Wednesday, March 26, 2008


BTSA stands for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment. My support provider and I just met over Spring Break for breakfast. We are supposed to meet an hour a week and have fallen behind, so I bought breakfast for her. Part of the time was taken up with me being on the phone with the insurance adjuster for the accident I was in.

I shared with her all the crazy things that have happened in my life lately.

The key question she asked me is:
How can you deal with your personal life so that it doesn't affect your professional life?

WOW! Good question.

Sometimes you just can't deal. After my accident I did get a substitute for two days. That's what we have substitute teachers for. But on a day to day basis, most things aren't bad enough to call for a substitute. Ultimately, the show must go on. I've been through worse. I was sick as a dog, totally wiped out and trying to put a concert together with three choirs. My cheese was really sliding off my cracker then. I only had just a few days that I could call on a substitute because I had to be there to get the kids ready for the concert.

I have other outlets and hobbies. I belong to a folklorico dance group. I go to the gym alot. I have a social life, even though I slightly impaired part of it this last weekend. I'd like to get back into yoga. That might help keep me more centered. One of these days I'd like to start going to church again.

Sometimes when you can barely make it, you just have to fake it.

Recipe for Spring Break Social Disaster

Sometimes my kids ask me if I party or used to party in high school. Well...

Take 1 stressed out choir teacher on spring break who wants to have fun and add:

1 car accident
1 migraine on and off for 1.5 weeks
1 Celebrex for injured shoulder
1 Flexeril for muscle spasms
2 Tesalon pearls for oncoming cough
4 Alleve for migraine
1 guy hitting on her at restaurant
1 guy asking for coffee date
1 guy she used to date, also at restaurant
1 guy with ulterior motives for interfering
5 glasses of wine
4 course meal of elf-like portions

Make sure teacher doesn't eat all day long from headache and forgets about alcohol warning labels on medications. Add together slowly in an Italian restaurant for 3 hours. Watch all judgement, grace, social polish and emotional control completely disappear as she becomes so intoxicated she doesn't know where she is. When she wants protection from the other guys, she goes to the guy she used to date and then starts sobbing uncontrollably which only causes a major scene and great embarrassment.

I remember high school parties being about like that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Welcome Back with Sass

I went back to school with my migraine finally under control. Sometimes it's back to the same old, same old sassiness.

Things keep getting worse with Sassy. He's the kid who jumped off the choir risers and onto a chair. I have him for two classes. Today I got extra sass.

I was giving announcements about what was going to happen when we came back from break. It's hard enough to give announcements to a class. One time, as student played some of "A Whole New World" I ended up singing most of the song. That worked to get them to be quiet. Sassy was talking to one of his closest friends. I asked him to be quiet. He continued his talking.

D-Sassy, will you stop talking while I'm talking.
S-Can you ask nicely?
D-I already did ask.
S-You want us to respect you, so you should talk to us with respect.
D-Everyone else is quiet and listening and you're still talking. I suggest you back down now or you will get a referral.

He backed down. He knows that might mean getting senior privileges taken away. I thought there would be peace. I went to my office to get something and heard a ruckus and a door slam. My talkers were gone. I called the attendance office and told them who was truant for when they call home. See if I count you as here if you leave my class like that.

He actually behaved himself in choir, though I don't know why.

I'm getting a really tough skin from dealing with all of this crap.

You're Alright

One of my students told me, You're cool, Miss D. I have alot of respect for you. I really do. If I ever saw you in trouble like your car broke down or something, I would help you push it to the gas station. And I wouldn't do that for just anyone. Seriously. You're alright.
There is a long history with this kid. He has behavior problems. He used to act out in my piano class. One day he hit me with, "You only ever pay attention to me when I'm doing something wrong." I then started going by to check his progress.
R-Can I play this for you Miss D?
D-Sure thing.
I'd sit and listen for five minutes. Keep up the good work, OK?
Another day:
R-Miss D I brought a beat track I made. Can I play it for you?
Of course. I listen.
R-Someday I'm gonna be famous and you can say you had me in piano and you knew me way back before I became famous.

