Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Am Not a Teacher/I Am a Person Who Teaches

This is an important step. I must move away from being a "Teacher" as an identity. For too long I have put my job before my health, my sanity, my talents and even my family. This is the way the system is set up. It used to be that there was a clear division between one's work life and home life. Education, as practiced today, isn't like that anymore.

Oh sure, you'll have those trolls who chortle "but you have summers off." Define "off." In the past five summers I have attended five AP Summer Institutes, written curriculum twice, attended twenty "trade days"(which are a special torture I will explain later...), taken repetitive and often meaningless professional development (Bring your best lesson plan ad infinitum) which all are spaced just far enough apart to make taking a college course, a vacation or even getting my house clean an impossibility. I don't know of a single teacher who thinks of summer as "off" time. It's catch up on cleaning, fix the bathroom, paint the baby's room or even mow the lawn time. It's time when we get to do or have to do all the things normal people do on weekends during the school year while we're frantically grading into the wee hours hoping to make the gradebook deadline.

I have to learn to be a Person first. I can't just keep being a Teacher Creature who exists on test data, IEP's and has so little time to be an individual that I have no hobbies and few friends. This has to end. I cannot continue on this path. Please don't get me wrong, it's not that I dislike teaching, but like some sort of aggressive mold, teaching has taken over my life sucking out any time from reading or painting or drawing or just taking a walk in the park. I have stories that make me smile. Like the girl who showed up today from U of Arkansas who told me that she was a Graphic Design major. We laughed because she was a mess when she was in my painting class. I celebrate that there are kids out there, some that I may never know about, who chose art and design as a career. But for every story like that there are so many others with kids who don't care, parents who live to crush the spirit of teachers and administrators far more interested in data than people.

I don't know how anyone does this for thirty years. I honestly don't know how I have done it for seventeen years. I didn't plan on staying so long. And unfortunately because of my age, I find I have to stay a few more years just to have some sort of money rolling in during what is laughably called retirement. I've seen retirement. Oh sure there are those who travel to exotic lands, sampling life by the wine glass. But far more often, especially with teachers pensions, I've seen the type of retirement where 80 year old retirees feel compelled to sub three days a week. I don't want to be doing that at 80 or 70 or even 65. I'll work as a Walmart Greeter before I do that.

It would be nice to think that teaching was some sort of shadowy modern version of "Good Bye Mr. Chips", but instead it seems to be a world that is trapped in meaningless trends hinging on test scores and special populations. In the workroom, we older teachers spend some time worrying about the future. We also discuss the past. I have watered down my lessons three different times. As more special populations are parachuted into general education classes, the regular students suffer from neglect and I fear the backlash will be horrible to behold. I look at my five year old grandson, so eager to read and do math and then I look at the tortuous methods they've concocted to teach these concepts which I fear will mess him up as New Math did me fifty years ago. What are we doing? When did teaching become facilitation rather than caring? When did scripting replace common sense? When did administrators become so wobbly that they fear even the most idiotic demands from parents?

This can't end well. But it will end. Education is a very trend conscious endeavor. I've lived through New Math, Open Classroom, Self Contained, Departmentalized, Whole Language and more fashion statements all with their own little zippy promises of higher test scores. In reality, like it or not, some things are better learned by rote.  The alphabet, the multiplication tables, the names of states and such can be learned by heart and probably should be. But the current trend is that rote learning is bad and that it is better for a student to stumble through a hundred other possible solutions before finding an answer. I've never liked estimates. I never believed them. Any contractor who gave me an estimate always ended up costing twice as much. Between this unstable method of answering questions and the electronic distractions of tablets and phones, I fear the next generation will grow up illiterate. And where will that leave us.

I suppose that's why I still teach. Someone has to care about things like deadlines and absolutes and quality. I don't like the philosophy that complete is good enough. I hate it that people, including adults, think all limits and deadlines are more like suggestions than requirements. Sometimes you have to do what you're told to do when you're told to do it. That we currently have a nation where that's not the case for everyone explains why schools are in such disarray. And why I must become a person who teaches instead of a teacher.

Monday, December 14, 2015


It's one a.m.
I am scheduled to return to work after my surgery tomorrow.
I'm also supposed to be observed sometime this week.
So why am I awake?
Because when I lie down I begin coughing. This is a biproduct of my surgery wherein my entire endocrine system is now trying to reboot and consequently acting out in unacceptable ways. Such as:
I will be dead tired for period tomorrow.
I will also be uber hyper for a period.
I will crave food and simultaneously reject all food offered.
I will burst out in emotional responses-I have to really watch that one.

