Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yes I AM a "real" teacher, thanks for asking...

Here's a particular pet peeve of mine, people who think that because I'm a Special Ed teacher I'm not really a teacher. Do you know how condescending that is? Ask any special ed teacher you know and I guarantee that they've heard the same thing. I wonder who exactly people consider "real" teachers? Having taught both regular, and special ed I've seen both sides of the story. When I was a regular ed teacher I had lessons to plan, discipline to keep, parents to conference with, data to gather, standards to meet, and students to teach. As a special education teacher I have to do all of those things plus write IEPs, modify lessons and materials, hold IEP meetings, help regular ed teachers make accommodations and modifications, oh yeah and try and TEACH a kid with a disability. Sure I may have less kids in my class, but that certainly doesn't equal less work!

Here's the big difference...my kids have a disability (have I mentioned that already?). I have students who are reading on a 2nd grade reading level. I have students who can't add (even with a calculator). I am expected to teach these kids how to cope with their disabilities, how to read, to write, to do math, how to function in the classroom. Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to teach them the same exact standards that everyone else teaches. Plus (and here's the real kicker), at the end of the year my kids have to pass the same standardized test as every other kid.

So, people of the world, I'm not sure what you consider a "real" teacher...but let me assure you that anyone with the word teacher as a job title is, indeed, a REAL teacher.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Good Old Days

I teach 6th grade most of my students fall into the correct age range, although I do have several 13 year olds. Regardless, they are middle school aged and I really wish they would act like it. It really bothers me when I hear my kids talking about a movie, and I realize it's some Rated R horror movie that they have no business seeing, or an inappropriate TV show that's on late. Now, when I was growing up my parents closely monitored my TV watching. My sister and I weren't even allowed to watch TV shows where the kids were disrespectful to their parents. I couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed to watch Growing Pains, but seeing it now I totally understand. Instead, I watched a lot of Cosby Show, Punky Brewster, and Little House on the Prairie. Those were great shows with good values. They were funny and entertaining and just plain good. What happened to shows like that? Does everything on TV have to have an 'edge'? Aren't there any good wholesome shows on TV?

Now don't get me wrong, I like TV (probably to much). And I like a good action show as much as the next girl, but sometimes I just want to watch a show that's....well, nice. A show that I wouldn't be embarrassed to watch with my niece, or someones grandma. Until then, I'll just stick with my DVDs and reruns of M*A*S*H (which would be wholesome if you took out the violence, sex, and drinking)!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good Friends, Great Soup!

This past Friday my sister, niece, and I made our monthly pilgrimage to Gray, Georgia to visit our best friend. Getting to spend time with the Ivey League is always fun, and we only wish they lived closer so we could visit more often. This weekend we decided to cut the drive short by a bit and meet in Milledgeville for dinner at Buffington's. I'm honestly not sure what I was more excited about this weekend, seeing B and the family, or getting to eat the soup at Buffington's. I've been thinking about eating here ever since the first time we visited several months ago. On that trip I got a cup of soup to start off the meal, but only got to eat about a spoonful before my niece took over! If you've ever met Ella then you are well aware of her love of soup, trust me when I say that it's better to get out of the way if you find yourself between her and a bowl of soup. Well this time, I was smart and got a bowl of my own. It was well worth the wait! Imagine if you will the greatest potato soup you've ever had. Then imagine it's even better....that's what this soup tastes like! If you're ever in Milledgeville and are looking for the worlds greatest soup...then you must go to Buffington's! (This is so not a paid advertisement, but a public service announcement since i think I would be doing the world a disservice not to tell them about this soup!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comment Issue

I've heard from several sources that there have been some issues with commenting. I think that i've fixed the problem, so feel free to leave comments (hopefully they'll go through).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Adventures in Dog Walking

I am the proud owner of a miniature schnauzer named Inga VonUnderthebed. I got her from a rescue place when she was 6 and she's been the best dog ever for almost three years. Now, I don't claim that she's the most well behaved dog (she'd never been on a leash before I got her), or the smartest (she's afraid of her own farts), but she does love to cuddle. As an added bonus it turns out she is absolutely fantastic with my niece Ella. I'll admit that I had my doubts about her before Ella arrived, but Inga loves, loves, loves Ella and basically lets her do whatever she wants.

When Inga first came home she clearly hadn't been socialized with other dogs. Cats she loves, but dogs she could do without. She barks at every dog we see except, oddly enough, one large stray dog that likes to follow us on our walks. She also hates car rides, well to get technical she hates going away in a car, the trip home she's always totally cool for. She gets daily walks around the neighborhood but i don't really take her out and about with me. We have made one trip to the library park and she did great so today we decided to take her down to the Augusta Canal. The canal is a great place to walk, and they have a playground that Ella loves. As an added bonus the city of August has drained part of the canal to do some work on it and I basically wanted to see the big muddy hole in the ground. So, with my pockets full of bags to pick up poo off we headed for an afternoon to enjoy nature.

