's time to find something for the love oh the job. Every time I interview for a new job I say I want a place wher I can die behind my desk. Hopefully this is my time to find that!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ground Swell of Support

I have to say I really deeply appreciate all the comments I've been getting on my last few posts. People are being laid off across the nation and I'm damned lucky that I get to have a paycheck until June which means health insurance until July. I work in a horrid work environment, there's no two ways about it. I work with a bunch of teachers who don't keep plan books, who teach without previewing the information they're teaching, and who don't know enough about their subject matter to be properly teaching the student population.

Jon, I'm not as fed up as my post makes me sound. I still love what I do. I love teaching and I love having daily contact with kids. I hate to liken them to pets, but they say every time you pet an animal your blood pressure drops and your stress levels decrease. Well that's what these kids do for me. Every time one of them comes in and wants a hug or announces to me that they've done well on a test, I feel a lot of my stress melting away. One thing I can admit easily now is that it was a mistake to leave the DarkSide when I did. I should have had faith that the place would stay open because I haven't been happy in a teaching job since.

Let's add it all up... I left DarkSide in August of 2005. I went on to Hadley Elementary to do 3rd grade pullout special ed where I was so depressed and felt so isolated and undervalued that by February I had bailed. I accepted a position at Perkins, a residential in Central Mass. I packed up my life and moved to a town I'd never heard of whose only claim to fame is the giant horse in the center, and tried to start over. There was no way it was going to happen. My resentment at having had to uproot my life was obvious to everyone around me and I was gone by June. I stayed unemployed and tutored privately for the rest of that summer until I was hired at Fitchburg Public Schools which was like working in the worst ghetto school known to man. I didn't even make it through my 90 day probation period. Then I worked as a Visual Merchandising Director for Macy's (don't ask) and finally Seven Hills where I got punched, bit, kicked, hit, my glasses broken, my cell phone smashed, and chunks of my hair ripped out. I bailed from there in July.

So in the end, every job choice I've made for the last almost four years has been out of desperation. Desperation because DarkSide was closing. Desperation because I hated my job. Desperation because I had to quit before I opened my mouth and said something that would get me fired.

I suppose at this point Jon is right, the layoff is a blessing in disguise. Not only do I have the entire summer to really take my time and look for a job that will fit me, but I have the time to tutor privately, and I can finally move home to Western Mass without letting on to my parents that the real reason I'm moving home is because I'm worried about them being on their own.

Phoenix, I appreciate your support. You have faithfully read every word I've written and I know that being a teacher yourself you understand the unending level of garbage we frequently have to put up with. We get very little respect on a daily basis, not just from the state, the Department of Education, or the principal...but from the kids themselves and often the parents. We are the invisible ones who take their little darlings and raise them for 6 hours a day, helping them to learn all the things that their parents hope will guide them to become managers of successful hedgefunds so their children can support their fabulous lifestyle.

In conclusion (since I'm starting to ramble as smoke pours out my ears) Webmaster, there IS no respect in my field except for the respect I have for myself and the job that I do. My ultimate thank you will come someday when I turn on the news to watch one of my kids accept a Pulitzer (God willing).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Contract Negotiations

Even though I no longer have a job in my school system, I went to the teacher union meeting to vote on the contract for next year. Unfortunately for the remaining teachers, the news wasn't good. Between pay cuts and increases in insurance costs these poor teachers are basically screwed for the next year and possibly for years after.

So my general question is, how can our govenment allow our teachers to be continually treated this way? We are the ones who produce the next president of the country, the next American Idol, the next great actor. How is it that we keep getting the shit end of the stick, wondering if we will be able to survive from day to day? Where is our million dollar bonus and company car? And the toughest one to swallow: Where is our respect?

To Be or Not to Be...Sad

In answer to Mom's comment, I'm sad to be leaving my kids but throwing an internal party that I no longer have to deal with the horrid people I work with. This was my first year in a public school and let me tell you... NEVER AGAIN! I wish I had known it was going to be this bad when I was hired because I would have run screaming in the other direction.

