Sunday, January 26, 2014

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

I noticed a tweet today about International Holocaust Remembrance day.  "On January 27th, we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Red Army troops in 1945."

Read more: On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Rethinking Commemoration | Simon Goldberg | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

When I think of Holocaust Memorial day I think of all the moving, compelling books I have read about the Holocaust; stories that have shocked and horrified me, stories that have moved me and made me cry, and all of the untold stories of horrors that we were never able to hear because they were never able to be told.  I recently saw a picture online that showed the 10 most read books of all time and not surprisingly 'The Diary of Anne Frank' is on that list.  Her poignant account of growing up during the Holocaust gave a face and a name to the millions of Jews who suffered and died during the Holocaust.  It seems unimaginable to think of the humiliation, suffering, torture and murder of so many people, guilty of only one thing, a Jewish heritage.  In that way I am also guilty and I can't help but empathize with Holocaust survivors, I can't help but wonder why this was allowed to happen and be angry at the injustice.  Despite my sadness and anger, it is my obligation to teach tolerance, to ensure the memory of these people are never forgotten and to help ensure our world is a better place today and in the future. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Merriam Webster dictionary defines serendipity as 'luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for'.  A pleasant surprise, a happy accident, looking for something else and finding what you really want. 

Life rarely ever happens according to our plans.  When we open ourselves up to new ideas, what happens next can be truly wonderful.  I can only describe meeting Peter  as serendipity.  He is so amazing, he is not at all what I thought I would find and yet he is perfect for me.

I feel like serendipity is stepping in again, as I consider what I want to do with the rest of my life, I have become restless and unhappy with the teaching profession ( and obviously I am not alone).  I love teaching and I will miss it a great deal, but just as I am considering making a change, serendipity happens and Peter gets a raise, he encourages me to pursue my other lifelong dream of writing.  I have the ideas and now I have the support to explore writing. 

Being a teacher should not mean being a doormat

We teachers are all feeling like this lately


hiding from abusive parents, demanding administrators, out of control legislators

Well - to coin a phrase, I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!  I responded openly and honestly to a parent e-mail today.  I had a parent basically insult me and accuse me of intentionally trying to prevent her son from participating in sports rather than help him succeed.  Now normally I just take a breath and then politely respond how I am sorry (taking the blame on myself) and try to appease the parents so they don't get upset or go to the Principal - well NOT TODAY!  I was professional but very blunt - and I stated that I resented her accusation and that the responsibility for not turning in work should be directed at her son and not at me.  Honestly - I didn't (don't) care if I am written up or even fired, parents do not have the right to bully teachers. 
Since when did it become socially acceptable to belittle and abuse teachers?  It is so disheartening to listen to my colleagues and see the frustration and pain on their faces and in their body language.  I fear that we are headed for a severe shortage of quality teachers.  I recently read a very well written article entitled "Why I want to give up Teaching."   One line from the article was especially poignant "government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children"  It is a very sad and very accurate statement on the current sentiment from the teachers in this country.  I don't believe I am exaggerating, I wanted to find the article again so I did a quick Google search for 'Why I want to quit teaching' and received 19,500 hits.  I'm not sure if reading many of these articles was affirming or simply depressing.  What I learned; the turnover rate in teaching is higher than most other professions, pay is also an issue for most teachers, mostly it's about job dissatisfaction - about teachers feeling powerless.  Today I took back some of my power - I stood up to a parent who was being a bully, despite the fact that I got no help from my administrators, I spoke up for myself.  Is it enough to change all the problems of education? NO, but at least its a step in the right direction, and it made me feel good.   
 Teachers should be respected, if we continue to demean and overregulate the field of education, if we allow overbearing parents, zealous politicians and power hungry administrators to continue to push teachers beyond their breaking point, we will all lose - especially the children.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When you put good people in a bad system......