I was a little nervous when we started because I wasn't sure how Inga would react, but when we started off she was great. We passed lots of people on our way to the walking path and Inga was to busy smelling all of the great smells to even notice them. We crossed the bridge to the actual walkway and that's where the trouble began! There was a 20ish young girl with her dog on the path. Well when that dog saw Inga she literally dragged the girl over to Inga, and she was NOT friendly. I suddenly found myself in the middle of a dog fight (although it was pretty one-sided since Inga was just trying to get away). Luckily Inga wears a harness and I literally picked her up by the leash (while spinning in circles) trying to get this dog off of her! I was freaked out! I managed to get Inga up into my arms before the dog could bite her, the dogs owner was apologizing a mile an minute, and Inga was fine. Of course poor Ella was crying "black dog hurt Inga" but she also recovered. Unfortunately the same can't be said for my left hand which is currently swelling up.

Once I stopped shaking, and Ella stopped crying we continued our walk and saw many, many other dogs and dog owners who were all perfectly well-behaved. But seriously folks, if you're going to take your dog out in public you need to be able to control it!!!! I'm thankful that no one was hurt, but it could have gone a lot worse. Needless to say we're going back to the library park next time....it's a LOT less crowded.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Last night I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I realize I'm a bit behind the times on this one since it came out in 2007, but in my defense I have had it sitting on my bookshelf since then. The thing is that when I read books I have to be in the right mood for the right book. I think that's why I buy so many books, because I never know what I'll be in the mood for. Anyway I guess I was in the mood for a more serious read after finishing a couple of fun travel books so I picked this one up on Monday. Last night I was finished.

This book was absolutely incredible. The Afghanistan that Hosseini writes about is one that I never even knew existed. Up until pretty recently the only Afghanistan I knew was the one on CNN. That Afghanistan is one filled with Taliban, and women covered in burqas. That Afghanistan is a strange and backward country, one that had no connection with my own. In this book Hosseini writes of a different Afghanistan. One with a proud and complex history. A country that has been torn apart by war and drought, but is also filled with poets and writers and people. A people that I'm ashamed to admit I never gave much thought to before. While this book is fiction, it still portrays a very real Afghanistan. This book was by no means easy to read. The content is rough, gritty and honest. The story pulls you in and spins you around for 372 pages before throwing out back out into reality. It is a book about love, faith, hope, and sacrifice. It is a story about powerful relationships, and about the power of relationships. Above all it is an incredible book that I would highly recommend to everyone!

This book has clearly cemented Khaled Hosseini as one of my favorite authors and has assured that I will buy and read anything that he writes in the future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All things Vera

I am not a girly-girl and never have been. Despite the fact that my bedroom is currently pink, I've never been that into girl stuff. I don't own a million pairs of shoes, my make-up collection is very basic, and I generally hate to shop. I'm pretty sure the mall was invented by an evil genius, as was the concept of "window shopping". However, there are two things in life that I'm willing to shop for anytime, anyplace. Those things would be Vera Bradley purses, and Office Supplies. The Vera is to feed my inner girl, and the Office Supplies are to feed my inner OCD (well okay the OCD isn't really internal). Now imagine how excited I was when Vera started a line of office supplies. I imagine it's probably what Mr. Reeses felt like when he first put peanut butter together with chocolate!
I usually have to rely on my friend Kim and her excellent gift giving skills for my Vera Office Supplies since I'm to frugal...ummm cheap to buy them for myself. But today I learned the most wonderful thing. You can find some Vera at TJ Maxx! And it's on sale! I guess you really do "get the max for the minimum, minimum price". I'm telling you it was like discovering delicious fat-free cupcakes that taste like delicious fat-full cupcakes. I was able to fulfill all of my Vera Office Supply needs for 1/2 price. There was one office supply item that I couldn't find at the Max. The all new Vera Bradley Clipboard. I had to go to 3 different stores and pay full price for this beauty, but it was so worth it.
I'm telling you it was like Christmas and my Birthday all wrapped up into one glorious day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Can gardening really be fun?

When I was younger there was one chore that I hated above all others....yard work. I absolutely despised having to work in the yard. It wasn't the mowing that bothered me because quite frankly a lawn mower is just a big loud power tool and who doesn't love power tools! No it wasn't the mowing, it was the raking! Why oh why did we have to rake? And it wasn't a little bit of raking, we had a BIG yard which equalled a LOT of grass to rake. I couldn't understand the point of raking and, in fact, I refuse to rake my own yard now (instead I set the mower to mulch and just deal with it). Now before you start to think that I was a poor, overworked child, let me assure you that I wasn't. I had my usual set of chores to do and parent's who were fun and never unreasonable. Plus my dad decided one year that instead of a raise he would have someone come and do our yard for us so the raking stopped before I hit my teens. Still the hatred of raking stayed with me and spilled over to include all sorts of yard work including any kind of gardening. I was utterly confused by anyone (my mom included) who seemed to actually like spending time in the yard. I didn't see the appeal of backbreaking work all for a few flowers that would die anyway.