Let me tell you the whole story.

Since I have rarely, if ever, blogged about my current job you all know very little about it. Last summer I was working at a residential for kids with severe mental retardation. Now, I usually work with kids with mental illness which is a whole other ballgame. I found with the MR kids that I spent more time calming freak outs than I did actually teaching. And when I did teach, it was simply handing out worksheets that they could churn out, one after the other. I lost it. I left there in late July and started searching for a new job which is when I happened upon this public school posting for a 6th grade inclusion teacher. Basically what that means is that I'm the Special Education teacher who handles all the requisite paperwork, but I'm also a "valued" member of the 6th grade "team". In a dream world, this model means that I get to coteach with the regular education teachers, I get a chance to help plan curriculum, and I'm allowed to seamlessly modify work for my special ed kiddos.

I should have known better when I was asked, point blank, in the interview, "How would you handle a team member who didn't want you in their classroom?" That's the point in the horror film where the entire audience is screaming, "DON'T GO IN THERE!"

But I went. They offered me a generous salary and hired me pretty much on the spot. They were impressed with how strong a personality I was and how well I interviewed. Too bad no one warned me that I was entering the lion's den without a chair.

The first day the whole team was together we were meant to discuss the curriculum for the year. The reg ed teachers sat and bitched about how much they hated the text books and the lunch schedule. No one even asked me my name.

It started almost immediately. "Can you run and copy this for me?" "Can you email So and So and ask them for a box of tissue?" "Once you get the tissue, can you wipe my nose for me?"

Then it became a game of tattle tale. One teacher in particular would get upset at me for something. Usually it was disturbing her class by helping the SPED kids. I would know she was mad because she would stomp over to the science teacher's room, then drag him to the math teacher's room, where they would have a closed door pow wow. Which was great because I'm right across the hall and could see but not hear the meeting. Then they'd all march out and downstairs to complain to the principal. I spent the majority of my school year being called down to the principal's office not because I wasn't doing my job, but because I sat funny in my chair while I read to the kids. Or because my desk was facing a different direction than everyone else's. It didn't matter that my kids were doing well in their classes (in fact better than they had ever done before) or that my paperwork was organized and completed on time. It only mattered that I "didn't fit in" as the principal so delicately put it.

So no Mom, I'm not upset about leaving. I allowed the kids to put their phone numbers and email addresses into my blackberry with the promise that they would indeed get a message from me over the summer. They don't know yet that when they get here on the first day next year, I won't be here and telling them that will be the hardest part of leaving. But it's a blessing in disguise because no teacher should ever wake up on a daily basis and hate going to work not because of the children she teaches, but because of the CHILDREN she works with!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pink- No Longer My Favorite Color

It's official. I have been swept out the door on the tidal wave of layoffs here in the tiniest school system known to man. Ask me if I'm sad. Come on ask me....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feeling self satisfied!

Not too long ago I managed to find a few of my former DarkSide kids on MySpace, most importantly Nick. He's been keeping me up to date on how he's doing and whatnot and now... drum roll please... he's being discharged from treatment in June.

Now, I rarely get much recognition for what I do for these kids or what I give them on a regular basis but Nick told me today that he plans on getting his own place, finishing school at the Dark Side... and he's applying to college.

He told me he wouldn't be the kid he is today if it hadn't been for me, his favorite teacher of all time because I had the patience to get to know him and teach him things he actually enjoyed. So, after 10 years of teaching, I'm seeing my first little bird leave the nest and test his wings. Stay tuned to see if my little fledgling gets himself into a good school! I have a feeling there's a 4 year degree in this kid's future pretty soon! And to quote the book I'm reading right now, "I'm chuffed as a rat."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


After Brazen posted the interview questions I answered in order to become Cool Teacher of the Month... wait that sounds wrong. I was cool long before she asked the questions... Bollocks. Anyway, I decided to send the link to some of my friends so they could read it and then most likely make fun of me somehow. This morning I got an email from my pal Renata and I just thought I'd share the exchange with you all. It's brief. I promise.

