Browsed by
Tag: teaching

A Freaky Friday-esque Experience

A Freaky Friday-esque Experience

When I was younger I was somewhat obsessed with the concept of Freaky Friday. I read the book and loved both movie versions. Because I was young and had a pretty myopic view of the world, I was fixated on how great it would be if the adults in my life could switch places with me and see just how hard my life was, but mostly missed the point that everyone’s life is hard. As I’ve stayed home the last six years I’ve occasionally longed for a Freaky Friday experience so my hard work could be more appreciated. (The myopia hasn’t decreased much with age.) I finally got my wish. For six weeks, Noel and I had a partial Freaky Friday experience and just like the book and film adaptations, it wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined.

Last year, I received my Colorado teaching license, but was unsure of what to do with it. (You can read about the shock of getting it and my uncertainty here.) I applied and interviewed for one teaching position, which took me through a lot of rollercoaster emotions such as crying in my car when I dropped Cooper off at school because I might not get to do that in the future and then hoping to leave that world behind when everyone cried about the lunch I made them. In the end, when the job was not offered to me I felt mostly relieved. But still I had that license and I felt like I needed to do something with it. Because our district is somewhat competitive and because I still wasn’t sure if I even wanted to teach, I decided my next step should be substitute teaching. The schedule would be more flexible (so I wouldn’t miss special school events), but it would get me back in the classroom and start to build me a reputation.

I was so nervous about the first job I took. It had been over six years since I’d worked with high school students in that capacity and it was at a school that others described as having a “rough demographic.” When I walked around the classroom and had a few witty back and forths with students I felt a surge of energy. I’d rediscovered a part of myself I’d forgotten and it felt good. That afternoon I got a desperate call from a middle school in the district looking for someone highly qualified to teach Language Arts. One of their Language Arts teachers had emergency surgery the day school started and would be out for 6 weeks. They gave me time to think about it and I looked into whether it was even possible. Childcare fell into place easier than I had expected and since the students had never met their real teacher I would feel more like a teacher than a sub to them. It seemed meant to be. Noel and I agreed it was something I needed to try. Thus began our 6 week experiment.

The middle school I was working at was a 28 minute drive away and started at 7:20. This meant I was often out the door before the kids even woke up. Noel was now in charge of getting everyone up and out the door. (Let’s not forget that his arm was healing from surgery most of this time so he quite literally was getting the kids ready for school single handedly.) I frequently got panicked text messages from him about how he couldn’t find socks or combs or complaining about how one of the kids refused to wear the pants he picked out for them. It was somewhat vindicating. During the day, I’d dress professionally and was welcomed as a hero by the staff. In the afternoons, I’d pick the kids up and we’d sit on a picnic blanket in the yard and chat about their day. Everything was going wonderfully . . . at least for a few days.

Eventually, the lesson planning was turned over to me and while the lessons were no longer lackluster, they were time consuming. I was attending IEP, 504, and parent meetings in the afternoons and bringing home papers to read every night. Every evening I’d come home exhausted and would be snappy with the kids – something I’d frequently nagged Noel about in the past. Individually, I cared deeply about the students I was working with, but collectively the 150 of them were getting on my nerves with their accommodations, differing learning levels, and personal problems. I didn’t have time and energy to meet all of their needs and I certainly wasn’t getting paid enough. Meanwhile, Noel was working from home two days a week so we could keep a little more of my wages and that was going less than ideal. As I already knew, it’s pretty difficult to get technical work done when the kids are around.

With both of us working full-time and splitting parenting duties, we lost our gardner, house keeper, dry cleaner, and chef. We ate out a lot more, exercised a lot less, and were generally more tired and less happy. As my job neared the end, I had several offers from teachers at the school to sub for them and the principal was trying to figure out a way for me to do another long-term sub job for a teacher going on maternity leave (the teacher taught English and Science and I’m not qualified to teach science). I was a hot commodity, but I wasn’t so sure I was up for sale. On my last day, I was talking to a math teacher who was asking if I did short term sub jobs in other subjects. When I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to sub or teach at all she asked why and I explained I wasn’t sure I was willing to make the sacrifice being a good teacher takes, especially at this time in my life. She smiled and said, “Yeah, I stayed at home till my youngest was 12 and then basically abandoned my kids for the next five years.”