As I was strolling through Pintrest this morning I came across an interesting pin, it was a review of a book entitled "Why Great Teachers Quit".  Well naturally this got my attention.   Here is the major premise of the book:

eight primary reasons why great teachers quit:
  • Standardized Testing (including effects on students and the school climate)
  • Working Conditions in Today’s Schools (i.e. violence and small problems that add up, like not being able to use the bathroom)
  • Ever-Higher Expectations (including useless professional development on new mandates)
  • Bureaucracy (committees, closed budgets, and scheduling constraints)
  • Respect and Compensation (the martyr system and paying for supplies)
  • Parents (unrealistic demands and no limits)
  • Administrators (the pressure cooker of principalship)
  • School Boards (uses and abuses of power)\
I have to wholeheartedly agree with the list, and the website that gave the review noted something interesting about the list, or rather what is NOT on the list - STUDENTS.  I find it oddly reassuring that what I am feeling is a very common theme among teachers, the outside stuff, the lack of control and ridiculous initiatives and testing and overbearing parents and unsupportive administration - those are all the reasons why I am so frustrated, it's not the kids.  The kids are the only good thing left about teaching, and my frustration, the frustration of so many good teachers, is our inability to really help students.  I know that I am good at teaching and reaching kids.  I know that I can break down content into understandable chunks.  I know that I have an engaging and interesting classroom.  I know that I have excellent relationships with students.  Despite all of that, I have very poor teacher evaluation scores and I am miserable at my job.  What a sad situation to be in, but I do know that I am not alone.  I have very real fears for the future of education.  I do anticipate a great exodus from teaching - I think the really good teachers, the smart ones, the ones who care deeply, I fear they will get fed up and leave the profession and we will be stuck with a shortage of good teachers.  If this book is any indication - I am not alone in this fear

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Choosing to live healthy

I am extremely sad this week, I found out that a friend I went to Junior High and High school with just had a major stroke.  This feels so frustrating and scary, this news came right after I heard of another stroke from one of John's former co-workers.  Realizing that I am going to be 50 years old this year - I feel like I have taken my health for granted, but this week with my awful case of bronchitis and the news of Jerry's stroke, have caused me to reflect on how fragile life is.  I know perhaps better than anyone how your entire life can change in an instant, I am so happy right now with my life with Peter, but I worry about Peter's health.  I don't want to be in Michelle's position, feeling frustrated and useless as the man I love struggles.  Its a tough conversation, but I think Peter and I really need to make a commitment to being healthier - loosing weight and getting some regular exercise. 
On the bright side - being so sick with bronchitis I have lost almost 10 pounds.  I am concerned that once I start to feel better it will come right back on so I need to make sure that I am making good choices in my eating.
And I need to make sure that I am getting regular exercise (once I stop coughing)
I think that peter and I can do this and more importantly I think we need to do this for each other.  Whether we like it or not, we are both getting older and we have to start getting serious about taking care of ourselves.
So with that in my - my goal is to loose at least 25 pounds before the wedding, but my long term goal is the lose 50 pounds and get back to the healthy lifestyle that I had a few years ago, jogging, hiking and working out on a regular basis.  I know it will be hard, but I also know I can do it.  It is easy to come up with excuses "its too hot" "its too cold"  but this needs to be a priority.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ramblings from the couch

Things I have learned this week:
  1. daytime TV sucks
  2. TV in the middle of the night is pretty awful too
  3. coughing a lot hurts
  4. sometimes its hard to tell if its a fever or a hot flash, but it doesn't really matter, they're both annoying
  5. bronchitis is not fun 
  6. dogs really are man's best friend, especially when you are sick
  7. if you have someone who takes care of you when you are sick - then you are very lucky

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The best laid plans and all that mumbo jumbo

Wow - this cold/bronchitis/viral infection is really kicking my butt.  It is astounding how much this illness is wiping me out.  I was explaining my throat felt like I had swallowed steel wool and I have this horrible headache that just won't go away.  Peter thinks the headache is from a fever - but its annoying.  Medicine isn't even making a dent in the symptoms yet.  Thank goodness I have plenty of sick days to use, but it sure isn't fun.  I had all these great plans about getting back to the YMCA so I could loose some weight for the wedding.   I'm not obsessing about it, but I would really like to loose at least 25 pounds so I can look and feel great for the wedding.  The awesome part is that I know Peter doesn't care either way - this is just for me.  Well - I have been too sick to even consider working out, but the good news is that I have also been too sick to eat or even feel hungry - so I have lost about 5 pounds so far.  
Once I actually start feeling better I will be heading back to the Y so I can keep working on my goals.  It is incredible - the wedding is only six months from today!  I feel so incredibly grateful to have found such an amazing guy.  Peter is perfect for me.  I do want both of us to loose some weight and get in better shape so that we have plenty of years to have fun together. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

