Saturday, August 30, 2008

Peace Summit 2008

Three full weeks of school...exhaustion, stress, ridiculous expectations, literal mountains of paperwork, lesson plans, meetings, meetings, meetings, and did I mention ridiculous expectations??? Despite all of the hardships of my career, every once in awhile something like this makes it all worth it...

Yesterday, I had THE best day with my entire cluster of much so that I wondered if I should be getting paid to have this much fun! Of course, I should...everyday in education should be like that. Sadly, it is not...but fortunately I have had enough days like this one to keep me in the profession for the last 13 years.

The scenario: Mayor Magallano (that would be me) has called for a "town hall" style meeting with all of the animal groups that live in the Segowlee Cantonment, an army base in India (the fictional setting for Rudyard Kipling's classic "Rikki Tikki Tavi"). Apparently, a severe conflict has erupted among the animal groups, and some loss of life has even occured. The insurrection groups involve: the mongooses, the cobras, the tailorbirds, the muskrats, and the humans. These groups have been invited to come to the Peace Summit to present their positions on the violent happenings in our cantonment and their proposals for a non-violent solution to this conflict. The Town Council shall listen to the proposals and select the best one- the one that would be appealing and fair to all of the animals as well as the one that furthers our vision of non-violence.

The reality: Each student in all four of my classes selected a card from an envelope that put them in one of the five groups listed above. Next, for three days prior to the Peace Summit, my students planned, prepared, researched, and put together such wonderful speeches. Yesterday, our Peace Summit happened in each of my four classes. I had no idea what to expect, but I was hoping for the best, after all, I am Mayor Magallano, and I was looking for a non-violent solution to the conflict. What I got was far superior to any of my hopes and expectations! My students were passionate; they were cheerleaders for their animal groups; they thought on their feet, answered questions from the Town Council and a "reporter" guest (our Instructional Lead Teacher came in for a visit to watch the proceedings during 4th period), and most of all, they were critically thinking to solve problems and come to a peaceful solution. In each class, the Town Council deliberated at the end of the presentation and certainly selected the group with the best argument. At first, I feared that the most popular students would naturally be selected as the winners, but time and time again, I was amazed that the best and strongest arguments were chosen as the winners no matter who was in that group. One of the greatest things was many of my special needs students (in two out of my four classes) had speaking parts, and they completely rocked every time! I was glowing with pride and enthusiasm...

The Results: Besides having the time of our lives, my students were able to see outside of this classic story, into the nature of conflict and problem solving...they related this happening to the world around us- conflict in their own lives as well as, in the global community. All day, the kids were buzzing with excitement- in the morning when they saw the room rearranged for our proceedings, during the day, between classes, and well into the latter part of the afternoon. I heard normal chatter as students walked by my room, but it was geared to things like, "Which group were you in?" and "Who won in your class?" During my last class of the day, (which is not an academic class, but a remediation class called Focus) the students came in literally begging to do the presentations again. We spent the next 40 minutes just having a conversation about why the experience was so meaningful to them, and how they could relate it to their lives...I was feeling on top of the world.

The Reality Part 2: After all was said and done for the day, I had to post my grades before I left the building. We had approximately one day to get this done...and obviously, I was far to busy throughout this particular day! So, needless to say, I did not leave the building last night until 6:15 pm! I was so quickly knocked back down to earth and to the mountains of paperwork I spoke of earlier! Thank God this is a long weekend, and I can rest up for another wonderful middle school experience next week!

Thanks for letting me gush about such a rare fun-filled middle school day...
I sincerely hope your Labor Day weekend is filled with fun and relaxation!

Image credit.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wonderful Weekend

A full week of school is under my belt...not such a bad beginning. Class sizes are rather small (largest class right now has 20 kids), and soon to complaints, just happy that the weekend is here!

The husband and I have been glued to the television this last week, watching the Olympic Games from Beijing, China. Our favorite events so far have been...SWIMMING! We have yelled and cheered for all of the USA team members, but especially Michael Phelps. He is a sight to behold!

In fact, he is swimming soon, so I gotta go...just wanted to check in and have a look around to see what was going on in the blogosphere...Hope your weekend is exciting and relaxing!

