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Category Archives: Fitness/Health

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 There was a trial, a group of “provisional” lay-offs were rescinded, and then for 2.5 months 89 of us waited and worried and rewrote our resumes while we didn’t know if we were going to get called back by our district or not.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

Out of My Comfort Zone

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My family and I just got back from vacation, where my husband booked a few things that made some of us nervous…

First off, we went on a cave tour. Now, we’ve been in lots of caves before

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Last year we visited Wind Cave and Jewel Cave


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In 2013 we visited Carlsbad Caverns

We’ve been in lava tubes and other caves in different National Parks, so that’s not new. What was new this time was that my husband booked a candlelight tour for us. This sounded cool (albeit possibly spooky depending on whether there would be bats) to me, but my daughters were not too happy about it.

They had many questions. Were they really candles? Were they electric? What if they burned out? What if we were stuck in the dark?

Their fears didn’t disappear when it was time for the tour, and the sky got dark and started to rain and hail.

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the lanterns, before being lit


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heading into the dark cave


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The group heading up stairs with lanterns

Even though it was a little spooky at first, but everyone really enjoyed the experience of seeing the cave in a different light – literally.

The second thing that my husband scheduled that a few of us were worried about was whitewater rafting. I didn’t bring my phone, because I was worried about ruining the phone. It’s too bad, because the scenery was gorgeous. I do, however, have photos that were taken of us at one of the most exciting parts of the trip.

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This smile is me, trying to be excited about something I’m scared of.


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Waiting to get on the river

For the first part of the day, my husband and son kayaked while the girls and I went on the raft with Danny, our guide. We stopped halfway for lunch, then we all got back onto the raft and headed down. We had several grade I and II rapids, and then one big III (felt like 3.5 to me). Here’s us below, heading down the III called “Nugget.”

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All of us, rowing


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Danny told us to hang on


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Woohoo!!


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After rapids high-five

There was one more big one called “Powerhouse” (named partly for the old closed down Power mill nearby and partly because it’s a big one). Our youngest daughter was very nervous (as was I, honestly), so our guide took us on the side of Powerhouse to Mugger’s Alley – which honestly I think was more exciting than just going straight down, as we had to row most of the time to keep in the narrow run, and we ended up turning in circles as we went through it.

All in all, we had a great time. Some of us faced our fears and made it through the other side. My husband felt vindicated that we all enjoyed the activities he planned, despite our worries. I’m not ready to go bungee jumping or anything, but I’d probably go rafting again…

When you plan vacations, do you plan exciting activities, or just relax?

~Genevieve

 

Genetics Can Be Cruel

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When I was a teenager, I had acne. Not just one or two little zits. I mean, I had acne.

I took antibiotics. I used several different types of topical creams. I used light therapy in my doctor’s office (which, by the way, smells weird). I took birth control pills, which caused me to gain 10 pounds. I took Accutane.

I hated looking in the mirror. I felt ugly. My face hurt. I just wanted to be normal.

I still have oily skin. I still take various and sundry medications/creams to try to get it under control. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100% beautiful and “normal.” And now, I’ve passed it on to my kids.

Two of my three kids have acne. My son’s is the worst. It’s red and angry. The problem is that he also has inherited my husband’s sensitive skin, so finding something that works on his skin without causing other irritation is proving difficult.

I took both kids to the dermatologist a few days ago. He prescribed a cream for both of them to use in the morning. My son used his and his worst spots looked SO MUCH BETTER. The problem is that EVERYWHERE the medicine touched is now bright red.

If it’s not one thing it’s another. At least if he were a girl he could wear makeup without thinking twice about it. Being a boy, that’s not really an option these days. Not yet, at least.

I hope that his skin calms down. He’s such a wonderful, bright, fun, beautiful kid, it kills me that he might be thinking that he’s “less than” because of his skin, as I have done most of my life.

Genetics can be really cruel.

The Uncertainty of Life

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

                                       Courage to change the things I can,

                                      And wisdom to know the difference.

My husband often tells me that worrying about things I have no control of isn’t going to help anything. He may have a point, but honestly? That’s precisely why I’m worried… because I HAVE NO CONTROL!!

Life is uncertain right now. I know I’m not the only one for whom it’s uncertain, but it’s no fun, and it’s weighing over me no matter how much I’m not “supposed” to worry about it.

We have a new administration that seems unpredictable. We have a new Education Secretary that has me really worried for the future of public education. People I love are dealing with medical issues that worry me. And last, but not least, I have no idea where I’ll be working next year.

What can I do about any of these things?

Well, for the first, I can join friends and family in activism. I can be more informed on issues and contact my representatives.

For the second thing? I can do my best at my job and fight back against crazy changes that might be coming up the pike. Those are things that might help me feel INVOLVED, although when push comes to shove, I just don’t know how much we can do.

For the third? Pray, I suppose. I don’t know that there’s much else I can do in that department.

And lastly? I honestly have no idea. Get my name “out there”? Cross my fingers that I land somewhere? I’ve been told that we currently have 10 teachers at my school, but we will only have room for 8 next year, unless our enrollment drastically changes. I find out my fate – at least whether or not I’ll get laid off or transferred – by March 15th. Supposedly. It seems an awfully long ways away from here.

Re-reading these things makes me feel a bit petty. I have a roof over my head. My children, husband, and I are healthy. We are well-fed. We are doing well. So many more things could be worrying us, that it makes my worries seem small. But still, they are my worries, and no matter what, it’s how I’m wired.

I think I need to take up Yoga.

 

The Evolution of Weight Watchers Points

The first time I joined Weight Watchers was after my daughter was born in 2003. I write a little about my times at WW HERE.

Recently, we moved homes, and I’ve been slowly working my way through boxes and bags of stuff. Yesterday I cam across this little gem.

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Just for kicks, I decided to compare a few items to see how different the points values would be between this sliding scale and the calculator on the Weight Watchers Site. (This slider is dated 9/04 on the back.)

My breakfast today was Multigrain Cheerios.

By the slider, it was 2 points. The milk was 1 point. The fruit was 0.

By today’s Weight Watchers calculator, the cereal was 4 points. The milk was 2. The fruit was 0.

So, my meal was 3 points by 2004’s scale and 6 points by 2016’s scale. That’s twice as many points!!

I started to get a little down and lament the fact that all the points are higher now, until I did some more research. Right now, I get 30 points per day (plus any I can earn during exercise or “extra points” given during the week). Then, I dug deeper. I seem to remember not having that many points available. I’m pretty sure 22 points is what I had (plus exercise and “weekly points”) back then.

I’m inclined to believe that the current Smartpoints program is more comprehensive. It takes into account calories, fiber, fat, carbs, protein and sugar. The old program was calories, fiber, and fat only.

The one thing you need in ANY weight loss program is accountability. Lately, I’ve had zero. Between eating my feelings about work and the election and Halloween candy and birthday cake for me and for my daughter, I’ve been pretty lazy. And I’ve gained FIVE pounds in a month. Five. It may not sound like much, but when it makes all your pants feel too tight, then it’s more than enough.

And of course, two days before Thanksgiving isn’t the BEST time to try to eat better. However, it’s better than never starting.

So here I go. Again. Wish me luck.