Lane Ends, Merge …

I’ve done a lot of traveling and driving in my time. As most sane folks can say, most of it was during the warmer months of the year when travel on roads was less dangerous and you could, for instance, cross the Great Divide without tire chains.

One of the less-than-pleasant aspects of driving that time of year is the road construction. Yes, I understand why it has to happen when concrete can cure and the ground under the road isn’t a solid block of dirty ice, but it certainly can make what seems like a short and pleasant trip a… not so either of those things.

newsEngin.21334844_Road-Closed-sign

Surprise scenic route!

The worst, though, is when you’re driving along fine and all of a sudden, there are all these flashing signs and traffic backs up and everyone is trying to occupy the lane three over from you but no one is being polite about it. You feel like it came out of nowhere, but you know that they don’t usually do that. Usually, there are signs ahead, but maybe you were too busy to notice, maybe there were too many other things to pay attention to. Maybe you didn’t think that it would apply to you, but to another lane.

But it did apply to you, and now you have to try to barge your way into the other lane where there are too many cars and trucks who are probably more aggressive drivers than you are and probably will keep their spots to your detriment. Or there is that little exit up there going the other way entirely. There are a few cars going that way, but you get the feeling that they know more about the road that direction, that maybe they already know the secret route that will get there where you all want to go. Do they live around here? Or just have the good tip about how to get around the traffic?

This heavy-handed metaphor has reared its head in my life. In one week, I went from having two paying jobs this fall and trying to figure out how I would handle them both and still have time for my kids and family to having basically neither. Sure, there might be a few hours here and there, but realistically, there isn’t much, and those hours would only be for a while, anyway. Once the project is over, there go the hours.

So what are the options, here? My husband has a VERY good job for this area and makes more on his part-time hours than some do full time. But… he doesn’t make quite enough to pay for our lifestyle as it stands, and we’re going to be adding another child in dance class in the fall and all of the expenses that go with that. Man, kids are expensive.

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If only it were this clear…

I will admit that I’ve eyed that other exit for a while. There have been many opportunities for me to veer off that ‘beaten path,’ and in fact, it’s always been my intention to go off on my own and try to support myself and my family by an alternative means. Lately, I’ve been a bald tire with my regular schedule going to an office part-time. I planned to support myself with my creativity, but I didn’t plan well enough for it to actually work.

So I still need to stay on a road, but maybe not the road that I’ve been on, the road that is so congested with everyone and their brother, the road that has been giving me a regular headache and a hole in my heart. Or at least my gut.

That’s not to say I’m totally confident in this turn of the wheel. But I only have so many choices. So I’m turning the wheel the OTHER way, away from the regular, closer to the road that I’ve always wanted to forge, and closer to my family and my home. I’m excited, scared, and absolutely sure that this is the choice I need to make at this moment.

I just hope that there’s a Baskin Robbins out this way…

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Thank You Day

Full disclosure: I have not been paid by anyone to promote anything, I just really like this idea and want to give full credit to the amazing writers who created it.

I have always loved the holiday of Thanksgiving. The meaning of Thanksgiving, appreciating what you have in life, has always been an important theme for me. This appreciation has kept me going when things were hard and brought me out of more than one depressive episode. I am SO lucky. I appreciate what I have. The family and friends getting together to share their lives and what is important to them is also amazing, not to mention the food.

 

DTiger's Thank You Day Book

There is also a book on the same subject! Links at the bottom.

But it’s always been a sort of ephemeral ‘Thanks.’ Traditionally, families join hands and pray, saying ‘Thanks’ to (Insert Favorite Diety) for their family, friends lives, shelter, and food, and maybe some of the younger members have been thankful for specific things and toys that they have been given. While I appreciate this appreciation, and I think it is something that we should do EVERY day, there seemed to be something missing.

 

 

Then I watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my two small daughters. At 2 and 4, both of my girls are obsessed with this new version of The Land of Make-Beleive from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and I am happy to have them watch that rather than something more violent or rude or even something that isn’t teaching them anything.

 

In season 2, the writers of this excellent show chose to do an entire episode about gratitude and created ‘Thank You Day’ in Daniel’s Neighborhood. On this day, everyone gets together for a celebration, much like our Thanksgiving celebrations here in the U.S., but there is an additional element that we haven’t incorporated traditionally. Everyone in Daniel’s neighborhood makes cards to give to each other that thank that person for something specific. The cards are given to the recipient, then the cards go onto a ‘Thank You Day’ tree where everyone can look at the beauty that they made together.

 

Thank_you_tree

And Thank You Internet for providing another amazing image!    https://goo.gl/images/J38B9u

I love this adaptation. While we often say ‘Thank You’ to the ones we love every day, this practice would highlight for everyone that what they do for each other is important and to keep it up. Creating a decorated tree together would help cement that we are a community and we need to work together to make something amazing. As a person who is terrible at thank-you cards after receiving stuff, I like the idea of thank-you cards for being who you are a lot better.