On my last day, I wrote a note to the real teacher apologizing for the penis art a student had drawn in one of her personal books and turned in my keys with a sense of elation. There is a part of me that feels guilty for not wanting to be a teacher, like I’m betraying a profession I still feel passionately about, but it simply isn’t worth it to me right now.* I am so glad that I had the experience to try on a life, but not actually adopt it permanently. I gained a deeper understanding and empathy of Noel’s role as a full-time worker (although he admits middle schoolers are probably slightly more exhausting emotionally than what he does) and he gained an even greater appreciation for what I’ve done the last six years.** Maybe someday I’ll jump back in the teaching scene and pour my heart into it, maybe, but right now I’m going to enjoy walking my kids to school and working in the yard. It turns out I rather like my simple life.

The sunrise from my last day. One of the best things about the job was the beautiful sunrises.
The sunrise from my last day. One of the best things about the job was the beautiful sunrises.

*Allow me a soapbox moment. Teachers are not valued or paid enough. I don’t have many answers on how to change that, but be kind to your kids’ teachers and do what you can to advocate for higher pay. (And that goes for support staff too.) The world needs teachers, especially good ones, but I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of valuing that as a society.

**I would like to note that I am not saying all moms should stay at home and all dads should work. I think all families have to figure out what works best for them and their circumstances. I have friends that have to work and I have friends that say working makes them a better parent, which I truly believe can be the case, but nagging teenagers all day long certainly didn’t do it for me.

Back Up and Running

Back Up and Running

There was a time when I would have apologized for a lapse in blogging, but just like how I’ve stopped apologizing for the nearly constant pile of dirty dishes in my sink and for my children not being perfect Stepford children, I won’t be apologizing for this either. For no reason, but every reason I’ve been super contemplative lately about everything and nothing at all and lying low on the internet has been refreshing and glorious. We recently switched web hosting companies and as we’ve been transferring everything over I’ve taken several trips down memory lane and remembered how much I actually do love this little log about our lives, so I’m back with some updates. (There’s still some wrinkles we’re ironing out with the transfer, so don’t be too alarmed if something is a little wonky.)

Coop and the fall colors

Cooper – Enjoying kindergarten for the most part. There have been a few bumps in the road (he really dislikes this “brain break” thing they do at school where all the kids get out their wiggles), but we have a good team that is willing to try new things to help him feel more comfortable. Every day he says his favorite thing was, “Playing on the playground and drawing.” He also really likes his homework (it’s a lot of counting and practicing writing) and bringing home books from the library. So far, he has exhibited exceptional taste in book choice. I went to the doctor (somehow I, not the kids, managed to get Strep) a few weeks ago and took the kids with me. I told them we might get flu shots while we were there and Cooper got pretty upset. At some point a huge look of relief came across his face and he said, “Mom, what day is it?” I told him it was Wednesday. He grinned a giant grin and told us factually, “It’s Wednesday, we can’t get shots, sorry.” Can’t argue with that kind of logic. When we did get shots a week later Cooper made such a scene I think we terrified everyone in the entire building. Both Noel and I had to hold him down. After it was over he acted like he had been so brave. Right now he’s practicing for the primary program. He’s been mumbling his part into the microphone which is an improvement from last year. We can’t wait to see how it goes during the actual program this coming Sunday.

IMG_20150916_125529772

Ellen – Ellen has decided she does like Joy School. Her favorite part is show and tell and showing Cooper the projects she does when we pick him up from Kindergarten. She acts like she’s three going on thirteen. When asked to do things she has an eye roll that rivals that of Liz Lemon fame. All of her emotions are extreme. When she’s sweet there’s no one sweeter and when she’s mad everyone better dive for cover. She finally elicited a scratch from the world’s most patient cat when she crawled under the bed and cornered him in an attempt to force snuggles. No one loves Charlie more than Ellen. Despite her rollercoaster emotions she’s actually pretty helpful and if she’s in a mood simply threatening time out and counting to three is surprisingly effective. When we got flu shots she was very stoic about the whole thing and didn’t freak out or cry at all. She’s quite social and talks a lot. The other day while taking a bath she told Noel, “I want to play forever” which we’re pretty sure was the purest desire of her heart.