But right now my concern is sleep-how to get it, and when I will get some.
I have tried the following:
Cough medicine
Saline spray
Hot Tea
Any of a number of other remedies BUT NOTHING WORKS.
How long can a person live without decent sleep? It seems I read somewhere that it eventually would cause hallucinations and psychosis.
Well that's something to look forward to.

Right now my ankles and feet are swollen.
My throat is slightly sore-moreso when I cough.
There's an annoying constant tickle...ugh

At least there's no more pressure in my ears and what I thought were my tonsils swelling was evidently the "nodule" which is really just a nice name for tumor. In looking at it (yes they send you a photo now just like the mechanics) I can see where it looks like she took out some lymph nodes and it appears the growth went up my trachea and into parts of what should have been my salivary glands and tonsils. It's very roomy in there now. I would post a photo but I'm afraid Google would freak out at the graphic nature and end up banning me for life.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Argue With Your Doctor

I had surgery yesterday. I've been arguing with doctors for years over my metabolism. They have attributed it to everything from laziness to menopause. I finally found an endocrinologist that actually looked at my thyroid and discovered that basically I don't have one anymore. Instead I had a huge toxic thyroid tumor that was capable of mimicking normal thyroid function while doing nothing.

This was supposed to be a slam dunk in and out. It wasn't. Once the doctor got in, she discovered a connection to a mass next to my aorta(!!!) the size of an apple. She said she didn't understand why it hadn't been detected and that it should have been removed five or more years ago. I have had a variety of doctors-men, women, American trained, foreign trained and the one trait they seem to share is a general disdain for the opinions of the patient. They like to focus on the computer script and do not listen to the concerns offered. In my case I have a very very strong history of thyroid disease with my mother, grandmother, daughter, son and brother all on medication. Heck, even my dog is on it. But in looking at the photos of the tumor (the doctor said the lab would probably faint when they saw it it's that large....) this has been ongoing forever.

So my message is to argue with your doctor even if they don't like it. Right now my throat feels empty. It's possible that a number of issues I've been dealing with from sleep apnea to allergies have been have been the result of this really nasty growth.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

San Bernadino

Nobody wants anyone to be hurt. 
But this was not your typical "lone wolf" shooting in spite of how Hillary and Obama want to frame it. This was a soft target. It's in a state where few have concealed carry licenses. It's also a state where the majority of people are hesitant to point out anyone who stands out as not belonging because of the imposition of PC attitudes on top of gut instincts. It was a hired hall with a group celebrating holidays and the achievements of some of their members. The president's comments are absolutely off base. The shooters hit a soft target with virtually no security in face. This has nothing to do with gun laws. I doubt someone planning such an attack worries very much about the lawfulness of their weapons. 

What should be alarming is that it took San Bernardino Schools over 90 minutes to call for a lockdown. That is way too much time. This comes from the liberal mentality of "don't judge" and the idea that some mantle of protection hovers over the families who vote largely Democrat. I shudder to think what could have happened had they reached a school. And what of the shopping malls? At least they evacuated, finally. But who's to say the shooters didn't shed their Kevlar and vanish into the crowd-a crowd that is unwilling to recognize a person who might stand out because they do not belong.

The gunmen were masked and armed. Some news agencies tried to say they were white. That's now been refuted. A person of interest is a worker at the facility named Farooq Syeed. Call me suspicious but that's probably not an Irish Catholic guy. I have to wonder given the media's willingness to push the White House agenda if they will admit it if the shooters turn out to be from the Middle East. After being so willing to push the #BLM agenda while ignoring situations like the Bunny Friend Playground shooting of 17 in New Orleans by a black male, I'm not so sure the media is our best source for information.

Also, and I hope to God this isn't true, this almost sounds like a practice run for something larger. I know if I was a parent of a child in San Bernardino Schools I would be burning up the lines to chew out whoever it was that didn't think those children's safety was worth upsetting the gods of political correctness to call a lockdown. That superintendent should be fired.

