Category Archives: school

Better Today

I do not do well without real people.

Online people aren’t real people.

I’m thankful DH is home most of the time!

I miss my students. I miss my friends. I miss sting hi to the ladies in the office and leaving for school early to go Starbucks and telling the barista to have a great day and telling the kids in the hall they’re showing too much love. I miss Wednesday duty days and saying “Good morning!” As the kids walk in the building.

I miss talking kids through lessons and helping them find the a-ha! moment.

I miss the rush of getting ready in the morning and mascara.

I hope I remember this feeling. When it’s back I hope I remember when it wasn’t. I never want to take it for granted again.

Teacher

At the end of first grade I asked my teacher for extra papers so I could play school. My stuffed animals and a couple friends and maybe my brother learned lots that summer. 🙋🏻‍♀️👏😁

I LOVED Mrs. Tagee. When I made it to Minnesota via Oklahoma and Arkansas I couldn’t read yet. Everyone else could. We had ability groups back then, and I was all alone.

Mrs. Tagee taught me to read, and she taught me to love school. Plenty of teachers after her did too.

I LOVE school. I love teaching. I firmly believe it’s my calling in life.

But this is different. And I don’t love it.

But I still love my kids.

We’ll get back to school. I don’t know when, but we will. I’m looking forward to when we do.

*****

It’s in the early hours of Good Friday. The day when it felt like all hope was lost. But as pastor Rick Thompson taught us: It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming.

Thank you, Lord, for that promise and that hope.

A Day

Brian’s in WF working. I’m at home working. It’s weird to not be together.

My dog is here with me, also weird. She usually goes to Grandma’s with Dad. But Tanner the puppy is too frisky right now for Emmie.

Time means everything and nothing right now. Everything because the closer we get to a vaccine and successful treatment of COVID-19, the closer we are to going back to school, to work, to life outside shutdown mode.

Nothing because with everything online I find myself looking up from work hours after it started even though it feels like minutes.

It’s a weird time.

I’m staying off the news for the most part so that is helping. I don’t want to see the numbers. That’s so weird. When all this started while we were on Spring Break, I checked the numbers every morning and night. Now I avoid them. I don’t want to know. I just want to stay safe in my tiny little space.

A Better Day

I didn’t stay on the news app. I didn’t look at Johns Hopkins. I didn’t listen to the President speak after 60 seconds proved he still doesn’t understand what the heck is going on and he’s still just an angry, hateful old man.

Katie is sick now. She’s in Ohio and I am so worried.

I worked all day with little breaks. I was able to send two finalized sections to the yearbook company so that’s super helpful mentally.

I was not able to work on anything else for school unless a student asked specifically. I hope I can figure out how to juggle this. I can’t imagine having kids at home too.

A lot of great happened today. A J1 student interviewed people to make a layout happen, a photoj kid sent in an interview. Two of my editors worked with me on our list. One let me know she was working. A LOT of good is happening. It’s important to remember that.

What a Break

Hockey. Poker. Visit family.

Those were my priorities when spring break started.

I followed the Coronavirus news and told my parents they needed to stay in. Mom has bad asthma, Dad has psoriatic arthritis and is on medicine that wrecks his immune system. They needed to stay away from people.

Back then I thought Trump was a fool and people needed to wash their hands.

School ended, I said bye to my students, and we packed our bags for a trip to the casino. While we sat around the poker table playing I listened to so many people talk about how “the virus” was just the flu or a liberal hoax. I kept my opinions to myself and played cards and looked around the room filled with senior citizens in close quarters who believed the Fox News message that this was no big deal.

When I got knocked out of the tournament, the guy who beat me reached out to shake my hand. My original response was NOPE, but that was just my brain screaming at me. Years of polite training had me shaking hands then walking quickly to the restroom to wash the heck out of my hands.

We mostly stayed in the room that trip. It just felt weird.

After the casino we ran home, changed into our jerseys and jumped on the TRE for the trip to Dallas. The Dallas Stars we’re playing and we were excited.

On the ride there social distancing was definitely a thing. Coronavirus was still something on the coasts and something to worry about, but not really stress over.

During the game a news alert told us there was a case in Frisco. The guy had traveled to California. We were a little worried, but we washed the heck out of our hands, so not too worried. I hugged our section usher like always, high fived when we scored, asked the girl sitting next to me if she thought Rads might have the virus since he was sick and away from the team. We lost. And ran to the train for the ride back to Fort Worth.

The train was packed and loud and filled with drunk guys letting world know Coronavirus was no big deal, more people died from the flu, people were just trying to take down President a trump, ‘Merica,

I used hand sanitizer and checked the Johns Hopkins map numbers.

Brian suggested I not fly out the next morning.

I wasn’t worried before the game. But the train ride made me wonder. I wrote my worries on Facebook. Most friends said go. A high school friend in Italy said don’t go. They’d just shut down her country. She said the biggest problem was what happened if I got stuck in Cleveland.

I didn’t sleep. I chose to go to CLE to see my grands and daughter. It had been too long.

