Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deep Breathing

Today I had an attack.

Panic attack, or sugar attack (low blood sugar), I couldn't tell.

So I ate some chocolate in the form of a granola bar.

And I stopped shaking and could breathe normally again.

That was the right thing to do, right?

This post is brought to you by Mrs. Henrich's first report card week experience. Thank you for your readership. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In Which I Send You to a Marvelous Blog Post

I have quite the blogroll. There's a list of probably a dozen or so blogs I read as often as I can keep up with them. They range from food blogs, parenting and lifestyle blogs, teaching blogs, and blogs about the Christian life.

This particular blog touches my heart because Sarah is just so honest. Her writing is fresh and unapologetic, and it is so refreshing.

Here she talks about Christmas.

And I love it.

Oh, Hello Christmas.

Christmas season is upon us!!

No matter what my humbug husband says, Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. It's not my fault that Thanksgiving comes early on the calendar this year. Christmas has begun.

As such, I've started compiling my favorite things: lists.

(In case you weren't aware, I make lists for everything. Grocery shopping, meal planning, chores, party plans, gift ideas, etc etc. My day at school is not complete without at least one list.)

I have a list of Christmas presents started, to make sure I don't miss anyone and to help me brainstorm. My next step is to make a list of things to bake/cook this Christmas season. Of course, at the moment it's mostly sweets, but I'll keep you updated if I try anything fantastic.

So my list includes the following:

Oreo Balls

Giant M&M Cookies (I actually made these today and holy.cow. They're amazing!)

Cookies 'n' Creme Fudge

Snickerdoodle Bars (I'm not a huge snickerdoodle fan, but these look so soft and chewy!)

So it's not a huge, extensive list so far but never fear, I'll post about any other delights I come across.

Yay Christmas!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Courtesy of Curious Jac's fill-in-the-blanker.

I like...sunshine, delicious food, adventures, and my new slippers.

A life goal of to be the kind of person who is gracious, hospitable, discerning, and shows the love of Christ...without losing a sense of humor and lightness at the world.

The last thing you would ever expect me to like (even though I do) is...dressing up. For someone who usually lives for sweatpants and a ponytail, I love getting dolled up every once in a while and really feeling pretty.

Some wise words I love are..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you." (Chronicles of Narnia. Pretty much anything by C.S. Lewis falls into this category.)

Most mornings you can find school, usually by 7:15. Before that? Stumbling around my apartment trying to get ready in the dark without waking Dan.  ;-)

Right now I'm super in to...stripes. On everything. All colors, all sizes, all the time. Also singing again in a Christmas choir!

Right now I'm super over...the fact that Christmas was already here before Halloween was over. Don't get me wrong, people, I lovelovelove Christmas and the holidays, but c'mon. People are still wearing short sleeves and fall jackets.

Have a great week, everybody!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Turkey Trot

(Yet another school post...get used to it, folks. My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and my immediate response was "teacher stuff."

Her immediate response? "Absolutely not."

This is what moms are for.)

Anyway, last week was American Education Week. Much to my (superintendent's) chagrin, I don't really know what that means. What I do know is that it means my week is crazier than usual.

Which, if you know me, is kind of saying something.

It was great for the kids. We had parent visits, a town meeting (the whole school meets to catch up on goings-on and celebrate achievements), a kindergarten play, and Friday morning, the Turkey Trot.

The Turkey Trot is really a great thing. It's a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy, (wow, it just took me three tries to type "dystrophy"), a disease that afflicts two FWES alumni. The Turkey Trot was established in their honor, and it's a school tradition.

However, in practical terms, it means giving up your Friday morning to "trot" two miles around the neighborhood.

500 children. Just imagine with me, if you will.

The whole school, staff, PTA, and other dedicated parents gathered in the gymnasium for the Hop-a-thon, a one-minute hopping spree to kick off the Turkey Trot. Then the 5th graders file out and walk the two-mile loop. Then the 4th grade, the 3rd, and onward down (really a good plan if you consider the strides and speed of fifth graders versus kindergarteners).

Each turning point or corner of the route is manned by PTA and other parent volunteers. Parents walk with their children's classes, some for the whole trot, and others for portions. One kind parent handed me a cup of coffee along the way, and everyone was very excited.

I was about to have a stroke. Coffee was entirely unnecessary, I was so wired.

Please understand, I've worked with kids my whole life. I spent four years as a paid camp counselor, and probably four more years volunteering at VBS camps. I'm no stranger to the chaos of unbounded children. I've done field trips to Dorney Park and Phillies' games.

That being said, nothing nothing NOTHING compares to the pure and utter terror of being solely responsible for the care and well-being of 19 rambunctious second-graders, and having so little control over the situation.

Pretty sure I counted those 19 noses about 14 times.

One of my room parents was there (bless her heart) and she laughed every time she watched me whirl around, frantically checking for my students.

Good news: I didn't lose anyone!!

Bad news: I'm pretty sure I'll be sprouting some gray hairs shortly. Four or five of my boys kept "trying to get lost" and scampering ahead. And of course, with parents around, you can't exactly play mean teacher.

