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Author Archives: troismommy

The Vagabond Teacher

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The teaching profession has changed. I remember when I first started teaching in 1992. There was a teacher shortage. At least that’s what I remember hearing. I had just finished my student teaching and moved up to Los Angeles, with a job teaching kindergarten at a Catholic school. I taught there for 4 years, until I quit for personal and professional reasons- the biggest of which was that I needed to go back to school to Clear my Credential. In those 4 years, I never worried that I’d lose my job.

After taking a year off and working at Universal Studios while finishing school, I  was fortunate enough to get a job working at a school that focused on the Arts. I was there for 4 years (seems to have been my magic number), until I had my first child. During that 4 years, again, I never worried about losing my job.

Almost 3 years ago, I got hired as a 5th grade teacher in our local district. During that year, I had 3 principals and 2 teaching partners (1 during the first semester, 1 during the second). I taught there for 2 years and then was “involuntarily transferred” to another school in the district. The enrollment was down, so they needed to get rid of a teacher. I was the lowest in seniority, so I left.

This year, our district laid off 111 teachers. There was a trial, a group of “provisional” lay-offs were rescinded, and then for 2.5 months 89 of us waited and worried and rewrote our resumes while we didn’t know if we were going to get called back by our district or not.

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If only all my school supplies fit in a bindle…

Thankfully, I was “called back” and was reassigned to another school in the district. Third school in 3 years. And thankfully my wonderful principal from my last school is allowing me to keep my boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff in the back room until I move again. However, I can’t help but wonder where I will be next year at this time…

Will I get to stay in one place? Will I be laid off again? Will I be relocated by way of involuntary transfer again? I have no idea. I can only hope that I’m ready for whichever it may be, and I can only hope that SOMETHING turns around in the near future that will keep teachers IN the classroom and not having to move around year after year.

**Edited to add: I don’t know if this is a phenomenon to Pasadena, to Los Angeles, to California, or if it’s all around the country. I’d like to hear from people in other parts of the US and hear if this seems to be the norm with public schools everywhere, or just in certain places.

~Genevieve

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Pink Slips Aren’t Just For Cars

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This year, I experienced the joy (sarcasm) of getting a pink slip. And that doesn’t mean the title to a cool car. (And by the way, it wasn’t actually PINK, which was disappointing.)

For anyone who doesn’t know, it means I was given a letter letting me know that the school district is not going to be needing my services next year.

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Now, some people whom I’ve told have said, “school districts do this all the time. I’m sure you’ll be hired back.” I’ve also been told, “I’m sure you’ll be back” by people at my school. Though not by my actual principal, so I’m guessing she knows the drill and the reality that IF my job is somehow saved, the likelihood of me keeping the actual job I have now is slim to none.

Not having been through this before EVER, it’s all new to me.

The first step is the letter itself. The second step was the meeting with the Union President and the lawyer who represents us in the hearing. (I’m still not 100% clear on what the hearing will or won’t accomplish and how it will or won’t help me keep my job.) Step 3 is another letter. Step 4 is the hearing. Step 5 is finding out if any teachers accepted the early retirement package, and Step 6 is getting a third letter which tells me a) Hey! We can keep you as a teacher for next year after all – here’s your assignment or b) Sorry, Charlie (see letters 1 and 2).  *There is a chance that if I get Option b, I could still get a call in August or September offering me a position, but I hope that if that’s the case, I’m already employed.

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At my school, most of the other teachers haven’t said anything to me about it, though a few have asked me what the latest is, and I appreciate that. Now that we’re at the end of the year, though, staff meetings are growing increasingly more uncomfortable for me. The teachers are making their choices for what grade they’d like to teach next year. Committees are being put together for next year. Retirement planners are coming to talk to teachers about their futures. We all need to complete hours of training so we can get shiny new touchscreen chrome books (which I won’t need if I’m not here).

Honestly? It’s downright depressing. Part of me wants to excuse myself when the conversation turns to things that don’t apply to me anymore, but I feel compelled to stay in my seat and just be bummed out. I try to smile when people ask me if there’s any news, but honestly? It’s not easy.

I know this seems to be fairly “normal” in some school districts, but I’ve worked for 3 and this is the first time I’ve been through this. There has GOT to be a better way to handle this. Teachers have to keep teaching the remaining 2.5 months of the school year, giving their all, doing their best, smiling at co-workers, students, and parents while inside they’re stressed and worried and sad. They have to keep working as if nothing’s wrong, and smiling on the outside when their students tell them, “I wish you could still be our teacher next year!”