And finally, it sickens me how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could not wait to spin this to a gun rights issues without even knowing a single fact. This is from the same sources that called Ft. Hood "workplace violence" and Benghazi "a failed mission". I'd loved to say more, but I don't want to talk to officials. I just wish both of them would shut the hell up.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Thyroid

I come from a family with a history of thyroid disease. My mother has been on meds since she was 18. My daughter has been on meds since she was 20. My brother nearly ended up in a psych ward because men are not routinely tested for thyroid function. As it turns out his behavior for ten years including profound depression, job losses and more, were the result of a non-functioning thyroid. My 25 year old son is on medication for thyroid disease. Even my dog is on medication for thyroid disease. I have had symptoms of thyroid disease for twenty years. But every time my GP tested me, it came back normal. I have had dry skin, high cholesterol (something I never had earlier), thinning hair, weight gain in spite of diets, exercise, starving.

That changed last week. After years of talking and begging and arguing with doctors, finally my doctor realized I had a nodule on my neck. He sent me for an ultrasound and lo and behold, I have two massive nodules on my thyroid. Further analysis would show that I have hardly any actual thyroid tissue having had it replaced with toxic nodules. Toxic thyroid nodules not only replace healthy tissue, they can produce hormones which will read as a normal thyroid screen on tests. What is more, depending on your age and sex, thyroid disease is often misdiagnosed as many of the following conditions:
-Adolescent angst
-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

She said it's one of the most underdiagnosed and easily repaired conditions. Furthermore it makes me wonder how much of my son's ADHD as a child was really thyroid issues manifesting as he reached adolescence. This whole situation has been a revelation. I didn't understand why I couldn't swallow, why I always felt like I had a frog in my throat. It turns out my thyroid nodules are starting to choke me off. Kind of scary, but it makes me hopeful because now I can schedule surgery and finally get this situation in control. I've missed out on so much over the years because of the fatigue. 

Monday, November 16, 2015


I've never been to Paris, France. I have been to Paris, Texas. I'm pretty sure it's not the same.I hate to say "I told you so" but when you don't respect the borders of your own nation, when you don't defend it by vetting those coming in, when you don't list expectations that include assimilation into your culture and acquisition of your language, you end up developing a parallel culture. Quite often such cultures end  up poverty stricken because they are poorly equipped to participate. Too often they come with expectations of being given free stuff for little or no work. People get tired of being taxed at higher rates for people who do not want to assimilate. Paris has entire neighborhoods where police do not go. We already have enough problems here. Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, New Orleans could all make more headway in improving everyone's lives. France accepted refugees and for their kindness was attacked from within. Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden or Italy could be next. I just don't want MY COUNTRY to be on the list.Prayers for the victims of this heinous act.Prayers that somehow, some way, the world will be rid of these human locusts.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Loss of Control

While life on the outside has definitely lost it's edges, life on the inside has as well.
I have what is termed "nodules" on my thyroid. Now they could be benign-not with my luck-but they could be. They could also be what's been screwing up my metabolism for the last fifteen years. Either way I have to have a biopsy and it doesn't sound pleasant. It is possible that I will then either down a radioactive iodine shot to destroy said damaged organ or have day surgery to remove it.

Day surgery is a liberal construct where they make you starve all night, wake up early and then wait for hours until the doctor gets around to your procedure. Then you get to go home to quake and vomit from the aftermath of general anesthesia at your leisure. What going to be interesting to see is how my principal responds. See he's pronounced that no more teachers can have a planned absence on any of November's Fridays due to the numerous band and athletic activities requiring coaches and directors to miss school. So what happens when my doctor says this Friday, come hell or high water, I have to be there. Given the way things have gone lately, I am willing to bet the conversation starts with "Welllll.....Mrs. .....couldn't you schedule that for over the Thanksgiving break? "

First of all, having had to deal with my son's ankle break over a New Years holiday, I know doctors often opt to take their own families out of town. Imagine that. Doctors like time off too. This means that while we're having turkey at home (and saving up money for procedures) they will be at Purgatory or Keystone shusshing the slopes. I don't blame them. I would want time off too. And I would rather take time off to RECOVER during Thanksgiving break than to have the surgery, feel miserable and miss seeing my own kids.

Nobody really knows about this. My own kids don't know and my husband doesn't know the odds. I don't think he wants to know. I'm trying to keep this light because honest to God since 2008 we've been hit by so many things that one more might just upset everything. But I am scared. And I am praying. The wheels have come off, the center will not hold seems to be the story of my life.