Image credit

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Few Things...Here and There.

I have never been so glad that it is Friday! This was my first full week back to work after summer (we had five pre-planning days to get ready for the kids)...and I have had students for the last two days. Initially, I thought what in the world are we going to do for five days...and then I realized today that I still had not unpacked two of my boxes for the desk in my room! Ha. Where did all of that time go? I used every single minute to prepare my room, meet with co-workers, and just do whatever needed to be done. Not a sinlge minute was wasted, and yet I could have used a few more before they arrived on Thursday!

Back to school is one of my least favorite times as a teacher...learning the names of anywhere from 90-125 students is tough...dealing with scheduling, setting a firm foundation of discipline but at the same time making them feel welcome and that this is going to be a great year- a delicate aching body getting used to me standing mostly all day once again, and the bladder issues of retraining it to wait until I get a break to go!

So far, these last two days have gone smoothly, and I adore most of my students- they seem an eager bunch and spirited in all of the right ways! I am sure that I will have tons of middle school fun to share throughout this year.

On another note, my parents' house is up for sale! I have not yet actually seen the sign in the yard, but I know it is there...realtors have shown it twice in the last week, and my parents have busied themselves packing up the normal clutter of living in a home for 32 years...making it look more presentable and ready for possible buyers. The idea of this still tugs at my heart and makes me feel weepy, but I am really ok with it...much more so than last Saturday!

I have no special plans this weekend, and for that I am ever grateful! I have a bit of school work to do- work on lesson plans for the last part of August (yes, I am actually ahead fo the game!) and perhaps see a movie with the daughter...if she will go with me. The husband has to work, and other than some light house cleaning, I would love to rest up for next week...our first full week of school!
I hope your weekend is filled with wonderful things and doing just what you would like to do! Enjoy it...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Brand New Day

I have read and re-read my previous post so many times it is is almost like I am trying to get used to the idea of my parents totally changing life as they know it and selling perhaps if I read it once more, it will just become a part of me, or my brain will finally wrap around it all. This is progress...slow, but getting there. It will be ok!

I am feeling differently today...right this minute...a new feeling is stirring inside of me...

Today is a brand new day...Sunday...and I feel blessed in spite of my emotional outbrust on Saturday. I am a few hours away from going into my Father's house to worship sing out my praises and to give thanks for the blessings that I have...and I do have SO many! My tears have dried, and my eyes are less swollen, and I believe that it will all be alright. I really had to think about how much worse it could have been...this situation makes me sad, but it is in no way similar to the horrors that other people deal with on a daily basis. I will praise my God for the parents He gave me, for the wonderful life that He blessed us with, and for loving me in spite of my many, many faults.

While I am at church, I am also going to witness the baby dedication of one of the grandsons of my very best friend in the whole wide world...the parents of this precious boy are going to publicly dedicate their son to our Father...I know I will shed a few more tears, but this time in pure JOY!

I hope you will be blessed today in your own lives...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Soft and Sad Eyes