The boys on swings.

Noel – Took the scouts on a campout where he enjoyed it more than he hated it. He discovered that Geocaching was a great hiking motivator that resulted in more hiking and less whining than usual. He had a nasty cold over Labor Day weekend, but has probably been the healthiest overall. During the week I had and recovered from Strep he took care of dinner pretty much every night and was up in the night with the kids on a few different occasions while I slept like the dead.

Hiking.

Audrey  – Since my Utah teaching license expired, I’ve periodically wondered what it would take to get back into the teaching game. This summer I felt a push to do more than just wonder. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) instructed me to apply for a license with the expectation that it would be denied, but would come back with a list of classes, requirements, etc that I would need to take care of. I took care of the fingerprinting and various other paperwork and waited. I expected CDE would require me to go back to school and considering the demands of my current day job it would take several years for me to become license eligible. Imagine my shock when I received an email telling me I’m now a licensed teacher in the state of Colorado. (Just search here using my name for proof.) I feel like things have really come together with this, but I’m not entirely sure for what purpose. (Am I being led to a job? An epiphany? Is Noel going to be unable to work for some unknown reason?) I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with the license, if anything, but am taking things one day at a time and keeping my options open. For the most part I’m at peace about not knowing and am embracing the line from the hymn “Lead Kindly Light” that says, “Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see / The distant scene – one step enough for me.” The same week I was granted a license I was asked to be a Youth Sunday School teacher for the 14-18-year-olds at our church. (One of my biggest worries about getting back into the teaching game was whether I even wanted to work with teenagers anymore, so this did not seem coincidental.) Accepting this new position meant the end of my service in the Relief Society Presidency. I’d been a counselor for almost three years and even though the position was initially extremely intimidating and I still have doubts about whether I did enough, I grew a lot as a person and very much felt God’s hand in my life over my three years of service.

To sum up this update, here are a bunch of pictures from the last two months.

Expired

Expired

My teaching license expired a few months ago. I haven’t stood in front of a classroom in over three years so really that chapter of my life has been closed for sometime now, but there was something about my license expiring that made it seem so final. It was a sad moment and I even looked into renewing it, but came to the conclusion that it was nearly impossible because I haven’t stood in front of a classroom in over three years.

Ellen's Piggies
Ellen’s Piggies

Becoming a mother was a hard transition for me and in the beginning I felt somewhat sheepish when people asked what I did. Then when we were in the thick of buying our house I felt so unimportant because none of the banks really cared about me or what I did since it didn’t appear that I was a financial contributor. Last year I took a job that I was very excited about. I was excited to get out of the house for for a few hours and do something “important.” Even though I had really good feelings about accepting the job, it was a fairly terrible experience. The job was an ill-fit, finding a babysitter and figuring out payment were a huge pain, and most of the time I just wished I was at home. One day I was at the salon getting my hair cut and the stylist asked me the question I usually dreaded. When I told her I was a college recruiter it felt so hollow and I quickly tacked on, “But being a mom is my most important job.” Even though I was very relieved when the job was over, I am very grateful that it helped me realize what I actually want to be doing for the moment. Now, whenever someone asks me what I do I am able to confidently say “I’m a mom” without regret or embarrassment. (And if I’m feeling particularly cheeky I tell people I run a non-profit for needy children.)

"Baby" Cooper
“Baby” Cooper

Someday I’ll renew that teaching license or get a Master’s in something else entirely. Or maybe I’ll just work on projects and enjoy the silence. But for now, I’m lucky to be able to spend so much time with these crazy little people.

Ellen soaking her feet in the dirty dishes . . .
Ellen soaking her feet in the dirty dishes with her socks on. So relaxing. . .
Cooper's fashion forward box kilt.
Cooper’s fashion forward box kilt.

 

Round is a Shape

Round is a Shape

As someone who (sort of) formerly worked in the exercise industry, I’m always curious about new exercise programs that come out. When I was doing my student teaching many moons ago, everyone was talking about P90X and how amazing it was. I was skeptical partially because I was way more fit than any of my fellow PE colleagues who professed love for the program and partially because I don’t trust things that are sold on infomercials. I kind of forgot about P90X for awhile since I was pregnant and then recovering, but when it resurfaced in my brain I put a hold on it at our library.  At the time I was in line behind like 142 other people that put holds on it. (Come to think of it, it might have been January when everyone was all gung-ho about getting in shape. ) Well, the hold finally came in last week. Even though I’m not aiming to have any sort of beach body anytime soon (unless you count beach ball body), I still wanted to get a feel for the program.

