Changing Seasons Type of Day

img_2303  Trying this blog entry from my cell phone–that’s risky! I am outside and just do not want to go INSIDE and log onto a computer… 

What an odd day, a day mixed with joy and sadness. 630 AM—still dark—road closed ten seconds before the intersection where I turn to get to work and a truck started pouring hot tar in two lanes. Semi ahead of me kept knocking down tree branches (too big for the small amount of the lane still open) and construction cones. I had to get out of the car in the dark to move the cones, but finally a construction worker let me through.

11 hours of work (part time !) Some middle school kids on the college campus today. So cute. So loud. Sipping their pumpkin spice sugared drinks waiting for the presentation they were here for.

Some students asked if I could teach them next term.

Drove home in the dark.

Sad loved one’s health news.

Two more poetry rejections.

Glad I’m part time. This won’t happen often. To work in the dark. Home in the dark.

Glad for modern medicine which may help family member.

And frogs! I’m sitting outside in the dark with my trusty tennis racquet (you know… in case of critters) and with a spotlight hearing LOUD FROGS. It’s that warm now!?!??!! Wind blowing off so many remaining leaves.

Love hearing those frogs. Thought I’d not hear them for months, until spring.

Truly a changing season type of day.

(Picture taken with my little camera phone while sitting in the dark, soft rain… back flashlight light on the bush. I’m such an adventurer.)

Thanks for reading; may your seasonal changing days change well, with kindness and hope.

Prose Poem Draft “Didn’t Say Good bye”

bonfire        (Note: I wrote this fictional prose poem after the devastating fire and explosion nearby that hurt more than a dozen teens in late April.)

I didn’t Say Goodbye 

Cool spring night in April. Red bud blooms just starting to soften, School nearly over— We wanted to say good bye.
A dozen gathered for fire and ghosts (We were too old for Ghost stories– We mostly laughed at them.) But huddled closer before the end of school We wanted to say good bye.
Nearly full moon peaked gold on the horizon, watching us, laughed at us a bit, hid back in the clouds then showed its silver side.  Showed up in our ghost stories–the hide-and-seek moon.
We just wanted to say good bye.
Twelve, a dozen motley crew on a Saturday night, asking if it was time to go home, but no one wanted to leave the flames gold, flickering, magical like the moon’s silver— They held us in place. The talking stopped, but we were saying good bye.
I slipped away, knowing Mom needed me– I didn’t want to disturb them, my suddenly silent but free and sweet silver and gold friends.  Flames calling me back but Mom needed me. I didn’t say good bye.
I heard it, the explosion. Ran back but I was too late. Faces, arms, hands just gone. Explosion then sirens and crying, sobbing and smells and screams
I didn’t get to say good bye.

On running into former students

flowers-vase-decor-interior-870512

I don’t want to make more out of this than I should, but in this case, meeting a student outside of school reminded me of one of the reasons I “retired” early–a badly designed one size fits (none but the elite few???) evaluation system.

No, not because of this student, named D (not real name, of course).  D was a sweet, emotional, moody, respectful, goofy, and very needy student when she was in my class my last year of teaching full time.

Fine.  I like a challenge, and I like kids.  I chose to be a literacy teacher/ specialist at the secondary level, and that means working with kids who have struggled a lot with school.  They get me instead of a fun class or instead of an elective.  This means they often acted out, since they didn’t have the maturity to realize acting out did not get them out of class.  It took much art, much patience, much creativity, and much compassion for me to develop good working relationships so they would try to “do school” and not act out in class (so much) or disengage in class.

And I was used to getting a lot of challenging students all in one class.  Some years, if I had a particularly challenging group, I would often go home exhausted to the point of bone weary.

But for many years, that was fine and we who chose this path were thanked.  Admin understood our classes might not be quiet like the AP or Honors classes.  Admin understood part of our job was to work the magic of relationships and understanding and compassion. Admin understood that many of our students were not intrinsically motivated in classes they didn’t want to be in or actively hated being in.

(Side note: One year, during my evaluation for tenure I had a student go wild, explode after he received some devastating news.   My great admin understood this can happen, especially with adolescents challenged with many outside problems.  I got tenure and I was praised for handling this very difficult situation in a professional and compassionate manner.  The admin was able to use his/ her discretion, assess the situation, and became involved in helping the student and his family after he/ she learned about the issues.)

But that is another story.)

D had been labeled as a handful, a trouble maker, but I found her quick to anger, quick to forgive, quick to cry, but always a young person who would go out of her way to say hello, even shouting across campus.  That’s not always true with teens, and I took it as a good sign.

But during one evaluation  on Day 2 of 2, D was having a hard time, crying in class, whispering, etc.  I dealt with it, I thought, in a manner that let me continue to teach without anyone losing face, without shaming anyone.  It was an active class and we were doing a lot of moving and talking in the room anyway, and come on. They were 14, 15 years old… sophomores in high school. I felt I dealt with it very well, and expected to hear that.  The day before, D had been on task completely and helping out in class by passing back papers, etc.  But this day 2? She was having a hard time.

