Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Changes Galore!

So, it is has been a while since my last post.  I no longer live in California and I no longer teach high school chemistry.  My husband has since retired, my 2 children are about to graduate with Bachelor's degrees this year and next and I am teaching 6th grade math and science in a remote K-12 school on the small island of Lana`i in Hawai`i.

I have never felt so at home with the parents and students.  I understand them, their culture, their anxieties.  I feel I am one of them.  However, I have never felt so alienated by my peers and the powers above me.  I have managed to piss people off, pushed people away and alienate so many administrators.  I have wanted more from my students and for my classroom and have given 110% of myself.  I work 80 hours a week trying to improve test scores and building relationships with my students.  Yet, I feel that I don't have the respect or support from my administration.  Could I tell you some stories that would get people fired!  Yet, there is no one knocking at the door to replace them.  In fact, if there was, it may be worse.

It sounds dismal but there is one glimmer of sunshine...my students!  They love me, I love them.  They learn from me, listen intently and respond with give us more!  So as with many in similar situations, you shut out the rest of the world knowing you can only affect your own.

No, I know I can't save the world...but it so hard not to try.  Button up that mouth and suck it up, Buttercup it could always be worse.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

From Chemistry teacher to 6th Grade Physical Science & Math Teacher...on the isle of Lana`i...

Wow!  What a difference 3 years makes!  I'm now teaching 11 and 12 year olds science and math...and LOVIN' it!  These kids are just so cute...not yet jaded by age and still loving life and everything it hands to them.  Why didn't I realize how much sweeter these kids are than high schoolers?!  Oh yes, I remember, it was that field trip that Caylee (my daughter) had that I chaperoned while I was getting my teaching credential.  After wanting to duct tape the mouths of a bunch of 8th graders, I swore I would never teach middle school.  However, 6th graders are not quite middle schoolers when you get them at the beginning of the year.  They turn into middle schoolers by the end of the year but by then they won't dare test your boundaries.

So, I'm back in Hawai`i.  My husband has retired at the young, ripe age of 53.  He had a retirement plan and he stuck with it--saved, did without, strategized and finagled with money--so that when Caylee went off to college, we would ride off into that proverbial (retirement) sunset.  I thank him for his financial wizardry every day (or I would if I could remember but that's another story).  As a teacher, they try to teach you to relate to your students.  With 35+ students at Poway, that was hard to do especially with ethnicities and cultures that weren't my own.  However, here in Lana`i, relating to these mostly filipino kids comes so naturally.  I get them.  I know what their life is like, familially, culturally, socially.  It's so effortless for me.  AND the best part is that here on this small island of 3000 and one K-12 school for its inhabitants, my class sizes are under 20!!!  WHOA!  Not only can I relate to my students, I can also get to know who they are!  All those things they teach you in a teaching credential program, I now have the time to do!!  Amazing what class size can do for student engagement.

Okay, so it's not all peachy-keen.  The poverty level is high, so high the whole school qualified for free breakfasts and lunches for all students.  All students do not have access to a computer with internet access.  The test scores are horrible!  Probably the lowest in the country.  That's my motivation for getting up and teaching these kids.  They are smart, they just need to prove it on tests not written for rural, immigrant kids on a remote island in Hawai`i.  Bring it on, I still want to save the world and I now have my vehicle to do so!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Tried It And Frankly, For Me It's Not Worth It...

Over the last 3 years, there were several times that I wanted to quit teaching. The hours of grading and prepping that led to long nights (two overnighters), long weekends and personal time at volunteer events made me feel it's not worth it.  And in the end parents, students and teacher culture made me feel it wasn't enough.  If I was to become a better teacher I had to figure out a way to do more.  Granted I was improving and getting more efficient at grading and since I collaborated I spent less time prepping but in the end it still required more time than I wanted to give.

I was so happy to get this position at the beginning of the year.  I thought I would be substituting with no hope of a job offer by mid-August.  I was so sure I wouldn't have a job that I opted to have surgery right before school started.  So you can imagine my surprise when the principal called me the DAY BEFORE the first day of school to say he had 4 periods to offer me!  I accepted starting 1 day before the 2-week recovery period was over and 3-days after classes had begun. It was a difficult transition with of course the students innocently suffering the most.  Can you imagine starting off the school year being herded to temporary classrooms and teachers trying to get a feel for expectations for the semester?  None of this was the fault of the principal, who was new, the late decision was due to a decreasing enrollment and budget. They made the offer as soon as the district gave the go ahead.

What really did me in were parents, the nasty, demanding ones who felt like they had the right to tell me what to do and felt they could say the most unkind words because they were speaking in the best interest of their child. My dear colleagues have pleaded with me to ignore it and I have tried but the bottom line is I CAN'T.  To this day, I am still plagued by those hurtful words, "Are you an angry person?"  This was said by a parent who had heard through her husband at Back-to-School night that I explained that I wasn't hired back after being fired but that I was a temporary teacher being hired back.  Her opinion was that I shouldn't have gone there and that made me an angry teacher.  Did she realize that an angry person doesn't come back early from recovery to teach her child and cause her sutures to bleed because she over does it?  Crap, really lady?  As my colleagues have explained, even if I told parents this they won't care, so don't say anything just listen to it and move on. They are right, you know, I've tried to explain in the past and somehow it comes back to haunt me.

So, I've told my department and principal I am not going to pursue a position next year. That I'm going to "retire."  Perhaps I'll substitute or maybe go back into the industry.  Or maybe I'll just take some time off to concentrate on my family. This year I'll turn 50 and at 50 I feel I should be able to do whatever the heck I want!  I can't wait for June!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Another Crossroad...