Other kids don't like him. They tell me they don't like him. I feel so bad for him now. He honestly does respect me. Even though he does wrong, I still treat him like he's human. One day I saw him in the office looking really upset.
R-They threw me out of class because I laughed during Schindler's List.
D-Why did you laugh?
R-Because when the Nazi's were shooting people, they were treating them like animals and it made me laugh because it was so wrong.
D-People laugh sometimes when they are nervous or something bothers them like that. But can you see that other people might be upset, right?
R-Yes. I guess I can.
D-It's not what most people would do, so that's why it bothered them. Hey, take care of youself. Think about what I said, OK?

When I saw him later, he told me that his mother had commited suicide 3 years ago. He hasn't felt like himself since then. She was schizophrenic.
D-Well, anyone would be upset by that kind of stuff. Of course you haven't been yourself. It takes a long time to get over stuff like that.
R-Thanks for listening Miss D.

He got suspended for saying something really vulgar to a teacher and came back asking, Miss D, did you miss me while I was gone?
D-Yes, I did.

I worry about that kid.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No Kids!

I just called the sub finder. I'm on day 5 of a migraine that started after the accident. Yeah, sure, Soma (muscle relaxer) has been fun to take at times, but conducting choir will just aggravate things.

As a single, all I have to do when I don't want to be around kids is call in sick. It's kind of nice not to have your own. In fact, I'm not sure if I ever want any of my own. Maybe the right guy will someday change my mind.

But I sort of miss my girls. I moved all the boys out of one of my choirs to have all the boys together. Those who stayed I knew were headed to continuation school and eventually were gone. So now it's just girls. We can do really fun repertoire that I can't do with a mixed choir like some songs from Grease and girl group songs from the 50s.

But some of them I just wonder if they're OK. 1 showed up with a bruise on her face, a souvenir from a bad ex-boyfriend. One has a baby and has lost alot of family members this year. Quite a few have really bad family situations. We aren't talking about fights with parents over curfew. We're talking about a 17-year-old taking care of her sister's babies while the sister is in jail for defending her children from an abusive ex. Some things are just unspeakable and they won't tell me anything at all. Some of them I just miss their sweetness and willingness to do whatever is asked. Some I miss their quietness--how is is that they never seem to make a sound except when they sing? Some, I miss their sassiness--don't tell them that, though!! I am missing a little joy without seeing them. Despite all these circumstances, sometimes they sound SOOO good!

I miss some of my other students too, but mostly, I miss my choir girls.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Accident, the Talk of the Town

I left school at around 4:10 pm. I was driving around 30mph even though I could have been driving it faster because it's technically after school hours. But I don't. I work at the high school and there is a skateboard park where one of my students was hit by a car and landed in the hospital for seven days. He was in a coma and no one was sure he would make it. Do you think I would speed there? Hell NO!! I had my left turn signal on, was going to get into the left turn lane. Then some lady didn't stop at the stop sign coming off the highway. I tried to get out of her way by changing lanes to the right. She still hit me. Kaboom.

My neck hurts. I called the police. It should be cut and dry. She had a stop sign. I tried to get out of her way. She still crashed into me. She tried to say I was speeding and that I came out of nowhere. She was following the guy in front of her and it was clear. Ummm, yeah right. She had a stop sign.

The cafeteria lady saw me.

CLady: Miss D, are you OK? I just wanted to stop and make sure.
MissD: Yeah, though my neck hurts and I'm waiting for the police to make a report.
Clady: Here, you can have my Diet Coke. I just got it and I haven't drunk from it yet.
MissD: Aww, thanks, you're so sweet. And it won't do anything to add to my waist!

The next day I parked my car where students could see it. Then I walked to the cafeteria to get some breakfast. I love these breakfast sausage pizzas that they make. So delicious. Half the staff was asking if I was OK. It was really kind of sweet. We heard what happened to you. Are you OK?

I drew a diagram of what my car did and what the stoopid lady did.
Stdnt: Miss D, you can't spell. That's not how you spell stupid.
MissD: Well, it is when someone is soooper stooopid.