It is 3:02 Saturday morning as I begin to type this....I woke up to use the restroom (I do that most evenings) and I could not fall back asleep (I do not do this most evenings).
My insomnia has not returned (hopefully) although I am feeling so worried about my parents it might just's hoping that getting this off of my chest will do the trick and the insomnia will stay far away! My eyes are soft looking at these people (my parents) in this precious eyes are also swollen and moist from the tears I love to shed. No, nothing majorly earth-shattering has happened, but I am mourning to say the least.
I had a conversation with my father earlier this evening, which left him unable to continue talking to me for the moment; he had to pass the phone to my mother, saying, "You talk to her; I just can't..." while he lost the cool control of himself that he always has. This left me sobbing. My father is a proud, strong, and wonderful man...I do not remember a time when he has ever lost his emotional control. I just can not emphasize enough how much I love this man and my mother...I have always said that I could not have chosen better parents if given the choice and that I have been blessed beyond measure in them. Everyone deserves parents like mine! The main point of this conversation that rendered my father unable to continue talking to me was the state of my parent's finances, and a meeting that they had with a financial advisor.
First, you have to know that before he retired, my father was a banker. He worked himself up from being a teller to a Vice-President of the bank he worked for his entire adult life. He is a wiz with numbers (I did NOT inherit this!) and he always prided himself in making sound financial investments and decisions. As a banker, he planned well for his retirement, and they have been living quite comfortably for the last twelve years. They own two houses- one they live in, one they vacation in and rent out; they have a lovely, well-maintained pool and yard (my parents both so enjoy working in this yard, taking amazing care of it by themselves); they own several deeds with a vacation resort company (it's how we travel so often to the beaches and such); they are also quite genereous with their children and practically anyone else that needs help.
After the meeting with this financial advisor, basically this man told my parents that they are going to have to sell pretty much everything, move into a much smaller house, cash in a huge insurance policy (what they were planning to leave my brothers and myself as our inheritance) and drastically reduce the amount of money that they live off of each father's retirement is simply running out. The economy has reeked havoc on his investments...He went into the meeting thinking he had a good three years at least before this happens; only to discover that no, it is more like twelve year to toally alter life as they know it.
My father insists that he is ok with this, just momentarily emotional while talking to mother is shockingly fact, when she took the phone, she calmly explained her point of view, "Everything in this house is just is not important to me....all that matters is that I have your father by my side. We can live anywhere and get through anything if we are together." As I am typing this, I just can not stop my flow of tears! Why am I crying? So many reasons! I could not even utter words by this time on the phone I was sobbing so hard. My mother said, "We need not worry about what is done...we just all need to be concerned with our salvation- knowing God and living the best way we can from here on out...; she continued, "I do not want you to worry about us or to cry...everything will be fine...". This is what my life is always like- they comfort me, when I should be comforting them.
I am not mourning the loss of material things....I am truthfully sad for them to sell the house they live in- it's where I grew up; it's where we lived when the daughter was is THE place I know of as home, even though I have not lived there for years. I watched a quirky movie last week that expresses some of what I have felt about this Garden State the main character at one point talks about returning home- this place that you have always known and loved- only to discover that it is not your home anymore...and feeling a loss in that. I remember that feeling...when we (the husband, daughter, and I) moved out, and would come back to visit my parents, I felt like a piece of my childhood was lost to me. So, yes, I am sad about the house. But, it is more than that parents are vulnerable...defenseless against something I can not name...they are human...fragile...and incapable of stopping this. To me, they have always been invincible...unshakable...they recuse me when I am hurting or in need...and I can not rescue them. I can not save them from this mess. I have my own financial mess...I guess I also feel guilty in a sense...since so often they have helped me with financial stuff...paid for things when I could not or loaned money and not said a single word when I had difficulty paying it back...This is no one's fault. It just is. I know everything will be fine...that is just how my parents are. But, whew. I can not stop the tears. This just should not have happened.
My sweet mother, who is filled with wisdom, said, "I did not call you up to tell you that your father was dead...that is the only reason you should stop your tears now. " She just made me sob even harder. I can NOT imagine this world without them.
It will be ok. I will stop the tears eventually and move on. This is not the end of the world, as my mother likes to say. It just feels like it (sort of), but I know it is not. I also always know things could be worse. This was just a shock to me, to my heart, and my brain. It will be fine.
Thank you for allowing me to invade the early morning hours of the blogosphere to unload this heavy burden. I would like to say that I feel better already, but I would be lying. My swollen eyes actually ache and my head is about to split open! I am off to take some headache medicine and then try to go back to sleep. It is now 4:31. I will rest on my pillow with a song from Garden State in my is a love song really, but some of the lyrics always make me think of my parents...
"I drink good coffee every morning / Comes from a place that's far away/ And when I'm done I feel like talking / Without you here there is less to say / I don't want you thinking I'm unhappy / What is closer to the truth / That if I lived till I was 102 / I just don't think I'll ever get over you..."
P.S. I did not type this as one big gigantic paragraph...I had skipped lines periodically throughout, but it will NOT publish the way that I typed it *grrr*
So please forgive the big LONG mess. I am too tired to sit here and worry about it. I need rest...
P.S.S. That lovely photo of my parents is from their wedding day, 50 years ago in May 2009!