Transitions and What Teachers Hate Most About Teaching

I came home from work today steaming. I was so angry, so frustrated, so pissed. Why? Because of parents. Yes, parents. The worst part of teaching.

I have some parents who are amazing. They follow through, help their child without actually doing the work, and support me 100% by just being on my side. Most parents fall into this category. They realize that teaching is a job, and for many, a job they’d admittedly never be able to do and stay sane! I love these parents and truly hope that I am in this category for my own son’s teachers.

But then there are the other parents. Those breeders who copulated with some other human and created an offspring whom they could care less about. Those mommies who still wipe their little darlings’ butts. The helicopter parents who want so much to be the “cool parent.” These parents drive me to consider leaving teaching multiple times a year. They are, by far, the worst aspect of being a teacher.

Last year’s students were rough. At six years, four of which were severely inner-city, they were the hardest class I’d had. The parents were a little rough too. I had the anxiety-ridden tweaking kid who, being in my “high” math class, lived under the same roof as Mr. and Mrs. Military. Their child would literally incapacitate himself with anxiety if he was unable to grasp a concept. After one quiz, I wrote on his paper, “Did you study?” I received an email from his Corporal Mother asking how dare I write such a thing on her child’s paper when it should be obvious that he did study. Rather than inquiring if I could offer some suggestions on how to better study (because apparently the chosen method had failed miserably) I was considered in the wrong by the Squad Sergeant. Compared to the parents I have this year, this instance was tame.

Another parent was absolutely certain that her precious little cabbage patch child was being bullied and I was doing absolutely nothing to stop Precious from being emotionally scarred for life. In all honesty little miss Priss was an instigator and Mommy Dearest couldn’t bear being wrong.

This year I’m seeing more and more of the latter parent. Parents who swear their child is a victim. Innocent. Can do no wrong. Is that really how we are raising children these days? By telling them they are perfect and are to be trusted over adults?

I don’t think so.

Today my son was placed in timeout for throwing mulch at his teacher. Did I question the punishment? No. Did I question the teacher’s story? No. By choosing to send my kid to the day care, I have chosen to trust in the teacher’s ability to educate, discipline, and care for my child. While at school, my child is expected to treat his teachers as he would treat me and his father.

So why do so many parents assume that the teachers are the bad guys? Do they expect that I treat each child as though they are the only one in the class? Should I spend my teaching time dealing with each child’s personal issues. Let’s get real! As adults our bosses do not coddle us, and we can’t start coddling our youth as they transition into middle school.

Teachers must be tough and parents must be tougher. It’s that simple. Parent your child so that I can teach your student.

What types of parents have you encountered as a teacher? Share your horror story below!

Fashion Tip
An outfit to keep you sane during the transition from an Indian summer to a true autumn:

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Warm up a summer dress with boots, frilly boot socks, and simple (pearl, gold, silver) versatile jewelry. Orange is a great transition piece to pair with brown! Add a pop of teal or purple to brighten up the colors.

What’s Really Important

Apparently I am no longer a Type A personality. I swear I used to be. I used to fit the Wikipedia definition to a T. I was status oriented and wanted to be the best of the best. So how did I go from A to B?

To be honest I think I grew up a little. Now that I have a family that needs me, I don’t have the luxury of worrying about abstract ideas like perfection and popularity. As a neophyte teacher I was more self-absorbed and, as my husband worked on his career goals, I too strove to be the best of the best. And that was okay for me at that time in my life. But having a child, and really relying on only my husband for any kind of help, turned me into a definite Type B.

Do I still do a great job at work? Yes. I take home work once in a while. I arrive much earlier than required in order to accomplish the necessary tasks. I care about my career. But, at the same time, I leave work right at 4:15, the end of my contract time. I go home and play and enjoy my evenings without a single thought for work. I don’t really care about teacher rubrics for effectiveness or any number that’s tied to my abilities. I let this attitude guide my teaching.