The purist in me hated how gimmicky the program was. The instructor is constantly pushing the company’s products (energy bars, muscle building drinks, and special exercise equipment). Also, the instructor is annoying and cocky. However, the workouts themselves are actually pretty good though. P90X wins points for length of workout and intensity.  The DVDs also had some nice features like having the option to turn off the instructor’s commentary and having a countdown timer at the bottom of the screen during each workout. While P90X focuses more on strength than my cardio-loving-soul would prefer, I definitely took some notes on exercises I would like to pull into future routines.

Speaking of future workouts. Do you remember how I was coveting Chariots when I was pregnant with Cooper? Well, since we’re going to need a double jogger in a few months, I’ve been on the prowl. I’ve been obsessively checking ads on craigslist and even Utah’s KSL (in case there was a steal of a deal my parents could pick up for us), but everyone wanted way too much money for their used strollers. We almost bought a new one during REI’s Labor Day sale, but decided that even at 20% off  it was fiscally irresponsible. I’ve never been so grateful for self-control in my life because the very next weekend a family from church told us their boys had just outgrown their Chariot and they would sell us theirs at a super discounted price. You seriously can’t buy Chariot kits for the price we paid for this beauty. Cooper loves it and is always climbing inside and begging us to take him somewhere. Hopefully he’ll adjust to sharing it 🙂

 

Skinny Genes

Skinny Genes

I’ve had the opportunity to teach a couple of exercise classes in my day. The typical audience has been girls age 12-18. Whenever I start a discussion on the benefits of exercise the first suggested benefit is ALWAYS “it makes you skinny.” It bothers me every time. Because I’m a teacher, I twist their answer to make it more truthful and say something like “It is true that exercise can be an effective tool for weight management.” “Skinny” never makes an appearance on the board and I make a mental note to teach a lesson later about positive body image.

I realize that I’ve been blessed with incredible genes. Sometimes I’m convinced that I could eat nothing but hamburgers and sit on the couch all day and never weigh more than 120 lbs. (Although, I’m sure I’d feel awful and my health would be very poor.) My body’s natural state often elicits strange reactions. Women have asked me if I’m anorexic and I’ve been told “you’re so skinny . . . I hate you” numerous times. It makes me sad, and honestly not because people are rude, but because I wish people liked themselves more.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with other women, young and old, and wished I had the courage to give them a big hug and tell them, “You are beautiful.” Because it’s true, and I’m not just talking about personalities.

I don’t know why we as women have such a great tendency to be so judgmental about ourselves – physically and otherwise.  I myself have often thought I look too scrawny and I cannot count the number of times in my life that I’ve said, “I don’t have any talents.” Which, without being too prideful, I can tell you is an outright lie. Each and every one of us is beautiful and talented in so many different ways and I wish we’d each remember that more often.  Here are a couple of Mormon Message movies that help me remember just how valuable I am as a person. Consider this my hug to you. Oh, and you’re beautiful.

Why Nothing I Write Will Ever Be a Classic

Why Nothing I Write Will Ever Be a Classic

When I was doing my student teaching, one of my 9th graders asked me, “Merket, are we ever going to a read a story that isn’t depressing or about  death and dismemberment?” As I honestly stopped to think about it I realized that there would only be one short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” and truthfully half of my students still found that story to be depressing.I’ve been thinking about writing lately. I’ve liked writing for a long time. When I was in elementary school I created a series of picture books that I sold to all my elderly neighbors and in high school I wrote truly embarrassing, dramatic pieces about my interactions with boys I had crushes on. In college, my writing matured somewhat as I became a pro at literary analysis and technical essays. During my final year of school, I took an Advanced Creative Nonfiction class where we spent the entire semester perfecting a single essay. My essay explored the fallacies and realities of love which seemed mundane compared to the theme of mental illness and apostasy that pervaded most of my peers’  works. Towards the end of the semester I met with my professor to get some feedback. We sat in his tiny closet of an office and this experienced writer said to me, “I feel like you’re holding back in your writing. You’re missing something, something . . .  sexual.” All I said was, “Oh” then I took the rest of his advice and left.  Trust me, if that was missing it was intentional. If you’d asked me what the essay was missing, I would have said faith.