Renata: Congratulations! Seriously, where would those kids be without you?

Me: Prison?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Running with Scissors

And no, I'm not referring to the book by Augusten Burroughs. Though I have to say I got a kick out of it. I'm referring to what I feel like doing today at work. After beautiful temperatures last week (thank God since I had decided to use my personal days) it has decided to once again dump snow on my region. I live in what's referred to as the "Snow Belt" of Central Massachusetts but I've taken to referring to it as the "Apocalyptic Weather Zone". I check the Weather and instead of saying "Winter Storm Warning" it just says "KATE, GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!" I exaggerate but that's how I feel lately.

Thanks to the weather, my usual 45 minute commute turned into an hour and a half. Then, when I finally got to work, my shoes were wet and guess what I did? That's right folks. Took a spill right in the middle of the hallway. So with a big finish and jazz hands, I got back up and finally made it upstairs to find that my assistant is out sick. Again. *Sigh*

The kids are continuing to drop like flies with all kinds of mystery ailments that seem to cause everything from fevers, to coughs, to symptoms of not completing their homework. The no homework issue seems to have become an epidemic in the 6th grade and some of the teachers have started handing out detentions. However, the kids can't even be bothered to take their detention slips home and have them signed. It seems like nothing fazes them whatsoever and they have no motivation towards their school work. It makes me want to scream when they flood into my room in the morning, freaking out that they didn't finish their homework, giving me the lame, generalized excuse of, "I didn't get it." Seriously? You were supposed to color in some squares and you didn't "get it"? You mean you were up all night playing Mario Kart.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Name Your Dream Assignment

Hey everyone. I typically hate people who use their blogs to promote their own purposes but, seriously, isn't that what the internet is for? Anyway, I entered a photography contest in which you create a "dream assignment". Now those of you who know me know that I already pretty much spend my time accomplishing this. I photograph the buildings I love and I work hard to see that at least some of their history is preserved. However, this contest offers $50,000 to the winning idea and it's based on votes. Your idea has to be voted into the Top 10, then it's viewed by the official judges. Obviously, having $50,000 would make my life's goal of historic preservation so much easier!

All you have to do is click on the cute little widget with the yellow camera on it and it will take you to the site. Unfortunately you have to register in order to vote but I'm asking- neigh, BEGGING you to vote! There are a million good ideas already submitted to this site and it will take a vast number of votes to get me into the Top 10 so I need all the help I can get!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back from the dead...Sort of....

I have to apologize deeply for not posting for so long. It's been pretty hectic lately, mostly because my other addiction, history, has overridden every other aspect of my life.

For a few years now I have been exploring and photographing abandoned buildings. I've always been a history nut and for some reason, abandoned things have always intrigued me, probably because I love imagining what came before. I like to walk the halls of these buildings and create pictures in my head of what they looked like 100 years ago. This must also be due in part to the writer in me because I then run to the library or the state archives and start furiously researching each place I shoot.

When I first moved to Central Mass a friend of mine showed me this beautiful inn right on the common in a sleepy little town not far from where I live. The long and short of it is, this inn was eventually turned into a school and the moment I found that out, I was hooked. I had to know more. I found a few discarded yearbooks in the building's library and immediately started searching for some of the alums on Classmates. A few weeks ago I finally got a response from one the alums and in the end, am now in contact with 22 of the members of the class of 1969. I have also been invited to their 40th and final reunion which will be held in October.