My students know that they are more than a test score. I also know that they are more than students. They are softball players, actresses, little diplomats, gamers, basketball players, caregivers, chefs, maids, little mothers, big brothers. At the end of the day, they leave the student hat on the desk and go on about their lives. So I have to be compassionate enough to understand that they, too, have lives that should not revolve around perfection and popularity. I have to care about the other hats each child wears which involves listening, talking with, and being silly with the students. Teaching and being a disciplinarian are only small portions of my job. The rest is maintaining a bunch of personalities and pushing each to succeed for a short time during the day so that they can succeed at wearing many other hats throughout their lives.

So which personality type is better? I’m definitely going with B… For now!

Some recent outfits to transition to fall:
Old Navy striped waffle-knit sweater (bought in three colors)!

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Anthropologie thrifted dress (I got so many compliments on this one)!

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Old Navy white waffle sweater and Old Navy Rockstar fit pants (also bought in three colors)!

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The white waffle sweater over a plaid J. Crew Factory button down!

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The Five Things I’m Into This Month

Happy October! I am having a hard time believing that my fall break has already arrived. Our first quarter is behind us and we are 1/4 of the way to middle school.

As we transition into fall there are several things I’m currently digging. I’ll share here and, as always, feel free to let me know what you’re into this month!

1. Thrifted clothes
Yes, you read correctly. I am obsessed with thrifting. But this isn’t the old-school thrifting of wandering through Goodwill or Salvation Army. The newest trend is online thrifting.

I currently thrift via Instagram. I follow several IGers’ “closets,” meaning that these gals have separate accounts dedicated to selling their used clothes. Some are even “professional personal shoppers” who live in big cities and thrift clothes to resell online. Most are name brand, including tons of J Crew, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and so on. Many of the items are considered “EUC” (excellent used condition) or “NWT” (new with tags). My husband is getting pretty sour about the amount of packages I’ve been getting on a weekly basis, but a good deal is a good deal.

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Thrifted dress

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Thrifted sweater top and skinny red pants

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Thrifted top

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Thrifted sweater

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Thrifted skirt

2. Jamberry nails
In case you’ve ever paid close attention to my pics, you would have noticed that my finger nails were never painted. The reason is because I can’t stand the look of chipped polish. This means that, when I do paint my nails, it’s a one day adventure that is shortly removed or picked off. No fun and a waste of time.

Intro: Jamberry nails.

These amazing nail decal stickers are the latest in nail art. $15 gets you a package of stickers that can give you four mani/pedis. The designs are amazing and last up to two weeks or longer!

Applying the “jams” is super easy, too. I recommend watching some YouTube videos to watch the pros showing the application process. Oh, and don’t worry about buying an expensive mini heater. A blow dryer works just fine!

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3. Postcrossing
My class’s theme this year is all about traveling the world. From mini airplanes to license plate name tags, I’ve decked out my room. My absolute favorite decoration this year is the interactive postcard wall map. I found the map at a local teacher store. I then came across the website Postcrossing, which is a postcard exchange site.

When you sign up for PXing, you’ll be sent up to five international addresses. Once the post cards arrive at those locations, your address will be pulled by a random PXer and you’ll receive your own card(s) from around the world. So far we’ve gotten cards from South Africa, China, Poland, and a few other Eastern European countries. Not only do my students love getting the cards, but so do I!

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4. Dr. Jart BB creme
I recently received a sample of the Dr. Jart water-fused BB creme from Sephora. I then received a pore minimizing sample through my Birchbox. Based on these two product samples, I can safely say I was really impressed with the brand.

The Dr. Jart pore minimizer smells amazingly and left my skin feeling airbrushed without that nasty tightness. The water-fused BB creme felt like I was merely applying a cotton ball soaked in water. I was left with a slight tinted coverage and could’ve easily worn it alone with a little mascara and lip gloss. The next time you’re in Sephora, ask for a Dr. Jart sample so you can feel what I’m feeling!

5. My new ‘do
You probably could tell from the above pictures that I chopped off my hair. Nothing too drastic, but I’d definitely classify the new look as a bob. I added in some bangs for versatility and, all this week, happened to pin them back. But it’s nice to have other options.