DFW security was empty. Spring break and I walked right up. “Welcome to world of flying post Corona” the TSA agent said.

At Starbucks near my gate the manager said it was slow. People were afraid. I ordered my Americano and sat at my gate with my carryon.

The flight was full, but it was a small plane. I wondered if I was dumb to not have a mask.

The first day in Cleveland my district canceled classes for two weeks after break. My district is awesome and aware. We’re going to be safe about this.

My second day in Cleveland the governor and doctor in charge of public health for the state held a press conference. They explained community spread and why the situation in Ohio was serious, why the entire nation was at risk. How we could not stop this, but by practicing social distancing we could slow it, give medical professionals a chance to fight this killer.

My hands were raw from washing them constantly. I sat there listening to the doctor and realized I was an idiot for my last week.

News broke that an AA pilot had Coronavirus.

The Cleveland airport was actually busier than I expected. The flight, a big plane this time, was packed. Lots of people wore masks.

Every cough created tension.

I made it home. Cases started the exponential growth doctors had warned was coming, and that’s with a lack of testing.

I don’t know what’s coming, but the President understands the seriousness of the situation finally and Fox News is covering the virus as a serious public health crisis. hopefully that helps keep people home.

I still have friends on Facebook saying “but the flu.” My old home church had services Sunday—UGH! My parents are staying home. My mother-in-law is staying home…sort of. But a lot of people aren’t.

Stores are decimated every day.

I don’t know what’s coming. But this is where we are.

We start distance teaching next week. We’re getting trained this week. I’m going to have virtual sessions with my yearbook kids today. We’ll find a new normal.

The World is Changing

When I was in college, I had to take speech to graduate. I HATED talking in front of people, but as my professor told me, if I wanted a degree, I had to do it.

I survived.

Today I’m a workshop speaker, I’ve spoken at school board meetings, I’ve given speeches at rallies, I’ve presided over meetings. All of that still makes me nervous. I’m not sure any of those public speaking moments would have ever happened if Dr. Dencil Taylor hadn’t told me I had no choice but to speak in front of my class. EVEN though I told him I’d get sick. He was heartless.

Actually what he was was a master educator who believed more in me than I believed in myself.

Today speech class is no longer part of the required curriculum in Texas colleges. The lege decided it wasn’t necessary. EVEN though public speaking ability is one of the skills business leaders say is absolutely essential to success.

Recently I read about a university that is cutting liberal arts majors. On further investigation I found this is a common theme in higher education. The reason given over and over again: it’s tough to get a job with a liberal arts degree.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if a degree that encourages you to think and read and write can’t translate to a job.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if we only look at education in terms of vocation.

I was alarmed when students said they didn’t want to take high school journalism because they didn’t want to be journalists. I mean, let’s be real, high school IS NOT ONLY about what you’re going to do later in life. And it shouldn’t be. Shoot in all likelihood students will change their major more than once in college if they go to college. They’ll definitely go down different career paths regardless of whether or not they get a degree.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with vocational education, but for us to make all educational decisions through that limited lens is a huge mistake.

And that mistake is the same mistake universities that choose to discontinue liberal arts degrees are making.

The world is changing. Training for a vocation is not enough. Students need to be able to think critically and problem solve and write and analyze data and think some more and work in collaborative groups and think some more. They need to learn how to be flexible and understand the difference between fact and opinion, and they need to understand the power of propaganda. And they definitely need to know the past because it serves as a lesson, a warning, a road map to our future.

Yes, we need vocational education. But vocational education is not all we need.

Liberal arts subjects help us navigate that changing world. Removing them from the curriculum is the wrong answer to a real issue.

The world is changing. Absolutely.

Together Again

A million years ago Sandra Scheller allowed me to observe her journalism classes at Rider High School when I was an MSU student. After four years she let me take over the Rider newspaper after I was hired as an English teacher.when I left Rider last year Sandra took the newspaper back after 22 years. Now we’re at Gloria Shields Workshop together. Life is so awesome. 

Yes, you should be a teacher

Mrs. Lee, I’m thinking about being a teacher, but I just don’t know. What do you think?
My former students ask me this question pretty often. My answer has not changed even though education has.
Yes. Yes, you should be a teacher. No other job is as rewarding as awe-inspiring, as beautiful and life affirming as teaching.

Yes, teaching has changed, and yes, everything is more test centric. Despite that, teaching is still an incredible job.

Yes, kids curse and question authority and their phones will drive you crazy. Kids always cursed and questioned authority. It’s different now for a lot of reasons, but that’s not just an education issue. And the phones are crazy, but walk into any restaurant and look around. It’s the same everywhere, and it’s certainly not just the kids. We get to be part of teaching society how to use those phones successfully instead of letting them control our lives.
Yes, teaching hurts sometimes. When your kids lose parents or grandparents or get kicked out or live in a hotel or come to school dirty and hungry or get involved in the slippery slope of drugs and alcohol or go through bad breakups or fail their STAARs or get criticized and ridiculed for work they were proud of or wreck their cars or drop out–GOD, that last one hurts so bad–you bet it hurts. And that’s why you will be an amazing and wonderful teacher. Because it does hurt you and you will do everything in your power to help your kids through the tough stuff. 