At least two students came up to me and said, Hey Miss D, I saw you on the street with your car. One was on a bus that I remember pulling into the parking lot as I was pulling out. It later passed by me on the street. Would the stoopid lady have hit that bus?

Some students said stupid stuff like they did when I sprained my ankle.
Wow Miss D, what did you do to your car?
Did you hit a parked car?
Can you drive?
Did you get your license from a Cracker Jack box?
Can we kick your car since it's already jacked up? No one will even notice.

Seriously, I remember saying some of these same kinds of things when I was a kid, so it doesn't really bother me that much. For the most part, I felt like people were actually concerned and glad that I was OK. Except for the kid who jumped onto the chair and broke it.

Miss D: I'm sure everyone wants to know what happened, so I drew a diagram.
Sassy: I don't want to know.

Oh well. You can't win them all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What? No Pink Slip??

Wait. I don't understand. I was EXPECTING to get a pink slip by March 15th. I got a bad review where my evaluating principal marked almost everything as "needs improvement." I seriously thought she hated me. I thought my district hated me because of my work comp injuries. I've messed up my shoulder because of playing piano and conducting. I sprained my ankle at work three times.

I was certain I was getting a pink slip. The arts are the first thing to go. I teach a music class where the keyboards are constantly breaking down. I struggle to keep up with two school campuses--a high school and a middle school. I've been outrageously sick and made alot of mistakes. I've been late turning in grades because I was so sick. The principal of the high school came and hunted me down in the middle of rehearsal to get me to turn them in. I've been blamed for all the kids I had to move out of my program, the discipline problems, the lack of enthusiasm that the kids are showing. They expected me to walk in and do better than the teacher they had before and that hasn't happened because choir programs always go though upheaval when a new director starts.

I thought I was going to struggle to find something else over the summer. I had a PLAN. I knew what I would say about the whole situation when I went to interviews. I talked about this plan with other teachers. Getting pink slipped was no big deal. Did the pink slip get lost somewhere? Was I going to be called into the office and told I was going to be let go?

Seriously, stop playing. I was going to throw a party, invite all my friends and serve pink cocktails. Where's my pink slip??

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time Change

I hate the time change. It throws everyone one off, but it especially throws off kids. They're all so tired and grouchy. I've had a rather eventful couple of days. One of my students made a raspberry sound at me when I asked him to get his book for the third time. Then he decided to be creative by jumping onto a chair and breaking it. He could have broken a bone and I hate to say it, I sort of wish he had. The vice principal threatened to start taking things away from him at this point. He said:

I don't think you'll have any more problems with him. I told him if I hear any more of this silly stuff, I will take away prom. If I hear something after that, I will take away a the senior trip. If I hear something else after that, I'll take away grad night.

Hmmm...that might work. Part of me wanted him suspended from class for the day. The VP forgot that I had that student for another class and he waltzed in to give me a little more attitude. I wanted some kind of more severe punishment because that student sort of pisses me off. I don't want him to fail my class and he's headed in that direction. I certainly didn't need him telling me in front of all the piano students, I already told you I wasn't going to take that test. Don't you listen? I'm tired of second chances. Maybe he needs to lose those things to understand that he's being a complete sh-thead.

But I think what would really work is that they get rid of the time change. I mean seriously, things weren't great before the time change, but the time change made everything worse with all the kids. If anyone worked with kids they wouldn't do this time change anymore. It just throws us all off.

Please, next year let's just pick the half hour in between and split the difference. We're all tired of being late for church or work or forgetting to change the clock. Another teacher was an hour late to school on Monday. If we just pick that half an hour in the middle and never change it again, we'll all be happier. What's half an hour of dark on either end or half and hour of light? At least we'll have a consistent schedule like in the old days before they invented the lunacy of Daylight Savings Time.

On top of that, Daylight Savings Time from now forward hits us in the beginning of March rather than the beginnings of April. Great! That's also possibly why it's so bad right now.