Bobs and “lobs” (long bobs) are really stylish and practical. My hair is so much easier to style and can be worn dirty without it being obvious. I just add in a few waves with my iron, spritz some hairspray, and add a few pins. Done in no time! What hair are you wearing this fall?

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Fashion Catch-Up

I haven’t posted in a few weeks and I’m very sorry. As the school year really gets moving, I find that I have less time to donate to my hobbies. My free time is taken up by family and friends. Plus, as the work load piles up, it’s difficult to set aside time to think and write about teaching. As it stands, everything is politics and giving educators more crap to do that is not actually teaching. Very hard to stay positive about a profession where the word of the day has suddenly become “requirement.”

So, I imagine this blog will lean more toward fashion and less about teaching for a bit.

I’ve stock-piled some of my favorite outfits from the past few weeks in hopes of sharing. All of my recent outfits have been bought on super sale or found through thrifting!

Top: Nordstrom Rack
Necklace: Michael’s craft store
Bottom: black ponte skinny pants

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Top: pink tee from The Loft outlet
Cardi: simple cotton open cardi from The Limited
Purse: Target

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Top: Gap outlet chambray button up
Pants: thrifted but from Rue 21
Bracelets: some made by me, some simple beaded inexpensive bracelets

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This outfit was worn for a professional development (no students) day.
Top and shorts: JCrew Factory
Necklace: Ameera Noor jewelry

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Top: Target (Merona)
Vest: NY and Co
Bracelets: teal one from JCrew Factory; spike one made by me

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Top: JCrew Factory navy sweater
Pants: LC by Lauren Conrad for Kohls

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Cardi: button up from Francesca’s
Strapless dress: Old Navy

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My Beef with Teach for America

Although my current school has zero TFA members, my previous school was a revolving door for the “brilliant” TFA movement. At one point it seemed we had more TFA members than legitimate teachers.

I have maintained friendships with several of the TFA members, but their personalities and capabilities aren’t what turned me away. It’s the whole model and idea behind the company. In case you’re unfamiliar with Teach for America, the gist is that recent college graduates are fast-track trained to work in the nation’s worst urban school districts.

The process is simple: realize you don’t know what the hell to do after graduation and decide that teaching can’t be that hard. Plus, changing the world is a great résumé builder. Apply and gain acceptance, especially if you are a male or a minority. Then spend the summer (approximately 6-8 weeks) working with inner-city kids in a highly supervised environment. Finally, get “hired” at a school district where most of your salary is paid for by the TFA corporation.

So let’s summarize: you aren’t adequately trained but you’ll get hired over a fully trained teacher because your salary is subsidized by a corporation. Fair? Not exactly.

We all know that the most qualified isn’t necessarily the one hired. It’s all about the money.

Within the four years I worked at my previous school, we had TFA members for three. That totaled at least fourteen teaching positions that were given to TFA over highly-qualified educators.

However, this isn’t even the bubble-bursting piece of information that ultimately turned me off of the corporation. TFA members are only required to work in the schools for two years.. Yes. Two.

After two years, only 3/14 were still educators in an urban environment. The other 11 were scooped up to work for TFA doing recruiting and other operational duties. After their two year stint a new cycle of members come in and the process repeats itself, never allowing continuity, consistency, or teacher retention for the already at-risk urban school.

On top of all this, I personally find it demeaning to lead others to believe that, after a mere two years at a job, one would be considered an expert, enough to recruit, train, and lead others into this profession. I’m currently in my seventh year of teaching just intermediate elementary and I learn and change daily!

While the fact remains that urban areas need good teachers, TFA belittles the struggle by allowing administrators to hire long-term temps who are then swooped up by the corporation rather than being encouraged to remain in the teaching field.

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Women…

Prior to working at my current charter school, I was employed for four years at another charter that was considered legitimate inner-city. Our charter was held by a company and run by a man who knew how to fundraise. He was a pro. I don’t know who he talked to or how he managed to get our little place the big bucks, but we did pretty well.

The whole fundraising idea was never even brought to our attention. As teachers our job was to do just that… Teach! What happened in the “back of the house” wasn’t anything for us to stress about. If we needed something, we asked and poof! It was there. I know that this isn’t very realistic for every school, but it was certainly nice to be pampered so much with new textbooks every few years and free school sweatshirts for the entire staff and student body.

