Monthly Archives: March 2011

Vote Set for Tomorrow

I’ve written my letters. Tomorrow the House vote on public education funding. It’s not the end of the battle, but it’s going to give district’s a little more direction. So far it’s looking ugly. Today I judged a prompt about a new kind of secondary school. Only core academics, no electives, no sports. It’s the wave of the future if something doesn’t change.
Until the state govt. realizes they made changes in 2006 and haven’t funded us fully since, until they solve the problem they created then, things will only get worse.

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Even The Best Plans

I planned on writing from 8-10 tonight, but DD stopped by for one of the first times since she moved out and asked me to go get brownie mix with her.
Family first.
That’s new for me, which I realize is sad.
For years I worked in the newsroom, dragging DD with me, leaving DH out completely. Focused on one thing: success.
And I found success. I love my job. It was fun. But I pushed my family to the side so often it’s crazy.
I can’t get that time back, but I can make the time I have now better.
Lesson learned: I had time to write earlier, but I knew I was going to write from 8-10, so I didn’t take advantage of it. Mistake!
I did get the writing in. But it’s 11 now, and I have no idea how I used to stay up until 1 and 2 a.m.
I’m falling asleep at the keyboard!

Forgiveness

For the last several weeks college ministry has been using an amazing World Harvest curriculum to look at how when we grow in Christ, our awareness of what exactly it is He did for us on the cross grows at the same time as our awareness of our true selves. This week we talked about forgiveness, and how God gave us his forgiveness, but we sometimes have a problem accepting it.
Today, at small group, we studied an Andy Stanley message on forgiveness. It was powerful, and it presented the idea in a new light.
I know forgiveness is really about me. I know that holding on to resentments and angers and hurts holds me back. But Stanley says you should write down what it is you think you’re owed so you can get to the root of the anger. He stressed the anger, and that surprised me because I’ve always thought of it in terms of hurt.
But, he’s right. Ultimately the message is the same.
In the Old Testament, Abraham was on the verge of sacrificing his son for atonement. Thousands of years later God sacrificed His son to atone for my sins.
It’s amazing, really. And if I can’t forgive how can I expect to be forgiven?
Powerful lesson. One that led me to the realization that I have two characters in a book I’m revising that haven’t forgiven. They live in a world of anger and hurt and resentment, but not really. Because instead of facing their emotions, they’ve built these incredibly thick walls. By not facing the realities of the bad emotions, they’re missing the amazing blessing of the good emotions.
It was one of those a-ha moments.
I hope it helps my writing.

I submitted a partial to Love Inspired today. I enjoy the LI line, but this is something I’ve never seen there. It’s a Christian romance, though, so LI it is.There’s no taking the religion out of the book. The heroine’s life change is one of the driving forces of the story. Wish it well.

I’m also revising Prodigal. It made the agent rounds in the past, and I even got to the exclusive stage with one of the big agents out there, but it didn’t make the cut. I looking at it again, I see why (see a-ha moment above.).

I firmly believe God is in control. I don’t know if I would’ve seen the walls had I not been working so much with the college ministry, if I hadn’t spent hours listening to Frances Chan and Andy Stanley. Had we not been through the big, hurtful shakeup at the church.
Brian and I wouldn’t be involved in college ministry, something that has been life changing for us, had DD not gone to university in Huntsville. God is in control. And when we get off his path, He can even use our mistakes for His glory. Thank the Lord for that!

I’m going to hold fast to that knowledge as the cuts come down tomorrow. The news said up to 130 teachers and paraprofessionals will be cut this week. One of the teachers in my hall is moving to another campus next year because they’re letting a new teacher go. He got the news today. More teachers will get the news tomorrow. I’m praying for the teachers moving, for the ones losing their jobs, for the students, for everyone involved. Hopefully, I keep the knowledge that God’s in control forefront in my mind as the devastating effects of this budget cut become something more than rhetoric.

Writing…

I have a partial ready to send to Love Inspired, and I’m working on edits of a full.
It’s funny how very different these stories are.
I don’t know if either of them will make the cut. But I’m learning from both stories.
It’s a whole new ball game. I hope both stories get to see readers other than the few who’ve critiqued for me. 🙂

Next week is D-Day for Texas teachers not on continuing contracts. We’ll know the full extent of projected layoffs then. It’s going to be ugly. Those of us on continuing contracts are safe, but it’s still going to be ugly. Between pay cuts and insurance hikes, it’s going to be a painful year.

But not as painful as it is for the people in Japan right now. Or several other countries. Sometimes I think we have it too easy.