For more info:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

School Stress Today

My school is kind of a stressful one. It's not any one particular thing, just everything. Not only did we have a lockdown recently, but the same day as the lockdown, someone drove their car off the highway. They landed a helicopter in the athletic field to airlift the person to the hospital.

The cops are always at the school and it makes alot of us feel safer--students included--knowing that we have someone there all the time. A girl told me that her ex-boyfriend was threatening her and her friends with bodily harm. I told her to make a report with the campus police officer. It helps, I think, that the kids already know him. Not only that, he teaches a law enforcement class that several of my students are a part of.

But when we see lights or hear sirens, the stress level goes up astronomically. Today there were lights by the side of the road as I got to school in the morning. I was really glad when I drove by that it wasn't anything to do with our students. But it ws the third time someone this year drove their car off the road and hit a tree in front of the school. Not a pretty sight for students to see first thing in the morning. Ouch, that must really hurt and he must really be hurting today. It reminded me of one of my students who got hit by a car last year in front of the school and was in a coma for several days. He still has a hard time concentrating and is no longer allowed to skateboard or play sports.

But Friday still turned out to be a good day. Things went smoothly with my high school kids. And the junior high kids finally got to have the Valentine's dance. See, it was cancelled because there was a threat on the internet that someone was going to shoot African American kids at the dance. It was probably smaller than it would have been without the threat and having to move it to a different day. But actually having it was a moment of healing. I let them give me extra stamps at the gate for fun--on both hands, then my arm and two on my face. I put my arm around the principal when I asked her how she was feeling after being sick. I felt really happy.

Texting isn't all fun and games

Every kid seems to have a cell phone. Mainly they are texting each other. They ought to have phones that are text only just for teens and tweens. Texting is so pervasive that I have started to joke with my students, Next time I'll text you. Then you'll have it. to alleviate the constant questions of Where are we? What page? Huh? or to let them know it's time to start class.

But sometimes texting can be serious. Why would a mother text her 12 year old child to let her know that her grandmother has passed away??? I didn't have that child in my class, but some of my students ended up walking that child to class and were late to my class. I was upset because these students have a little bit of a lateness problem, and about half my class was late that day. Honestly though, I appreciate that they were so sensitive to another child's pain. That level of sympathy doesn't often happen with junior high kids.

Maybe my parents were different. They would have waited until I got home so they could hug me and console me. Heck, even the miltary is different. They would never text you to let you know that someone special had died. They send someone to your house to express their sympathies. A text message has no regard for where you are or what you are doing. What a crushing blow to a child. Some parents just don't think and we teachers are left to pick up the pieces.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I'm a bad teacher

One of my students had the gall to tell me that he thought I wasn't a good teacher. He said, "Your talent is obvious. You have a beautiful voice. But I just don't think you're a good teacher."

Hmmm. I didn't say anything at the time. I just listened to his perspective hoping that he would get it out of his system. I wanted to to tell him:

"You know what, I think you're a terrible student."

I've given him more detentions that any other student. He once was turning the lights on and off just for fun. He's had his cell phone out texting his friends. He has said all kinds of swear words. He would talk incessantly while I was teaching the boys their parts. When I would work with the girls, he would lead the talking instead of working on his part with the boys. He would constantly compare me to the previous teacher. He should have to do what I said because Mr. M wouldn't have done it that way. He also doesn't sing on pitch. He argued with me in front of the class.

Now maybe some of this is my fault. I'm not the other teacher. I don't play piano that well. But I play well enough to teach parts. I don't do things the way that he did. How can I? I ended up with a completely different class than the one I heard about. 20 kids dropped the class before I even started. Since I started 3 moved or dropped out of school altogether. 5 I had to kick out or it was mutually agreed that we could no longer work together. 2 are burgeoning professional singers who have better opportunities outside of school and don't want to put up with crap from their classmates.

I didn't know how common it was for beginning choir directors to have these kinds of problems. These are the things they never tell you about teaching school and least of all choir.

I don't really believe I'm a bad teacher at all. Things will be better next year. They always are. Other choir teachers have told me these things.