But using the Danielson framework, it was an awful class allegedly.  D and the other 14 years old did not self correct.  I needed to gently guide them.  Gently guiding did not result in D miraculously gaining self control and becoming a self-actualized student at that moment.  I was dinged on this eval.

Whatever.  Just another reason to retire under this ridiculous one-size-fits-all system.  Admin had to use the system, and the system was wrong, in my opinion, for it tried to standardize what good teaching should always look like.  Kids are not standardized.  Teachers are not standardized.  Yet admin had to use this tool, this evaluation “model” where one size would perhaps fit college instructors or instructors of highly motivated students.  I don’t blame admin.  They had no leeway.

#  #  #

Later that month, I had to miss two weeks of class, the first time ever in my long teaching career.  I had minor surgery and the recovery was longer than expected.

When I returned, there was a vase with some lovely simple carnations in them, no note.

Oh, my boss said to me, they are from D.  She’s been here every day looking for you.

D? D, the one who cost me a ding in my evaluation, which–if I had been staying–could have cost me a rating and could have been very serious.  No matter that the year before D had to be escorted sometimes by admin because of her behaviors in class.  No matter what, the rubric had to be followed. No exceptions.

D, the student who the year before had to have someone from the Dean’s office sit with her often so she would “behave” in class. D made so much progress behavior wise, academically, and personally in just the school year I’d know her.

I will never forget her smiling face as she yelled across the hall, “She’s back!”  I won’t forget you, D, but I had to leave.

D brought me flowers.

#  #  #

I met a former colleague for a late lunch the other day, and there working at the restaurant, seating guests, supervising other staff members, was D.  Her braces were gone.  Her hair was pulled back in a sleek style and she was confident, smiling, and efficient.

She had grown up.

It was great to see her and reconnect for a few moments.

Oh, did I ever tell D she hurt me on my evaluation?

Absolutely not. I believe it would not only have been unprofessional to do so, but it would have also shamed a young lady for no reason. I knew the class well, knew the students, knew how to run the class.  I would not have changed what I did.

It this case, it was a ridiculous system imposed on me, an individual, with my own style and with unique kids in each class, kids who sometimes seemed to change from day to day as they navigated issues.

So no, I would not hurt a young person because a system was unfair and inappropriate to impose on all educators.

But it sure made me remember why I left early.

Not the kids.  Never the kids.

And even after all this time, I am not over it, for teaching is so difficult, so time consuming, and so personal that it’s not okay, in my opinion, to do this to teachers. It is not okay to simply fill out a rubric, and the details be damned.

And I am a good teacher, very hard working, dedicated, educated well, and compassionate and respectful with students.

So a blog post that should have been about D becomes about me and how sad, angry, and burned out I still am.  All those 60-90 hour work weeks truly exhausted me.

But I would still be there full time, working until I could no longer do so, if we didn’t develop this blame the teacher and one size fits all and not being appreciated for the tough job we do very well at times.

It’s just not okay to do this, but it is how it was.

 

 

Prose Poem/ Didn’t Say Good-bye

bonfire

For the students:

Cool spring night in April. Red bud blooms just starting to soften, School nearly over— We wanted to say good bye.
 
A dozen gathered for fire and ghosts (We were too old for Ghost stories– We mostly laughed at them.) But huddled closer before the end of school We wanted to say good bye.
 
Nearly full moon peaked gold on the horizon, watching us, laughed at us a bit, hid back in the clouds then showed its silver side.  Showed up in our ghost stories–the hide and seek moon. We just wanted to say good bye.
 
Twelve, a dozen motley crew on a Saturday night, asking if it was time to go home, but no one wanted to leave the flames gold, flickering, magical like the moon’s silver— They held us in place. The talking stopped, But we were saying good bye.
 
I slipped away, knowing Mom needed me– I didn’t want to disturb them, my suddenly silent but free and sweet silver and gold friends.  Flames calling me back but Mom needed me. I didn’t get to say good bye.
 
I heard it, the explosion. Ran back but I was too late. Faces, arms, hands just gone. Explosion then sirens and crying, sobbing and smells and screams
 
I didn’t say good bye.
 
 
******************************************
For the students and their families, a made up story but the sentiment is sincere. I am so sorry for your pain, so young, so tragic. I keep thinking about how the young one’s lives, and the lives of their families, friends, school community, are changed utterly. I wish them well, wish they healing, but know such trauma, such injuries have long lasting effects. So I wrote a poem for them, a silly gesture, because I don’t know them, I won’t ever know them, but I can imagine being young in the night, right before the end of a school year….in the nearly full moon light, with the flickering fire before you…a night of silver and gold and them tragedy.