So, I'm at another crossroad...It is July and still no offer for teaching in the fall. 

There have been 4 recent turn of events that have not necessarily de-railed my retirement plans on Lana'i but have definitely caused me to rethink my retirement plans.

1)  I'm beginning to think that I'm not as valuable to the education system as I thought I would be with 20+ years experience as a chemist.  I seem to get the call backs (indicating my resume looks good) but schools can't or won't hire me for some reason.  It may all boil down to there is just no money in the system to hire me but it still feels bad nonetheless.  The one thing that makes me have to continue teaching is that I need to clear my credential in this next year.  Then I will have a teaching credential with no strings attached and can finally be called a credentialed teacher!

2)  A meeting with the current Lana'i High and Elementary School principal made me realize that there are not many openings for science teachers.  There are currently 2 science teachers and they don't look like they will be leaving soon.  I need to think about what will happen if I can't teach chemistry at the high school.  I need to come up with a Plan B.  That may include substitute teaching, teaching on Mauai or do something other than teach.  Let's face it, chemistry is my passion and if I can't TEACH chemistry I need to find away to DO chemistry.  Maybe there is a way to do some sort of research that doesn't require me to be at a company facility but on my own computer??

3)  Larry Ellison has recently purchased Lana'i.  Who knows what the Oracle CEO has in mind for the island?  The locals are both hopeful and worried.  We not only have our future home here but all of my and my husband's retirement plans include living on Lana'i.  I'm hoping that Ellison's plans include a LITTLE growth that will cause a need in hiring more science teachers in a few years but not change the small town feel of the island! Or perhaps, there may be a need to have 2 chemists on the island to carry out one of Ellison's projects.  It is a big question mark in my retirement planning.

4)  A representative from a temporary agency called me to see if I would be interested in temporary synthetic chemistry work.  My heart aches to take that position.  I miss doing chemistry.  I miss having some time to think and dream science.  But I also know my personality, it is always greener on the other side of the mountain....  But as I thought about it a little more, how wonderful a temporary position would be!  I could find out how bad I really do miss research and not be obligated to a company or myself in staying in a job if I find out that teaching isn't all that bad and I really do have that calling....


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Teacher Lessons I've learned

Teacher Lessons I've learned.... (My version of "Lessons We Can All Learn - by Andy Rooney")

I've learned.... That the best classroom should be the one I'm teaching at the moment.
I've learned.... That when you're teaching what you love, it shows.
I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, 'I get it!' makes me get it.
I've learned.... That having students taking a test is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
I've learned.... That being a kind teacher is more important than being a right teacher.
I've learned.... That I shouldn't refuse a hug from a student nor miss the opportunity to hug a student who needs it.
I've learned.... That I can always pray for my students when I don't know how to help any other way.
I've learned.... That no matter how seriously hard your subject is, you still need to make the curriculum amusing.
I've learned.... That sometimes all a student needs is to have their hand held by their teacher with the heart to understand that need
I've learned.... That simple time outs do wonders for me and my students.
I've learned.... That the semester is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
I've learned... .That teachers should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.
I've learned.... That there's never enough money to teach but you do the best you can.
I've learned.... That it's those small student successes that make teaching so spectacular.
I've learned.... That under a student's hard shell is something bigger than my subject matter.
I've learned.... That to ignore the failing students does not change the failing students.
I've learned.... That every day is a new day to a new beginning.
I've learned.... That patience, not tests, is what makes our students learn.
I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a teacher is to surround myself with great teachers.
I've learned.... That you can learn a lot about your students as you greet them in the beginning of class.
I've learned.... That no one is perfect, especially not the teacher.
I've learned.... That teaching your subject matter is tough, but teaching life is tougher.
I've learned.... That students seldom see opportunities unless the teacher first plant the seeds that grow into those opportunities.
I've learned.... That students can be very forgiving if you are honest and upfront with them.
I've learned.... That I wish I could see the people all my students will grow up to become.
I've learned.... That a teacher should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow one of his students may not be there
I've learned.... That smiling is a great indicator of how well your lesson is going.
I've learned.... That when your students bake you cookies, you're hooked for life.
I've learned.... That the more I learn as a teacher, the more I realize how wrong I was about how easy teaching is as a profession.
I've learned ... That the more time I find freed-up from lesson planning, the more time I want to spend improving my lesson plans.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Call me Teach

When a door closes, a window opens....My one and only interview after applying to any and all (which wasn't much) chem teacher job ads was with Poway Unified School District for an opening at Del Norte High School.  I didn't get the job and as school district after school district started the 2011-2012 school year I knew that I probably wasn't going to find a teaching position.  I rationalized that I could use the break which was SO true but I was becoming depressed at the thought of being jobless for another year.  The window opens...a message on my cell phone tells me about a part-time position at Poway HS.  Someone at Del Norte liked me so much that they forwarded my name to Poway HS for a part-time chemistry position.  Before the offer was made the principle was worried I would leave the part-time position to take a full time position.  Well, Poway Unified is one of the last schools to hire--the chances of that happening were slim.  The only other job I would take would be for a position at the Escondido Union High School District so that my kids and I would be on the same school schedule.  That wasn't going to happen because the district already started school.  One week before school started, I was hired as Mrs. Weinhouse, Science Teacher, Poway High School. 

Another journey begins.....becoming Mrs. Weinhouse, Chemistry Teacher...