So needless to say, I have spent the past month focused solely on researching as much as I can about this school and the girls who attended the school so that I can do them justice when I write their history.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. If anyone would like to see the project as it unfolds, I've started a website at and while it's definitely under construction, it will most likely grow daily as my cluttered brain continues to come up with fascinating ideas for archiving what remains of the Maria Assumpta!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inauguration

Last week when it was announced that the entire 6th grade would be watching the Inauguration in its entirety, I was immediately worried about my special ed students sitting through the hours of pomp and circumstance leading up to an event that few of them seemed to understand. Since I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I don't get a chance to plan lessons or work with the kids on any type of unique curriculum, but because I'm such a history buff, I decided to run a contest. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, today the Inauguration of our nation's first African American President. I printed out photos of MLK giving his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. I taped up photos of JFK and RFK, two of our countries greatest and most storied political leaders. I covered a bulletin board with photos of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the marches on Washington during our country's fight for integration. The task was simple in my eyes: 11 questions about our nation's history having to do with the Civil Rights Movement and how that generation's fight led to this very day when at 12:00 pm, Barack Obama would take the Oath of Office.

I was immediately disappointed when students began asking questions like, "Didn't MLK die of hypothermia?" Or, "How do I find out who signed the Emancipation Proclomation?" I was flabbergasted at the idea that these 12 year olds had no basic knowledge of their country's history.

I told my fellow teachers, "This is it. We've finally raised a generation that has no idea where they came from."

Automatically I assumed that today's Inauguration and its vast, sweeping historical significance would be lost on these students. The only way we could make them understand that the Nation's Mall was not actually a shopping center was to refer to a scene in the movie "Forrest Gump" where Tom Hanks' character is looking out over the Reflecting Pool. We had difficulty making them understand that today is the day when we would see the culmination of Dr. King's Dream as a member of a racial minority would take the highest office in our nation.

I went down to the auditorium at 11:30 to watch the minutes leading up to the Oath and the Inaugural Address. The kids were understandably restless, having just come in from recess, and other grades and classes were flooding in, making sure they didn't miss the big moment. The announcer began reading off the names of senators and government representatives who were descending the steps onto the stage at the head of the Nation's Mall, but it wasn't until Obama's calm, collected, and unarguably proud face flashed across the screen did I realize these kids know a hell of a lot more than we give them credit for.

Obama's name was announced and the auditorium erupted. Kids were clapping and cheering, chanting Obama's name. Suddenly, even the kids whose parents were staunchly against Obama's political platform were cheering along with their friends. We watched as Obama stumbled through the Oath with a smile on his face and when he said the final words, "So help me God", the noise in the auditorium was deafening. The kids were on their feet and I had a hard time keeping the tears back.

The cameras panned across the crowd as Obama delivered his Inaugural Address. The faces of individuals who were alive to see Dr. King deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech, cried as they watched their nation finally see the ultimate end to segregation. The crowd in Washington roared as Obama invoked the spirits of Dr. King and all those who fought alongside him for freedom and equality for all American people. While my cynical side frequently feels like our nation's history has begun to fade, watching today's events reminded me that as long as there is one person who remembers, our history will never disappear. We are a nation who has survived world wars, civil wars, race riots, invasions, foreign conflict, economic crisis. I hope that in seeing history being made today, some of my students will wake up one morning and say, "I want to know more" and they will take the time to discover from where they came. They will ask the questions and find a way to enrich their lives with the words and actions of those who made today possible.

"As of today, this generation, and generations to come, will never know a world without an African American president."

Border Patrol

Dear Canada-

Thank you for letting me into your country without commenting on my obvious lack of ability to speak my native language. I realize now, in hindsight, that blurting out the word "TRAINS" when asked what I was doing in Canada, was not an entirely appropriate answer. I also apologize for repeatedly calling my carbonated beverages "soda" as opposed to "pop", and for making jokes relating to American history, the FBI, and Target. None of which exist in Canada.

Thank you, and God save the Queen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear McDonald's,

I'm sorry for harassing your drive through employees.


