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Going Back to Work is Sucking the Joy From My Life

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It sounds ominous and depressing, and it kind of is.

Being a teacher has never been a super-fun picnic all the time, but boy, going back to work has been more challenging than I imagined.

First, going back to teaching has been far more challenging that I thought. There is no real curriculum; I have to piece together components of several different sources to develop lessons. The administration at my school has been unstable – 3 principals in one year. There is a group of my students who is incredibly rude and disrespectful to me, and don’t seem to give a crap about what we’re learning or the fact that I’m breaking my back trying to raise money for a field trip for them.

Secondly, I’m no longer able to spend time at my own children’s schools. I felt a real community at the elementary and middle schools and I’m never there to see my friends, the kids, and the teachers. I feel as though I’m spending more time and energy on kids who act as if they don’t give a crap than on my own children. In turn, they don’t seem very happy to see me at the end of the day. When my husband used to come home from work, the kids would LITERALLY leap into his arms and run to see him when the door opened. I come in and the house is silent. I yell to everyone that I’m home and no one comes running. I don’t know if this is because they’re older now or that they just don’t really care that I’m home. I look forward to seeing them every day after I’m exhausted from work, and they seem like they hardly noticed I was gone.

Finally, I’m exhausted. I’m not sure what I’m doing or why I’m doing it, or what I should do next… This is my 9th year teaching and it’s truly the first time I’ve seriously wondered if I should continue doing it. The problem is that I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t teach. I’m trained for nothing, and what on earth could I do?


Week In Pictures

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It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done a “Week in Pictures,” but it was an interesting week, so I thought I’d revisit the tradition.


The week started off cold and rainy.


We had a quick overview of a “new literacy” program.


My favorite tree.


Trying to explain Quidditch to my students.


I had to run by the high school to drop something off for my son, and got to see one of the geese.


Upon clearing out the kids’ things for moving day, we discovered my son saved every fortune he ever got.


Box City


Witches the girls made in 3rd grade. We took photos and said goodbye.




Furniture gone


My daughter’s team played in the championship – and won! By 2 points. It was tense. She didn’t get to play, but I was okay with it, since it was an extremely aggressive game.


Some of my own students were at the game, waiting to play their own championship.


They’re all crowded around the cup.


My son and husband trying to get our new mattress out of its box.


An Astrophysicist came to talk to our 5th graders.


I ordered a few more yoga balls, and this was one of my student’s solution to fitting them all in the closet.


Walking on the wall in our new backyard.




My favorite tree during a downpour.


Every now and then I find a note, hidden in the room.


Good-bye, Classroom! See you after Spring Break!!

Today we took off for a short spring break trip to Yosemite. On the way, we stopped in McFarland. We saw the movie “McFarland, USA” a few months ago, with Kevin Costner. It was a  good movie about real life kids from the town. 
  We stopped at the mini mart.  

And pretended we were on the cross country team, when a school bus pulled up. We were a little embarrassed, but the teacher got off the bus and asked if we saw the movie and wanted to meet the hero of the movie, Danny Diaz.

    It was very inspiring and he was lovely. Kind of crazy how we happened to be there at that specific time…    

  We arrived in Yosemite in the evening and there was snow on the ground. We’re hoping we can actually see it snow while we’re here, but just being here is wonderful. Happy spring break indeed!

Help us Blast Off to Astrocamp!

Help us Blast Off to Astrocamp!

Every year, my daughter’s school goes to Astrocamp. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that I’ve helped organize all the trips my own children have gone on.

The first year we went at their school was the year my son went. Two years later, my middle child went. Finally, my youngest child went earlier this school year.

When I got hired at the school where I teach, I let my principal know I needed those three days off for the trip. When she heard me talk about Astrocamp, she got very excited about the prospect of taking our own 5th graders on the same trip.

Our 5th graders have been through a lot. In 4th grade, half the class had no stability and had substitute teacher after substitute teacher all year. The other half had a teacher who was burned out and had no patience for their behavior issues. And while I get frustrated on a daily basis with how hard it is for so many of them to focus and be present, the truth is that the majority of these kids have seen more trauma in their short lives than anyone should have to go through.

Going on a field trip like this would be amazing for them.

We’ve paid for our deposit for the trip, but we have a lot more to raise. $5000, actually. We’re trying to set up small fundraisers at the school, including the parents selling popcorn after school on Fridays, but it won’t be enough.

I’ve set up a Donors Choose page to help raise funds. You’ll notice that it isn’t for the full amount, because this is my first project and I’m asking more than I’m technically allowed (if I had more “points” I could ask for more money).

If you can help in any way, or know anyone else who can help, please forward  THIS LINK to them. If you donate by March 6th and use the code LIFTOFF, we can get double your donation!