UIL District

It was a nail biter. RIght up until headlines, it looked like I wouldn’t go to regionals. It would’ve been the first time in over a decade. Once I looked at my kids’ papers, I knew one thing: the competition was tough because their stories were solid.
In the end, we won 2, 3, 4 in headlines, 5th in news and 6th in features.
And we had a great time.
The six girls I took with me, including one who stepped up when two kids quit the team last Monday, gave up their weekends to compete and I’m proud of every one of them!
NOW, if only there would’ve been air on the bus for the trip down. 🙂
AND if only our computers would’ve worked! One died Friday night. One Saturday in the middle of competition. I don’t think we’ll use computers next year…or maybe ever again.

From Work Today, Love it!

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don’t forget checkups. He uses
the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I’ve got all my
teeth, so when I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he’d heard
about the new state program. I knew he’d think it was great.

“Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists
with their young patients?” I said.

“No,” he said. He didn’t seem too thrilled. “How will they do that?”

“It’s quite simple,” I said. “They will just count the number of cavities each
patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist’s
rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below average, and
Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will
also encourage the less effective dentists to get better. Poor dentists who
don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice.”

“That’s terrible,” he said.

“What? That’s not a good attitude,” I said. “Don’t you think we should try to
improve children’s dental health in this state?”

“Sure I do,” he said, “but that’s not a fair way to determine who is practicing
good dentistry.”

“Why not?” I said. “It makes perfect sense to me.”

“Well, it’s so obvious,” he said. “Don’t you see that dentists don’t all work
with the same clientele; so much depends on things we can’t control? For
example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived
homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle class neighborhoods.
Many of the parents I work with don’t bring their children see me until there is
some problem and I don’t get to do much preventive work. Also,” he said, “many
of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age,
unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and
decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well water which is
untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference
early use of fluoride can make?”

“It sounds like you’re making excuses,” I said. I couldn’t believe my dentist
would be so defensive. He does a great job.

“I am not!” he said. “My best patients are as good as anyone’s, my work is as
good as anyone’s, but my average cavity count is going higher than a lot of
other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most.”

“Don’t get touchy,” I said.

“Touchy?” he said. His face had turned red and, from the way he was clenching and
unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. “Try
furious. In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below
average, or worse. My more educated patients who see these ratings may believe
this so-called rating actually is a measure of my ability and proficiency as a
dentist. They may leave me, and I’ll be left with only the most needy patients.
And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I
attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it
is labeled below average?”

“I think you are overreacting,” I said. “Complaining, excuse making and
stonewalling won’t improve dental health… I am quoting from a leading member
of the DOC,” I noted.

“What’s the DOC?” he asked.

“It’s the Dental Oversight Committee,” I said, “a group made up of mostly
laypersons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved.”

“Spare me,” he said, “I can’t believe this. Reasonable people won’t buy it,” he
said hopefully.

The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, “How else would you measure
good dentistry?”

“Come watch me work,” he said. “Observe my processes.”

“That’s too complicated and time consuming,” I said. “Cavities are the bottom line, and
you can’t argue with the bottom line. It’s an absolute measure.”

“That’s what I’m afraid my parents and prospective patients will think. This
can’t be happening,” he said despairingly.

“Now, now,” I said, “don’t despair. The state will help you some.”

“How?” he said.

“If you’re rated poorly, they’ll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help
straighten you out,” I said brightly.

“You mean,” he said, “they’ll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me
how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had
much more experience? Big help.”

“There you go again,” I said. “You aren’t acting professionally at all.”

“You don’t get it,” he said. “Doing this would be like grading schools and
teachers on an average score on a test of children’s progress without regard to
influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like
that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think
of doing that to schools.”

I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened.

“I’m going to write my representatives and senator,” he said. “I’ll use the school analogy- surely they
will see the point.” He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and
suppressed anger that I see in the mirror so often lately.

Save Texas Schools: We can’t if we don’t speak up!

Teachers, if you don’t speak up, if you don’t make your voices heard, if you don’t do the research to prove the government wrong on their arguments for making these drastic cuts, YOU are the problem.
We’re a non-union state, and there’s nothing wrong with that. BUT that doesn’t mean you have no voice.
Write your letters today. Make your phone calls. Learn the truths about what government officials are saying, and know the real answers. Make sure your parents know this isn’t a teacher issue. It’s a PUBLIC EDUCATION DISASTER.
Check out Huffington Post’s education page for story after story after story to help you form your arguments.
Yes, we’re in a depressed economy. But we shouldn’t fix that problem, created by the Texas state government in 2006, by killing public schools.
Speak up now. It’s almost too late.