A health dilemma

Okay so I am very stuck in a health dilemma - after having had skin cancer and several procedures to removing offending or suspicious looking spots on my skin, I have listened to the warnings of my dermatologist and religiously applied sunscreen and avoided the big yellow ball in the sky.  So far this sounds like a good thing - right?  Well not exactly, I am now taking a special Vitamin D supplement because my level of Vitamin D is very low, according to my recent blood work.   Yup - I am confused - sun is bad but not having any sun can cause other problems from vitamin deficiency.  A quick internet search reveals a host of possible ailments related to low vitamin D. 

Now I am even more confused, I love spending time in the warm Arizona sun but I have tried hard to avoid excessive sun exposure because I do not love getting things removed from my skin.  Even looking online for some direction for dietary sources of vitamin D only list a few foods, mostly just Vitamin D enriched milk.  We won't even begin to discuss the controversy about whether milk and dairy is actually a healthy choice.  This feels a bit like a no-win scenario, but I will take the supplements that the doctor ordered, and I will make an effort to increase my exercise level so I am healthier in general, and reducing my weight should also be helpful for this vitamin D deficiency as well (although another confusing point online says that low vitamin D causes weight gain, yet low vitamin is more common in people who are overweight).  One bright spot, I am not alone - even actress Gwyneth Paltrow was recently diagnosed with very low levels of vitamin D.  According to one  website "Vitamin D absorbs calcium from the digestion system and deposits it in our bones, protecting children against rickets and adults against the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis."

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The article goes on to explain how vitamin D plays a role in boosting the immune system.  Unlike other vitamins - we get most of our vitamin D from the sun, so this leaves people like me with a serious dilemma, which is worse, sun exposure and possible skin cancer or Vitamin D deficiency and a whole host of problems including osteoporosis and higher risk for cancer. 

I don't normally fall into the hype of latest health trends, but instead, this challenge found me.  I guess I need to find an effective Vitamin D supplement on an ongoing basis and I will need to remember my mother's advice to drink my milk. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Feeling ready for some changes

It has been forever since I posted, and I realize if I ever want to get serious about writing something - that I have to ummmm write something.  Duh! 

So anyhow, quick update, I am feeling ready to completely ditch this whole teaching gig - I kept saying, "things will get better soon", "things will get better next year", "things will get better with a new principal" - but it turns out -  things aren't getting any better, they are actually much, much worse.  I don't like the person I am becoming when I teach.  I deserve better than that and sadly my kiddos deserve better, but I think all the good teachers will be leaving the field in the next few years.  One quick internet search and you can find countless article of teachers who are tired, frustrated and fed up with our education system.  Having gone 7 years without any significant pay raise, with cuts to career ladder and increasing cost for health insurance, I wind up making less than I did several years ago.  The media loves to blame teachers for all of the problems of the country, but what we are asking teachers to do is becoming impossible.
I have decided that I will not be returning to the classroom.  I want to explore what else is out there.  I have been toying with the idea of writing and I think its worth taking a chance.  I hope Peter and I can afford to live on just his salary, but he is getting a raise this year and I am really hoping we can do it.  I know it is a tough job market, but hopefully I can find something or even better - I can actually start making some money writing.  My goal is to finish my uterus book and release it as an ebook, and then get busy with some of the historical fiction that I have wanted to do. 
The other amazing news is our upcoming wedding - its only 158 days until our incredible wedding in Antigua.  I am so excited.  Peter is amazing, we have so much fun together and I am sure Antigua will be so incredible, especially with Peter.  I have a dress, we have the rings, we have paid the deposit, and as it gets closer I find myself getting even more excited. For all the wedding details check out our website