Thank you so much for your help and support. This will be such an amazing experience for these students!


My Students Are Afraid of Donald Trump

I’ve been afraid of Donald Trump for months. At first, it seemed ridiculous and funny, like it had to be some crazy joke. Some people were thinking he was running for president to ruin things for the Republicans and we’d all see his great master plan in the end when a Democratic president was elected because there were no other viable Republicans in the race.

I don’t believe that. I believe that he’s a racist, bigoted, power-hungry man, and the closer he gets to being our leader the more scared I get.

Recently, my 5th graders got into a presidential discussion. It began with one of them saying that Obama wasn’t going to be president soon. This caused panic with some of the kids and they asked me what was going to happen. I explained that the president could only be elected to two 4-year terms and we would be voting for a new president later this year.

One of my students said, “Are you voting for Donald Trump, Mrs. Miller?”

I looked at him and said, “Absolutely not! You could offer me one million dollars to vote for him and I wouldn’t.”

There was a group of my students who seemed relieved when I said that, and one of them said, “If he becomes president, then he’s going to send my family back to Mexico!”

This man has children and families all over worried for their future. When I heard my students discuss this fear, it broke my heart. I really hope the American people don’t elect this man as our next president. I don’t believe that he would be at all good for this country.


Kids being kids, playing kickball

Yesterday, In A Galaxy Not So Far Away

I wasn’t always a Star Wars fan.

When I was 7 years old, my family went to see Star Wars in the theater. I remember thinking Luke was cute and wanting to be like Princess Leia, because she was both pretty and pretty strong. Yes, she did get captured, but she led the rebellion, knew her way around a gun, and wasn’t going to let any handsome scoundrel give her orders.

We saw The Empire Strikes Back and I know I was affected by it – I started writing a baseball parody called “The Umpire Strikes Back.” I lamented that my hair wasn’t long enough to put in braids like Leia. And at the age of 10 I could appreciate both Han Solo and Yoda. (I was a big Muppets fan.)

I honestly don’t remember much about watching Return of the Jedi as a child. Maybe I skipped that one? Maybe I just didn’t like it enough to remember it later on. When the movies were re-released in the 90s, I missed that one, because I was working when my husband (then boyfriend) saw it with friends. And when we were finally able to buy it on DVD, I couldn’t remember a lot of it – especially anything having to do with the Emperor.

When the prequels came out, I saw the first one with my husband. He was really excited about it, and I was curious to see how the Darth Vader story unfolded. When Episode II came out, I wasn’t super gung-ho to see it, as I was a mom of a toddler and was basically always tired. My husband really wanted to see it, so I welcomed him to see it without me and I saw it when he bought it on dvd later on. I saw Episode III on my own. I was pregnant with my youngest child and had one of THOSE days with my toddler and preschooler. My husband took one look at my tear-stained face and shooed me off to the movies and handled the kids while I ate popcorn and watched Anakin take his final steps to the Dark Side.

I liked the movie, but I didn’t fully embrace Star Wars until my son was 5 years old. (Side note: my husband’s plan was to show him episodes 1-6 in order. I suggested he start with the originals like we did. He showed my son Episode I and then agreed with me.😛 )

Seeing the movies through your child’s eyes makes everything seem more exciting. Jedis, Darth Vader, ships, The Force, lightsabers… all of it! My daughters loved Princess Leia and Queen Amidala. In fact, for many years, Star Wars was well represented in our Halloween costumes.


My son as Anakin


One daughter as Leia, one daughter as Padme



My son as Jango Fett


My son as Anakin again and my husband (in mirror) as a Jedi


My husband as Han Solo and my son as Luke (with Yoda)

We have really embraced Star Wars in our house, as you can see. We’ve been to conventions like these and seen Star Wars in 30 Minutes, and seen Star Wars Exhibitions and I spend time thinking about Star Wars.

So, you see my background. The Force is with our family. So of course we were all excited (and a little apprehensive, truth be told) about the new Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens. Each time a new trailer came out, we got more excited. My faith in JJ Abrams grew with each new peek at the movie.

We finally saw it on Tuesday, and we were NOT disappointed. I will not give any spoilers, but WOW. The new characters are great, but it’s so wonderful to see some old friends. I think young girls will want to be Rey just as I wanted to be Leia as a child. Young boys will think Finn and Poe are awesome (because they are), just as my husband and brothers thought Luke and Han were cool. And the bad guys are scary, just as they were in the original trilogy.

No movie is perfect, but boy oh boy – props to JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan! Well done. I can’t wait to see the next episode.

Have you seen Star Wars? Did you love it? Did it live up to your expectations?