Yes, politicians who are beholden to banks and other special interests will make you crazy. Yes, the politics of teaching can drag you down if you don’t let it energize you. Yes, you will sacrifice sleep and money and health. And still, yes, you should teach.
Unless, the only reason you’re thinking about teaching is the decent starting salary. Because if that’s it, no, no, no, no. You don’t want to teach for the money, I promise. 
Teaching is hard physically and emotionally. It takes everything you’ve got to do it well, and there will be days you suck it up in the classroom, and those days can have terrible consequences if you’re not immediately aware. You will go home Fridays and crash. You will spend hours (and sometimes $$$) on lessons that fall flat. You will lay sleepless in bed staring at the ceiling worrying about a kid in your class, you will ask for unspoken prayer requests for kids going through struggles that seem impossible.
You will gain weight if you are not extremely careful or blessed with great metabolism or someone who works out constantly. You will work sick and miss moments with your family. You will sit through meetings wondering why on earth they didn’t just send an email or read emails wondering why on earth they didn’t have a meeting. You’ll go through great new concept after great new concept after great new concept discarding the one that came before for the new until your head is spinning and you can’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing.
And still, you should be a teacher.
Because yes, there is heartache and frustration, but there is so much more. You are changing the world, lighting a light, showing the way, challenging and enlightening and loving kids to success. And honestly, there is no better job in the world.

If you feel like maybe you want to teach, try and see. Give yourself three years to discover if the classroom is your calling. If it’s not, that’s okay too. You’ll still look back on your time with kids as an educational experience. If it is your calling, you have found an amazing life journey and the best job in the world. ❤️

#ProudProductOfPublicSchools

I couldn’t read when we moved to Minnesota from Arkansas. Back then we were in groups by color. I was the only one in the red group. My teacher Mrs. Tagee didn’t leave me in that group. She worked with me until I could read with everyone else. 

In fourth grade my teacher Mrs. Baumgardner gave me my first big book: Little Women. I loved that book so much. I finished it at my grandma’s while waiting to move into our new house in Burkburnett, TX.

In Burk, my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Novak, told me I had a gift with words. My sixth grade social studies teacher realized I could make straight 100s in class but my penmanship was awful, so she helped me there. My eighth grade English teacher taught me how to write a research paper, and I used those lessons all the way through my MA in English. My ninth and tenth grade math teacher told me my problem with math was fear, and even though it took a few more years for me to get it, Mr. Brown’s explanation made all the difference in the world. My journalism adviser, Mrs. Anne Gillespie, changed my world. She’s why I am a journalism adviser today and have been for the last 23 years. My junior English teacher, Mrs. Bo, helped literature come to life and demanded I up my writing game to make good grades in her class. 

Most of us went to public school. Most of us had great public school experiences. Public schools have been under attack for decades, and most of those atracks have been about something other than education. Public schools can be miracle workers, but they cannot be blamed for all the social ills of this world. They cannot be blamed for poverty and the educational woes that come lockstep with it. They cannot be blamed for the fact that politicians haven’t figured out how to fund them properly.

I loved school. I still love school. I hope we as a nation refuse to let bankers and politicians destroy our public school system.

#ProudProductOfPublicSchools #ProudPublicSchoolTeacher

New Kid 

Because I’m a new teacher this year I get to do all those great new teacher in-service trainings.

In 1994 it was Total Quality Schools. 

Anyone who knows me can tell you I drink the Kool-Aid. Any time the latest, greatest program comes out, I jump on board.

Actually for the last several years that’s not exactly true. Now I want to see the research that proves something works, and I want to see a system in place with consistent teacher feedback to work through the program and discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and how it can be fixed if it isn’t working. 

Back in 94 I actually liked much of what we learned in TQS. Those key concepts are still seen in great schools.

Today as a new teacher once more I made the trek down 287 to attend Sheltered Instruction for ESL training in Saginaw.

Teachers, if you haven’t done this training, do it! It is incredible. Our EMS ISD trainer, I can’t remember her name–but she’s leading training next week too so I’ll get it, taught the day-long session perfectly. She modeled how we should teach, not just for ESL, but for all of our students. 

I do a lot of the things I saw today, but nowhere near enough. I thought I’d put the sage on the stage away years ago. Nope. I’m still talking way too much.

This training touched my heart. It made me see how tough some of our kids have it. I hadn’t really thought about how some of our English speaking children from poverty come to us with such limited vocabulary they’re in the same boat as traditional ESL kids. This training inspired me to do more. This training served as a kick in the backside that maybe I’d let myself skid by without improving my craft for a couple years. That’s a dangerous place to be as a teacher.

I’m looking forward to this year as much as I am terrified of what’s ahead. All I’ve ever known is WFISD. Rider was my only professional job. I LOVED my job. I think I still will. Attending training helped curb some of the fear. 😊

living room pictures all packed