The Bad News

If the all the cuts proposed are adopted, I’m losing more than 10% of my pay next year. OUCH!
The good news: I work for a district that made this process completely transparent. As painful as this is, it’s not a surprise. And I’m not alone. Several people will be taking huge hits. And unfortunately those hits will affect those of us who spend several extra hours a week and time with our students on weekends more than it hits those who show up for work and check out at quitting time. Unfortunately, those of us going the extra mile had the salary stipends that could be looked at. The state government has to balance the budget, and they’ve chosen to do so on the backs of public servants and the children of the State of Texas. The district has to make budget. End of story. Our budget committee was made up of people from all areas of our district, not just the supers and admin. They studied every area possible to find the cuts, and they did what had to be done. I appreciate the people who gave their time to serve on this committee. Hopefully, their hard work won’t go unappreciated.
What bothers me is how so many people in the public are reacting to the cuts. So many people are saying hurtful, horrible things about teachers right now, and it breaks my heart.
We give our lives to our jobs. You won’t find us on long business lunches with glasses of wine and margaritas or at the gym for 4:00 a fitness class before running home to get dinner together for our families. At night we spend time with our families when we can, but almost always, we’re working on grading papers, giving quality feedback, or doing lesson plans at the same time.
Yes, public education spending has increased in the last decade. But society expects astronomically more from us than they did a decade ago. Are there areas of waste? Sure. Schools are bureaucracies. Waste abounds in bureaucracies. Are there bad teachers out there. Yes. But finding them isn’t as easy as non-educators seem to think. And it costs money to get them out of the classroom.
Today at lunch a friend said she knows a single teacher with two children who qualifies for federal assistance. That makes no sense.
I’m terrified right now. It seems to me that this is a battle for the USA. This is the country where everyone gets a quality education. Where hard work means something. Where children of poverty can change their lives, and that change starts with school. But the US is changing. Poverty levels are increasing, the middle class is shrinking and the rich are getting richer. We’re truly becoming a society of haves and have nots with little upward shifting taking place over the course of time.
All this said, I know I’ll be okay. God’s in control. A couple years before she died, my grandma told me the story of her life during The Great Depression. So many people lost their homes and jobs, tent cities cropped up everywhere. She lived in a tent. My house is paid for.
I won’t get to build the house we wanted to build right now, but I have a home.
I won’t be going to Vegas on vacation, but I have my family.
I won’t be getting a new car, but my car works.
I won’t be spending a lot of my own money on my budget-less publications program, but I probably should have stopped that a long time ago.
So yes, I’ll be okay.
But our schools, that’s another story. A story controlled by politicians and lobbyists and people who have no clue what we do every day on campuses across the nation.

Dear DD’s Landlady

1. Thank you.
2. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
3. Thank…well, you get the idea.

DD’s got an apartment. A real apartment. And it’s cute and a policeman lives across the street and close to her work and school and kind of perfect for her.
Can you tell I’m excited?
When DD moved back home, it was rough. We’ve gotten to a place where things aren’t really so rough any more, but she’s going to be 21 in two weeks, and it’s time for her to fly.
When she went away to school, I was devastated. I never dreamed it would hurt so bad.
This time, it’s different.
The biggest difference is how much more mature she is today than she was in August of ’08. She’s learned about money and she’s grown a bit of a shell. When she left the first time she was so naive, way too trusting, stubborn.
She’s still stubborn, but she’s learned something about people. I wish that weren’t necessary, but the reality is people can be mean, they can be users, they can and will hurt you. The flip side is just as true. People can be amazing friends. But she’s learned to hold back trust until people have earned it.
I’m happy for DD. She’s ready for this.

Why I Teach

I teach because I enjoy my job. I enjoy journalism and writing and current events and debates and discussions and books and movies and computer programs and kids who yell, “Mrs. Lee, help! The spinning pinwheel of doom won’t go away.” Or “oh GOD, I think the server just disappeared.”
I teach because most days when the alarm wakes me up, I don’t hide under the covers and say “I don’t wanna.” Most days I get myself going and by the time I walk in the building, I’m ready to see the teenagers who’ve changed my life from year to year and the adults I work with.
I teach because I can tell a room full of kids the Big Fat Man story, and even though those who’ve heard it before groan, they still laugh when I get to the nonsense ending.
I teach because it’s the one place a room of teenagers ASKS me to make up a song on Garage Band and then sing it to the one who needs to hear the words.
I teach because sometimes heartbroken, hurt, angry students will tell me their stories, ask for my advice, and actually take that advice and do something with it.
I teach because I love working with kids who give up their weekends to compete by taking tests with the hopes of moving on to the next level (hello UIL!).
I teach because I think it’s amazing to watch a kid revise and revise and revise for a check plus because I tell them I won’t give them a grade for anything less (even though the gradebook clearly shows I will).
I teach because I love it. And even though tomorrow will be one of those pull the covers over the head and say “I don’t wanna” mornings, by the time I get to my classroom (or before if I don’t hit all the lights on SWPKWY), I’ll be excited to be there, ready to make a difference.