Who Were Their Teachers?

Now that I am back in the classroom, whenever there’s a tragedy, a disaster, or a mass shooting, I think of things slightly differently than I used to.

As a mother, I always think of my own children’s safety first. But when I’m at school with my students, I’m thinking of their safety, too. And when a shooting happens – whether it’s armed people shooting up innocents or a cop overzealous and a little too quick to draw fire, I wonder who are their parents? Is this the type of person they thought they were raising?

And I wonder who were their teachers? Did they teach with compassion? Were they dismissed? Were they star students? Did they fade into the background? Were they always troubled? Did they always seem like normal kids?

And what do their teachers think? Do they feel that they’ve failed in some way, or are they completely surprised and taken aback? Did they even go to school? Did they have parents?

Some might answer “who cares?” But I do. I spend 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week with children. I hope and pray that I can help them along their journey – not just in their academics, but as people. I want them to be good, kind, caring, warm people. I want them to care about each other and humanity. I don’t want them to bully. I want them to give a damn. I try every day that I’m with them to instill these behaviors in them. I want them to know that I give a damn. Even when they don’t listen, or get in trouble, or don’t do their work, or even talk back or fight with someone, that I care. I may be very disappointed, but it doesn’t mean I don’t value them as people.

I hope that what I’m doing is making a difference. I hope that in all the noise that they take with them every day that they somehow hear my words, notice my actions, and remember to care about each other. Because if they don’t, I really am scared for our future.

On Being Happier

I’m trying very hard to be happier. I have recently realized that I don’t always seem like a happy person. Anyone who drives with me on a regular basis can see that I’m usually very unhappy with most of the drivers on the road around me. I’m constantly asking drivers what their problem is, why are they in such a hurry (or why are they going so slow), or why they don’t seem to know where they’re going, and why they have to be in front of me when I’m in a hurry.


I’ve been unhappy with my weight. Getting older, stress eating, having thyroid problems, and eating when I’m bored have left me weighing more than I want to. I won’t get into numbers, but I am at least two sizes bigger than what I’m comfortable with. All over the internet, I read that I need to love myself for what I am and who I am, no matter what size. I’m trying. Though it doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep exercising and do weight watchers, I will try to be more forgiving and gentle with myself as I would do with anyone else.


I’ve gotten good at hiding behind my kids for photos.


I’m stressed in my job. Going back to work after so long has been very difficult. The field has changed tremendously since I’ve been gone. Also, being a working mom is difficult for me. I’m sure it’s difficult for most women, but it’s definitely difficult for me. It’s getting better, but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t want to let my students down and I don’t want to let my family down. And in feeling this way, I worry that I’m doing both.


I have daily headaches. I get annoyed and frustrated because it’s the Christmas season and we aren’t sure when we’re moving, so we don’t know if and when and where to put up decorations and a tree. This feels bad to me to not have any signs of the holidays at our house, so I need to figure out what to do in order to help us ALL get into the spirit. Which reminds me that I have to start shopping, which has to be mostly online, which is daunting to me at this point.


I find myself so agitated that I can feel myself tightening my forehead and my frown lines are getting deeper and deeper.

But this week, I’m not sure what happened, but something changed. Maybe it’s all the Ted talks I’ve been listening to. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be the negative person that I think I might becoming. I wonder if the reason why I don’t have nearly as many friends as others have is because I’m not a happy enough person. Am I spreading gloom everywhere? Am I bad company to be around?

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to be happier. I try to tell myself stories about people making terrible driving mistakes. Maybe they’re not paying attention because someone in their family is sick and they’re distracted. Maybe they’re stressed and overstretched. Maybe they’re not sleeping well. Maybe they’ve got more problems than I can imagine. I try to just smile at people, rather than look past them. When the checker at the grocery store returns my question of “How are you?” I will not tell her how I’m exhausted and whatever else is happening. I will smile and say “pretty good.” Maybe soon I’ll be able to say, “Great!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not UNhappy. I have more than I need. I am loved. I am healthy. I am living in a country that – while so many events are making me very sad and very angry and somewhat afraid – is free. I live in a community that pulls together and helps each other. I have friends. I have an amazing family.

This week, I’ve made a concerted effort to be happier, and so far, I am. I noticed this evening that my forehead is smooth, and my head hasn’t hurt as much as usual this weekend. (I did have headaches, just not as many, and I tried to take notice of the times I didn’t hurt.)

Of course, it’s easier to be happy when I’m on vacation and home with my family. I hope I can take this with me tomorrow as I drive to work and during the day when my students aren’t listening. I hope that I can just choose to be happier, and in doing so will truly be happier and perhaps even spread it around a little every day.

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