I imagine this is what it must be like for actors when they find out their character on a TV show is being killed off and they can’t tell anyone, because they’re under contract not to spoil anything.

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I know I should just be going with the flow, but it’s not easy. I’m trying. We just had Open House and I smiled for 2 hours while chatting with parents and talking about their children and watching a slideshow of pictures I took throughout the year.

Next year, whether I’m at my current school district or a new one, I will have been at 3 schools in 3 years. I will have moved furniture and boxes out of my garage, into my classroom, into my living room, into my new classroom, into some place in my house (won’t be my living room this time, so I can actually have guests over) and hopefully back into another classroom.

Or, maybe I sell it all on eBay and change the trajectory of my career and my future completely. Honestly? It’s all up in the air right now. And I know I’m not the only one.  For any teacher out there who’s being “RIF”d or “Pink Slip”d this year, I’m sorry. That absolutely sucks.

~Genevieve

We Marched Today

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Today, my daughters and I marched. We didn’t march in January, though I knit lots of hats for friends and family who did march. We didn’t march THIS January, because we were celebrating my son’s birthday. But today we marched. I didn’t see how we couldn’t.

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You see, I am a teacher. Every day I’m in charge of 20 little minds, hearts, and souls. Every day I not only teach them how to blend sounds into words and add and subtract, but I try to teach them how to be kind, how to be a friend, and how to look out for one another. Every day I make sure they have a snack, they feel heard, they are happy, and they are doing okay. Every day I give and get hugs. I comfort. I encourage. I applaud. Every day I try not to think that some horrible thing could happen to all of us while trying to learn.

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photo by Julie Rodriguez

I am also a mother. I have three precious beings that go out into the world every day to three different schools. We all leave in the morning, off to our separate classrooms, hoping to just learn. Hoping that nothing terrible happens. Hoping that each one of them comes home.

It’s easy to forget. If I didn’t forget that a school shooting could happen ANYWHERE, I couldn’t do my job. I couldn’t send my own kids to school each day. If we didn’t PUSH the fear back into the recesses of our minds each day, none of us could function in the world.

I realize it’s not just schools.

It’s movie theaters. It’s malls. It’s clubs and concerts and parks and colleges and churches, and restaurants. It’s outreach centers and post offices, community centers, and of course homes.

Over and over and over and over and over again.

I’m done. He’s done. She’s done. They’re done. We’re ALL DONE.

ENOUGH.

Stop telling us it’s not guns, it’s that kids are bullied. If that were truly the case, most of the mass shooters would be gay kids, transgender kids, special needs kids, girls, and minorities. But it’s not, is it? It’s white males. With access to guns. I know not all white males are awful. I’ve got a father, 3 brothers, a husband, and a son for starters, who are all wonderful. But let’s be real. It’s the angry white males getting ahold of these weapons of mass destruction and killing innocent people. And it’s EASY for them to get ahold of these killing machines.

Those of us who want reform and change don’t want to “take all the guns away” (though truthfully, I’d be 100% okay with ZERO GUNS anymore), but we DO want to make it harder to get these weapons into the hands of men and boys who will go on shooting sprees and kill kids, teachers, innocent people.

Right now it seems more difficult to buy sudafed than it is a gun. There’s something wrong with this picture.

So we march.

We ordered these shirts from Lin Manuel Miranda’s teerico.

This was our first march. I am sure that it will not be our last. Something has changed in our country. Not only are the adults fired up, but so are the teenagers. So are the kids. We are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Did you march? Will you march?

~Genevieve

Teaching in Today’s World

IMG_2403Being a teacher TODAY in the social and political climate of today, in the broken district of today, in the social media nightmare of today, absolutely sucks. Everyone thinks they need to tell me how to teach. Right now my job is this – I not only teach my students how to read, write, do math, and be a good citizen. I also teach them how to cope with their own traumas. I feed them. I need to protect them from threats.
Every day on facebook I read posts from contacts who tell me that I (as a white teacher) shouldn’t be teaching black students. I have facebook friends who post articles telling me how to discipline (or not). I have facebook friends who tell their friends that the teachers in our district aren’t really doing the best for their kids. People in positions of power want to put a gun in my hand. When will this madness end?
Not only do I worry about how best to take care of and teach the 20 souls in my daily care, I am also a mother of three- one boy and 2 girls. Two high schoolers and one middle schooler. This week has been so incredibly sad and stressful. I shouldn’t have to talk to my children about what to do in the case of a shooter, or ask if they’ve noticed any kids who seem “off.” Nor should I have to think about what would happen at my own school in the same context.
I’m not here to debate why this is happening. I’ve done enough of that lately. I’m here to say give teachers a break. Give teachers your empathy. Give teachers you know a little kindness. As worried as you are about your own children at school, remember that there are many teachers worried about their own children AND yours.