Other news: the only terror left is for the turkeys.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There Is Always More

My best friend, a fellow elementary teacher, has said to me more times than I can remember, "there is always more you could do."

I don't think I truly understood what she meant until today.

That's her on the left. Sorry, she's taken (and not by me!).

Any teacher worth her (or his) salt knows that you're never done learning, adapting, adjusting, tweaking, and changing. It's part of being a good teacher. That lesson could always be better if, those worksheets could have been clearer if, that activity could have been more engaging if...

If, if if.

Today I realized that for all the improving I have to do as a teacher (and lemme tell you, when I come into my own and really settle into a class, I'm gonna be totally kickass. This is the greatest job in the world, and I full plan to own it) I have a million and one little and big things always plaguing me.

Completed work to be filed, updates to be emailed, new work to be sorted, posters to make, projects to arrange, centers to organize and improve, art to hang and take down and rehang, homework and tests to grade, grades to enter on paper and online, Scholastic book orders to fold and send home...

Seriously, this list could go on for pages.

But at some point, I have to realize that I'm done. My day starts at 6:15, and magically it's one of those points in my REM cycle when I can jump out of bed and start powering along. I get to school by 7:15, the kids arrive around 8:30. I work straight through my lunch, eating at my desk, and the only socialization I achieve is asking one of my grade level partners for help with something.

Kids leave around 3:45 (hallelujah) and I can clean and straighten my classroom for the next day, write out the schedule on the blackboard, morning message on the white board, and make sure all my worksheets, projects, and supplies are lined up and ready to go for the morning. I make plans and posters and copies, and I email parents and staff members. I organize paperwork, switch out completed units for new material, and try to get ahead by researching games, activities, worksheets and bulletin boards for the future.

Are you tired yet? I am.

Throughout the day, I'm constantly on my feet. I hear "Mrs. Henrich!" about eight trillion times, get thirty-four pats on the back (or hip, which never ceases to amuse me), repeat directions about ten times, hear 8456 tattles, and every time I pause to check my email because I see a parent's name pop up in my inbox, I'm interrupted by an "I don't get it."

Now please don't take this to mean that I don't absolutely love my job. For all its overwhelmingness, all its busyness and multitasking and never getting a break, I adore it. But I finally understand what my friend meant.

When 5 PM rolls around, and I've been in my classroom for more or less 10 hours straight, I look at that pile of papers to be graded, that stack of completed work that needs to be filed, that math center that isn't quite ready....

Writing center fail. Still not quite ready. 

And I go home.

There's always more to do. I could always stay another hour. It will never be finished.


Hold onto your hats, people, because this may be the biggest lesson of my life.

When 5:00 shows up on my watch, and I know that when I get home I have to walk the dog, and make dinner, and fold the laundry that's been sitting in the hamper for six days, and oh, it'd be nice to spend some time with my husband....I can leave. And it doesn't make me lazy or a bad teacher, and I don't have to compare myself to the other teachers who don't leave until 8 PM.

I'm sure there will be nights when I don't leave until 8 PM. And there will be days when I leave at 4:30. And you know what? The amount of work will never really change. It will be there when I come back at 7 AM the next day.

And that's ok.

Why I Chose Not to Vote

GASP, you say.

WHAT?! you say.

Don't you know it's your right as an American, and 100 years ago you wouldn't have been allowed because you're a woman?! you say.

How could you shirk your civic duty this way?! you say.

Believe you me, there was no small amount of guilt associated with my decision. I'm a teacher, for heaven's sake, I spent last Thursday, Friday and Monday talking about the election with my students and telling them to go vote with their parents, make sure their families vote, it's sososo important and the best way we can be involved in our country...

But I chose to not let guilt drive me to the polls.

The truth is fairly simple, and can be divided into two basic parts.

First of all, this was a very definite and thoughtful choice on my part. Not laziness, not apathy, not "eh, I don't have time." I decided that since I have not had the opportunity to thoroughly educate myself on the issues, and there was not a candidate who clearly focused on issues already important to me, I would not vote for either.

I suppose if you're really looking to burn me at the stakes, you could say that it's my civic duty to educate myself. But seriously, how many people who voted were thoroughly educated and made careful, purposeful decisions about how to cast their votes?

Choosing "the lesser of two evils" was not really an option for me. I have some weird ideas about government (if you're determined to use a label, I'm probably closest to a libertarian) and I didn't really think that either Mr. Mitt Romney or President Obama would head the direction I want.

Secondly, I believe that I was still exercising my freedom as an American by not voting. Dan informed me that if I wished, there was a button at the polls that would allow me to vote for neither candidate (and yes, it was lack of time that kept me from doing that). But still, nobody dragged me to the polls, nobody threatened my life because I didn't vote. This is still America, and I am free to decide that I don't like either of these men, or what they say they want to do, and I will not be forced to choose one of them.

So there you have it. All the facebook posts, the school district meeting about how politicians are going to slash teacher pensions (as if that was really the sole reason to vote for someone), all the conversations and tweets and what have you, and I stand firm in my belief that my choice was ok. I'm allowed to not know, and I'm allowed to act according to what I do, and do not, understand.

That being said, I really hope you voted.  ;-)