And then I bought a house.

One of the deal-breakers in my search for a house was that I had to have a fenced in backyard for my dog. I found myself looking at homes with BIG yards and small yards and settled on my "House of Dreams" which had the perfect sized yard for me and my Schnauzer. Knowing that I was going to buy a house with a yard I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to do some yard work. I knew it came with the territory, and since I already had my "no raking" policy in place I was okay with it. The House of Dreams in all of it's sad neglected glory had two flower beds in the front yard that were horribly overgrown. Almost immediately after moving in I decided that all of the shrubbery had to go and I set about doing a total demolition to the front yard. Imagine my surprise when I found that I LIKED it! I liked pulling out all of the old stuff and picking out just the right flowers and shrubs. I liked weeding the beds, and mowing the yard. I found myself feeling closer to my mom since we now had something in common (that she didn't share with my sister)! Gardening was fun, I was one of those people who enjoyed wandering the flower section of the home improvement store. And even though my "no raking" policy remained firmly in place, I found myself thoroughly enjoying all of the time I spent in my flowerbeds.

Then came the RA and my new found love of gardening, turned into yet another activity that I was entirely incapable of doing because of my joints. All of the plans I had made for my backyard fell by the wayside and I gave up the idea of being able to landscape the way I wanted to. However, I was happily able to start working outside again this week after many, many, many months of inactivity, and a lot of medication. Now with Spring just around the corner I am once again looking forward to playing in the dirt. While it's true that I have to work a lot slower than I would in the past, I'm thankful that I can at least keep working!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Losing my Doodle

Hello, my name is Jess and I doodle. It's true. I can't hide it any longer. I doodle when I'm in meetings. I doodle when I'm on the phone. I even doodle when I'm teaching. I have been doodling for as long as I remember. My drawing skills are pretty slim (I'm afraid my little brother got that talent), but my doodling skills are stellar. My personal preference is geometric shapes on account of my obsessive compulsive tendencies. I can also doodle a pretty spectacular flower. Sadly however, I fear that my doodling days are nearing an end. One of the more annoying side effects of my RA is the fact that my hands hurts pretty often. I can't write in a journal anymore and it's hard to take notes for longer than 15 minutes or so. All this means that my notes look cleaner, I appear to be paying more attention, but I sure do miss doodling!

Monday, February 2, 2009


I recently finished reading the book The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs. The book follows Jacob's quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z and is actually much more entertaining and funny than you might think. I started reading the book because I was fascinated by the idea behind it. I love to read, and learn, and go to school, and felt that deep down inside, Jacobs was a kindred spirit. Far from being a regurgitation of boring facts, the book weaves the narrative of a man trying to understand his relationship with his own father, while facing the possibility of becoming a father himself, into one year of nonstop encyclopedia reading. The book was both funny, heart-warming, and full of fascinating fun facts just waiting to be pulled out at your next party!

Here's a just a small sample of the things I learned from this book:

1. First of all we had a President named Millard Fillmore did you know that? He was apparently our 13th president. I thought I knew my history pretty well, but clearly I'm lacking in the area of previous Presidents.

2. We also had a President named William Henry Harrison (number 9) although I don't feel so bad about not know about him since he died one month into office.

3. Lacoste is not just the name of a clothing like with a cute alligator mascot. Rene Lacoste was a famous tennis player who earned the nickname "The crocodile". So technically speaking the Lacoste shirts all should have crocodiles on them, not alligators.

4. Myrrh is a substance that is used as incense, and to relieve sore gums. If you think about it myrrh is the only suitable gift that the wise men brought Jesus...what baby doesn't get sore gums?

5. Typewriters originally had two entire sets of letters, one uppercase and one lower case. The invention of the shift button changed typing as we know it!

Chinese New Year

This past Friday I went to a party to celebrate Chinese New Year (a week late). Since my niece is from China we like to celebrate Chinese holiday's with her. It's important to my sister that she knows about her culture and history and this is one way to do it. We are lucky enough to know a group of families in the area who also have children adopted from China (and one very adorable boy from Guatemala). The group meets weekly to hang out, and we go as often as the school calendar permits. Luckily this celebration was at night so everyone could attend. All of the kids had a great time eating delicious Chinese food, and making paper lanterns. It's great to see Ella get to interact with other children from China since they share such a great bond. I'm sure that in the future they will be a great support system for each other!
Enjoy the picture and if you're wondering Ella is the one in the middle who looks miserable (the girl does NOT like photo sessions)!