When I left that school I was quite naive in assuming that all charters ran the same way, with lots of fundraising. I assumed there would be old white guys in suits trolling through the school to gawk at us teaching the little unfortunates. Very Oliver Twist. I could not have been farther from reality.

So, when my current employer hired a fundraising liaison, or whatever you call a glorified begger (haha), I was completely taken aback when we teachers were approached to make donations. According to her, our “business” would be at a severe disadvantage without 100% teacher participation. To me it seemed shaky at best. Not once had my previous employer even mentioned employee participation in fundraising. What was this lady talking about?!

I could see the uncertainty and wariness in my coworkers’ eyes as they listened to this newcomer. Not a single one was overly impressed or eager to cough up our hard-earned dollars, least of all me. When speaking about it later with my husband, he was adamant that, should I feel harassed for not participating, I should take action.

While it never came to that, I did feel hounded, and I find that very unprofessional and hurtful from an employer who I have already given so much. As I thought more about the idea of giving and what would make me actually donate, we were “generously” given the opportunity to have a monthly jeans day if our building had 100% participation. I know of other schools that allow teachers to wear jeans if they donate a certain amount. It sounded like a plan to me! I donated anonymously (from my paycheck, haha).

So where is this story going, exactly?

Today, after our building has been stuck at 93% participation for the past week, a fellow coworker bravely approached me to inquire about my participation. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, 93% correlates to just two staff members who have chosen not to participate. She wondered if I was one of the two based on conversations we had had earlier in the month.

Nope. Not me. I do, however, wholeheartedly admire the two that are standing their ground. Am I upset that they are the reason we aren’t able to wear jeans once a month? Not at all.

As I sat and thought about the whole situation this afternoon, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. Was the purpose of this whole “giving” idea meant to turn us against one another as we conducted a witch hunt to find the two who are holding out? Probably not. But it is interesting that it’s landed here. Salem, part II.

Women have a tendency to be witch hunters. They want to sniff out the ones who aren’t conforming and then ostracize or act catty toward the nonconformists. Will they do this to the nonconformist’s face? Nope. Which is why I appreciate the coworker who outright asked me if I had donated. She’d heard rumors and wanted to come to me directly, like an adult, before the mob began their hunt.

This brings me to the moral of my long-winded post: if you want to know something, ask. Don’t start hunting witches until you know there are actually witches to hunt. Otherwise you’re just as bad as the ignorant, intolerant, judgmental assholes from the original witch hunt.

Oh, and all in all I really appreciate my former employer for not including us teachers in just another “thing” that takes us away from our actual job… Teaching.

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White on White: An Advanced Class on Fashion

I’ve been following a few style challenges on Instagram this month. Today’s theme, “white out,” is one that I’m not quite familiar with just yet. The idea is, obviously, white pants and a white top with accents of accessories, usually not in any crazy colors.

Pinterest, of course, has some great examples for us working ladies who don’t look like supermodels on a daily basis. There are also fabulous examples of what not to do.

Yes:

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No:

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Yes:

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No:

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Most definitely no:

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I busted out my older white pants earlier this week and spilled Starbucks before I’d even arrived to school. I was able to run a load of whites to bleach that evening, so the stain is now gone. Luckily I recently found this pair of white pants from The Limited on sale. Apparently I’m the type of girl who needs a back-up pair of white pants.

After perusing Pinterest I determined that my own style leans more toward white pants with either a lace or structured top. A sweater is out of the question in this muggy 90-degree weather.

Top: thrifted find
Bottoms: The Limited
Belt: Betsy Johnson from Nordstrom Rack

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My Husband’s Pet Peeve

On Friday I received this picture message from my husband.

20140824-222806.jpg Okay, I thought. What are two measley little packages? And then I got this second picture.

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All right. I may have a slight problem.

My obsession with online shopping has gotten out of hand recently. Between back-to-school deals on clothing to thrifted items on Instagram (look up #shopmycloset), I am almost daily receiving packages.