So yeah, I'm guessing that by now there is a picture of my face with a caption reading "Do NOT Serve Food to this Woman" in every McDonald's in America. And maybe a couple in Canada. It all started last night when it began to snow like a bastard. By the time my friend B and I got up this morning, our cars were buried under a foot of snow so we decided to just stay in and do nothing. However, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" came on and we looked at each other, movie star style, and said, "McDonald's!" Still in our jammies, we went down to clean the snow off my dad's MINIVAN (my car blew a tire) and pulled out of the driveway. Well, not really. We tried to pull out of the driveway but we got stuck. In our jammies. For ten minutes we pushed the minivan, pulled the minivan, kicked the minivan.. No dice. Finally we pulled out the BROOM because we don't have a SHOVEL and started hacking away at the snow under the front end of the minivan. Thankfully that worked and we got out of the driveway with a minimum of swearing. We headed down the street to McDonald's and pulled up to the drive through where I promptly realized that the 4 piece chicken nugget is no longer on the Dollar Menu. Here's how the rest of it went:

"Welcome to McDonald's. Can I help you?" Or at least I think that's what he said.

"Yes can I get two double cheeseburgers, two 4 piece chicken nuggets, and two large fries?" I watch it all pop up on the screen... and then silence. Of course I took this as my cue to loudly bitch about the fact that inflation is a mother. "How the hell can they raise the price of chicken nuggets from $1 to $1.39? What the F*&K! God dammit. Bastards ruined my life."

Then I hear static and shuffling coming from the speaker, then a woman's voice, laughing hystercially says, "Can I get you anything else?"

Yes. My dignity back.

We pulled around to the window where all of the employees were bent over laughing. At my expense of course. The poor guy who originally took my order was still laughing so hard that when he reached for my debit card he was actually wheezing.

By the time our food was ready, every employee at the McD's drive through had pointed and laughed at the crazy lady in her puffy purple coat, flannel jammies, boots, and unbrushed hair.

"Would you like sauce with that?" Says the poor boy who still hasn't recovered from taking my order. "I kinda forgot to ask."

"Um yeah. Sweet and sour. Sorry. I guess I distracted you with my profanity. Sorry."

And there you have it. I apologized to the McDonald's drive through staff. Twice.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Hey everyone. Just had to announce that Eating the Paste has reached 1000 unique views! Thank you to everyone who reads faithfully and laughs heartily at my expense!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

One of the beautiful things about a residential is that the kids not only deal with each other all day in school, but they also go home to each other at the end of the day so when there's beef between two of them, it usually erupts quickly and violently.

Most of the staff members become desensitized to this kind of thing pretty quickly. It wasn't at all unusual to see one of us looking like a cartoon character, arms outstretched with a kid clutched in either hand while they continue to throw fruitless punches at the air. Usually it was a fight over a girl, sometimes a fight over who stole someone else's pencil or some other inane and asenine issue, but to them it was the fight of a lifetime.

But because it was so common, some of us were at times slow to react to a fight. Sometimes we also knew exactly what was going on and we knew that there were moments when certain kids needed a few minutes to experience the concept of natural consequences. If you call your room mate gay, chances are he's going to punch you in the face at some point. Cause and effect kiddies.

One afternoon there were about three different classes out on the playground. For some reason the older boys loved to play Four Square, a game I never thought could be classified as violent but I now know it depends on how you play it. Other kids decided to play basketball, and the rest chose to simply mill around and watch everyone else work off the two helpings of pancakes from breakfast. I typically monitored the Four Square game because it was the only one I didn't totally suck at, and on this particular day that's exactly what I was doing which meant I was concentrating on the possibility of my first ever Four Square win against John and Bobby. What I was NOT concentrating on was the two 250 pound boys beating the snot out of each other under the basketball hoop. I looked up just in time to see the science teacher dive in between the two of them, shoving one to the ground while the other backed right into the waiting arms of a TA. The one who landed ass first on the pavement slowly got back on his feet and tried to rush the other kid but it was useless. Two more TA's had jumped into the fray and the fight was officially over.