Late to the Hamilton Party

So, I’ve been wanting to see “Hamilton” for some time now.

I’ve seen friends fly to New York and see it, travel to Chicago to see it, and lots and lots and lots of friends see it here in Los Angeles. My husband has a great aversion to spending so much money on tickets. I have to say that I don’t blame him to a degree. 

See, tickets to Hamilton here in L.A. START at $358 for seats in the back. They go up to $1520. (To compare, “Aladdin” tickets at the same theater start at $90. “School of Rock” at the same theater starts at $58.) Granted, I don’t expect them to be as cheap as that, but trying to get decent seats for all 5 of us would be a few thousand dollars.

I decided to try for the lottery. It would only be two tickets, but it would be cool if we got to go- at least my husband and I. Stupidly, perhaps, I mostly shot for weekends, because trying to go to Hollywood during the week is so difficult. If I had it to do all over again, I’d try for every single day.

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This became a regular message to pop up on my phone.

Soooooo, knowing this, I held off on getting the music. I (mistakenly) thought I shouldn’t get the music before seeing the show. (This is what I did for “Wicked,” “Into the Woods,” and other shows we’ve seen.)

My husband, knowing that I’d been trying to get tickets via the lottery, bought me two things that have changed everything.

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  2. This!  Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 3.57.06 PM

Luckily, he knew I’d want to combine the two, and play it loudly in the house, so he bought me the “clean” version. 😉 My 12-year-old loves it almost as much as I do, and we sing it all the time. She’s got her favorites, and so do I (this can be another post, if necessary).

BOY, all I have to say is that I’ve been depriving myself of listening to this soundtrack for TOO LONG. I’m so happy I have it and can listen to it whenever I feel like it. It truly is amazing, and I am going to figure out how to get tickets to this at some point in my lifetime (hopefully not too far into the future).

Go ahead, you may mock me. I’m late to the party, but I’m FINALLY AT THE PARTY.

~Genevieve

 

If It’s Fall It Must Mean Apple Picking Time!!

Before I was a mom, I had no idea that the tradition of apple picking existed. Being part of an online community with moms from all over the country opened my eyes to what has become an Autumn tradition in our family.

We first went apple picking when the 2 oldest kids were but wee little babes.

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My girl is wearing a pumpkin hat I knit

My son was almost 4 and my daughter was about 16 months old. We went during the week and churned butter, picked apples, and made cider.

We had so much fun, we kept going back. My husband and my dad took the kids when I was hugely pregnant with the youngest and was on restricted activitiy (my mom stayed home with me and kept me company). When the youngest was about 10 months old, we went with all three kids.

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She’s wearing a more appropriate apple hat

Apple picking was always so much fun when they were little. Half the fun was the excitement on their faces when they picked an apple – especially when Daddy or Uncle Pat held them up in the air to reach the fruit.

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Now that they’re older, it’s not quite as magical for them, although we do still enjoy the tradition – especially with friends. Last year was the first time we’d skipped in a long time, so this year, we were really looking forward to it (at least the grown-ups were) and we headed out on the first Sunday of Fall.

Duran Duran Is Responsible For My Hair Color

Duran Duran Is Responsible For My Hair Color

When I was born, I had a head full of dark hair. By the time I was a year, it had all fallen out and lighter hair grew in. (Oddly enough, my own daughter was the same way.) It was fairly light for a long time, but as I got older, it got darker.

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And, though it bummed me out, I was a kid. What was I going to do about it? I was stuck with it as far as I was concerned. Until I fell in love…

When I discovered John Taylor and Duran Duran, suddenly I felt the need to make my bangs blonde.

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Thanks to this product, I could do it myself.sunin

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it), I have no photos of my tragic hair mistake. What I do have is photos of what came next. See, I wasn’t able to keep it JUST to my bangs, and so to fix the mistake, I had to put the sun in EVERYWHERE.

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My mother wasn’t crazy about the brassy/orange tone, so we went to a salon and I got highlights. The rest, they say, is history.

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Here’s my senior portrait, highlights, bangs, and all.

Over the years, my hair has been several shades of blonde, and I decided to try going brunette at one point after I had my first child.

 

Eventually, that was too dark for me and my hair faded and my roots were lighter than my hair, which was the opposite problem that I usually faced.

For now, I feel more “myself” as a blonde. I suppose I’ll be blonde for several more years. At least until I decide to just let the gray take over. Until then, you can find me at the salon every few months.

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~Genevieve