Now, if I made it home first this would be a nonissue. But the fact is that I don’t. Every once in a while I’ll manage to sneak something in using my large purse, but it’s getting tougher. So, I guess that leaves me with my only option: find a friend who will let me ship things to her house…

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Top: JCrew Factory blue collared dress shirt
Bottoms: Rock ‘n Republic white denim cropped skinny pants
Bracelets: Mindy Mae’s Market and bangle handmade by moi

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I then proceeded to spill Starbucks on myself. Happy Monday!

The Sad Reality Behind Standardized Testing

Within the past few days my city has been rocked by the cheating scandal of an urban charter school. While I would never condone the actions of this school, I can see where the educators came from.

There is a huge amount of pressure on charters in my city. We are constantly scrutinized, poked and prodded until we begin to question our own ability to do our job. There are veiled threats of closing if certain impossible criteria aren’t met. It’s, ultimately, a horrible environment for the staff of any school.

For these teachers to sense that fear and know that they will never achieve the impossible can cause horrible choices. And let’s face it, the odds are stacked against most schools:
-attendance issues
-poorly trained support staff and a revolving door of assistants
-low teacher retention as they find more stable jobs
-parent empathy
-government empathy
-administrator empathy

We need to face facts. These schools are not going to succeed. Until the government realizes that nobody really wants to teach in that environment for such a pittance, we will be stuck in the same rut.

Do I have solutions? No. I got out of such a school because of these same factors. The revolving door theory worked both at the teacher level, student level, and administrator level as our principal was released shortly after. He had vision, but there were too many hands in the pot and he refused to be a “yes man.” Thus, he was outed.

So, do I agree with the cheating? No. But I think the deeper problem is why these adults chose to cheat. What would make you put your career, your livelihood, your freedom on the line? To me it screams of desperation and a lack of other options.

My heart hurts for those teachers involved and those who were unaware. To the administrators, for shame. This was an administrative directive, there is no doubt in my mind. But what other option did they have?

You Don’t Have to Try So Hard

Have you seen the amazing “Try” video by Colbie Caillat? I have had this song stuck in my head all morning as I pondered what to write. I finally realized that I needed to make a deep and dark confession.

I dieted over the summer. Scratch that. I attempted a diet over the summer.

Hubby and I decided, after a recommendation from a friend, to go on Ideal Protein. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but suffice to say that this was the first real diet I had ever done. Shocking since I’m a 30 year old female, right? But dieting is not my thing, nor has it ever been.

Working with a bunch of women I see daily the newest fad diets. Whole 30. Shakes. Protein powders. Cleanses. Everything. Up until this summer I had managed to steer clear. But something prompted me to attempt this Ideal Protein diet. Something sinister.

Hubby and I signed up (fail #1) by paying a crazy amount of money and receiving a few complimentary pre-packaged foods to try. Did they taste good? Some. Did this diet work? Yes. I lost 6 pounds within days. So why did I stop?

Never in my life had I been so unhappy. Each day I awoke only to instantly start thinking about food. What would I have for breakfast? How long until I could have lunch? Did I want my allotted snack in the morning or after dinner? I was absolutely miserable. At the end of the week I finally told hubby that I would prefer fat to sad.

So why did I jump on the fad diet bandwagon? I suppose, after seeing certain coworkers always attempting these diets, I wanted to give it a try. Deep down, though, I know that I love to eat whatever I want. I just need to balance that with moderation and exercise.

As I listened to Colbie Caillat’s song I again began questioning myself. Why did I try so hard? Why am I so afraid of being myself? I like who I am, and while I would prefer to lose some weight, it does not define me as a person. I should work out because, ultimately, I feel better emotionally. My anxiety is lowered and I have a happier outlook. If I lose some poundage, great. If I don’t, that’s okay too. I don’t have to try so hard.

What do you try so hard? Does it make you happy? What are you going to accept about yourself today?

Top: LC by Lauren Conrad for Kohls (old)
Bottoms: emerald skinny pants from The Limited (very recent and these were 40% off too)
Bracelet: J Crew Factory

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