I stood, openmouthed, not sure whether or not it was ok to laugh when one of my middle schoolers came up behind me, grabbed my arm and yelled, "Did you see that? That was dinner AND a movie!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

MySpace is NOT YourSpace!

Ok I readily admit that I'm a FaceBook junkie. I love looking at photos of my friends doing stupid things. I love sharing my favorite books online with friends who live in other states. I get a kick out of being able to communicate with my friends who live in other countries like say, Canada. The only thing I don't like is the shift in boundaries that these sites sometimes create.

The other day Nick managed to find my MySpace page. Now, I'm extremely careful with what I post on my public pages because I do value my job and I prefer to keep my private life still semi private. I share my photography, I talk about what movies I've seen or I comment on a news item so I feel I have little to worry about in that regard. My students would never learn anything about me that they didn't already know from having spent time in my classroom. I also know that a kid like Nick is in desperate need of a positive connection with an adult and as he's a former student, I don't mind trading messages with him now and then. In the course of considering all this, I also found that another of my former students also has a MySpace page. This time I made the first move and sent him a message to ask him how he was doing in school, how his mother was, and how it felt to be 16 and back in public schools. I wonder though, would I do the same if one of my current students tried to add me?

Truthfully I don't think I would allow any of my public school students, current or even former, to add me on MySpace or FaceBook. I see a pretty vast distinction between the types of students I have worked with. The kids in the residential really don't know how to form friendships or relationships with anyone, especially adults. I find myself developing bonds with those students that I don't feel the public school kids need. I also believe that the public school kids don't need a window into my life. It's a very professional environment in public school with a very clear boundary between teacher and student, a facet of my current job that I actually enjoy. These kids have homes, they have parents, they have friends. I don't need to be their "friend" in any way.

That being said, you out there who are also teachers, what do you think? I've read countless articles arguing both sides of the coin. Some articles have even suggested that FaceBook, with it's ability to post video and chat live, may be the classroom of the future. FaceBook may become the central meeting place for student and teacher to conduct class, a concept I'm not sure I'm really looking forward to. Either way, I'm glad to have gotten in touch with a couple of my DarkSide kids and am equally grateful that most of my current students are too lazy to search for me online!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Two for the price of one...

May 2006

So tomorrow I'm being observed by the Department of Education. Did I mention that my lesson plans are blank as of tomorrow? The book I planned on finishing with the little dears has conveniently disappeared from the classroom, never to be seen again. I assume one of the evil geniuses remembered me saying I had special ordered the book and figured if the book vanishes, there's no way we can finish it any time soon. Well, I've got news for them. We'll just start another book and I'll make twice as many worksheets to go with this one. They'll never be able to get out from under the amount of work I'm going to use to bury them.


The best part about this was that I managed to find the book a few days later. One of the kids had taken the keys to my cabinets and locked ALL of my books in the cabinet where I kept the art supplies. Good call guys.


August 2006

Nothing really interesting happened today. No, yesterday was the day where I got a really good chuckle after resisting the urge to bitch slap a fellow teacher. See, we took a few kids to the animal shelter to visit the cute little kitties and doggies. One of the kids picked up a kitten who I quickly discovered had no eyes (eek) so I asked him if I could hold the kitten and proceeded to make my way back to its cage, trying desperately to make it there before the kids noticed. Of course, my colleague, a tiny little British woman who I am convinced drinks on the job, yells (imagine the accent), "Oh my God love! It's got no eyes! Children it's a blind little kitty!" And she proceeds to cry. Then she spots a young couple looking at the blind kitty's brother and, sobbing, convinces the couple to take both the brother, the sister, AND the poor blind kitty. Needless to say the couple looked slightly dumbfounded when they left with not one, but three cats. One of whom qualified for a handicapped parking space and a little red and white cane.


A quick update- this particular teacher finally did get the old heave ho when administration finally realized that all she ever did was wander the halls with one or two of her kids telling everyone what angels they are while the two kids made faces at her or kicked each other.