Earlier this year, I read My Name is Asher Lev for the first time. The book is about a Jewish boy who discovers he has a great talent for art. As he grows up, he has to choose between never living up to his potential as an artist or truly becoming an artist, but estranging himself from the people he loves. (Hopefully Potok can forgive me for that oversimplified plot.) I found the story both troubling and compelling, in other words, thought provokingly good. As I read, I realized that I’m not willing to strip myself down and put everything on paper. There are some things that I just hold too personal to make public and too many people I wouldn’t want to risk offending. Honestly, if being published means tearing out a part of myself or burning bridges, then I guess it’s not for me. While I will probably never earn any sort of fame for my prose, I think I’m ultimately okay with that.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Today I officially resigned my post as a substitute teacher. While I definitely wouldn’t say it was my favorite job, it has had some valuable personal benefits (earning points towards keeping my license current, developing really great “teacher looks,” etc). Overall, my favorite parts were the insightful things students taught me. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Lady Ga Ga is a “musical genius.”
  • Having more kids is often “the worst mistake of a mother’s life.”
  • 7th graders are still not cognitively developed enough to know that swallowing open safety pins is a bad idea.
  • The bells are always one minute slow on Fridays.
  • Apparently the preferred term to nerd is “extraterrestrial intelligence.”
  • Even when you’re 8+ months pregnant and look like you have a watermelon sticking out of your abdomen, middle schoolers still have to get their friends to ask if you’re pregnant.
  • A moral would be kind of like “feeling bad after you get a lecture from a policeman for parking your diesel truck across two handicapped parking spaces outside of Walmart.”

As a last tribute to my former employment, here is a clip from School of Rock. My favorite part is towards the end when he’s watching the clock. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt like that.

It’s Official

It’s Official

I have received some good mail this week (both electronic and conventional). It took long enough, but earlier this week my diploma finally arrived! Then today, I received an email telling me my teaching license had been approved – it was attached as a PDF. Perhaps it’s all a bit anticlimactic, but symbolically these documents represent years otherwise unaccounted for in my life. I only wish the office of education wasn’t so cheap and would actually mail me a fancy license . . . in a perfect world.

New Wheels

New Wheels

In preparation for my future, I decided I should drive a  bigger “mom” vehicle and take some teenage boys under my wings.  .  . Okay, so really my parents went on a two week cruise for their 25th wedding anniversary and like a good daughter I took over my parent’s responsibilities. While my parents enjoy the Mexican sun I am responsible for 1 dog, 1 cat, 2 brothers, an art exhibit entry, and 105 high school seniors. All I can say is I can’t wait till my parents get back, and I’m glad my little boy won’t immediately eat like a 16 year-old-boy.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Kids Say the Darndest Things

In case you were wondering, I’m not dead yet. The outlook is good, I think I will survive student teaching. Although there are rough days, my students make me laugh. Here are some of the things I hear in my classroom:

  • “I got hit by a Frito and a notebook, they’re making weird noises, and I don’t like anyone around me. Can I move?”
  • “If no one could read we wouldn’t be able to text message . . . or read fast food menus!” (accompanied by a genuine look of dismay)
  • “Mrs. Merket, will you be the manager for our band? We’ll give you 40% commission.” Another student asks, “Of what?” He replies, “Spiritual blessings.”
  • From a parent at parent teacher conferences, “Can you tell me about the English fundraiser?” I look at him puzzled and respond that I’m not sure what he’s talking about. “My son called his grandma last Friday and told her he needed 10 pizzas in the parking lot for an English fundraiser. Oh, he is a master manipulator.”
  • When I ask a student why he isn’t working on his essay he tells me he can’t use his “cheat” at school. He types www.freeessays123.com into his browser and exclaims, “See, can you believe they block it!”
  • “Mrs. Merket, I hurt my metatarsal, I don’t think I can work out today.”
  • “Mrs. Merket, are we going to sweat when we work out today? ‘Cause if we are, can I just sit out?”