 

So I think we’re going to have a new tradition, one that allows us to make amazing memories and to really appreciate everyone around us. If you want to join in with this new tradition, let me know! I’ll try to post a picture of our ‘Thank You Tree’ before the end of the month.

Link to the show on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B00BI0OB56?ref_=aiv_dp_season_select
Link to the episode guide: http://www.neighborhoodarchive.com/dtn/episodes/114b_thank_day/index.html
Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Daniel-Tigers-Neighborhood/dp/1442498331

 

I can haz accomplishment

I am an English teacher. On forced sabbatical at the moment, perhaps, but I am an English teacher. Moreover, I’m the daughter, niece, and granddaughter of editors, and just about everyone in my family compulsively edits everything and everyone around them. We are so known for this that friends and even family members purposely misuse words just to bug us (FUNNER IS NOT A WORD, COREY!!!). Ahem.

Netspeak

Whole phrases condensed down to three characters.

As a result, most people would assume that I am not a fan of netspeak. The shortening of words or substitution of numbers for letters so they are easier for people to type (especially on phones) has invaded every part of our written society. I have actually had to correct netspeak out of research papers, though not much.

Many think it’s a sign of laziness. Many also believe that it will cause kids to grow up not understanding how to write or spell anything because they are too used to abbreviations or substitutions and don’t understand that netspeak is not an appropriate form of communication in many settings. It has been suggested that netspeak and text speak will ruin all of the hard work of literacy programs for this current generation.

I don’t agree with any of those nay-sayers. Not only did I grow up in the generation that wrote the first netspeak, but I also have been part of the generation that has made texting a crucial technology for survival. I was one of the first people I know who knew where “I can haz cheeseburger” came from.

Studies have shown exactly the opposite effect to what aforementioned nay-sayers think will happen. This upcoming generation is one of the most literate, though perhaps not the best read. They spend their lives looking at text, most of which has automatic spell checkers actively looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Many of my students have had better grammatical skills than I have, and I have personally noticed a drop in misspellings and grammatical errors in un-edited papers that I’ve graded.

I also have always been fascinated by language and the ways it changes or stays the same. I would often tell people that I was going to college to get an English degree so that I could make up words.

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The Munchkin compels you!

So netspeak is just another form of communication. One that has its place in the world. One that really doesn’t belong some places, but that can be a really fun tool for those who are interested in using it. One should always be prepared, though, and find out how BEST to use it before they start spouting ‘L33t Sp34k’ or typing with numbers. I am an English teacher, after all, and I always encourage learning proper communication.

Tx 4 da r34d!

Not-So-Back-To-School

I think I’ve mentioned on here that I went back to college with the intention of teaching. We have four or five colleges within reasonable commuting distance (I’ve driven most of an hour to get places from home for most of my life).

 

Pile of books and a laptop with an apple on top. http://straubroland.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/education_technology- resized-600.png

Books, technology, and fuel. Not necessarily in order of importance.

 

On a whim (or an empty bank account, anyway), I applied for a teaching position about six years ago and didn’t have the credentials to actually get it. That was when I realized that I really wanted to teach. This desire came as quite a surprise for me since I had spent five years of my Undergraduate career explaining to everyone that I was a writer and that I was NOT intending to teach.

I explored these feelings a bit more and realized further that I really believe that teaching is the way to make our world a better place. Teaching children to not hate someone out of fear or a misplaced sense of entitlement. Teaching people in our isolated part of the country that it’s important to reach out and become a part of the greater world surrounding us. Teaching and learning from a group of people who might not even LIKE English class.

Through Graduate school and a little bit after, I got to exercise those muscles and expand on the answer to, “Why is education so important?” I took entire classes that helped me figure out how to teach what I think my students need to know. I taught some incredible people how and why to have confidence on the page.

And it was just as awesome as I thought it would be. I was in a community and a position where I felt like I belonged and was doing something really important.

Misty 1st Avenue by Kathryn Morski. https://kathrynsopinion.wordpress.com/

The future is a little foggy

And now… I’m not. First I explored why I really really want to teach and finding all of those reasons to go back to school (taking the time a money to prepare myself for this career) and then I actually got to experience teaching. I loved the connection and education of a room full of people. Now, it is really hard for me to be in what I see as a holding pattern.

I understand that jobs in my specific line of work aren’t that easy to come by and I will have to be patient. I know that looking back I will probably be glad that I am not teaching three college classes right now while my children are small and need so much of my attention and focus. I keep thinking that maybe this is so I will take more time to work on my own projects (maybe finish my novel or get my Etsy page running) before I have to devote so much energy and attention to a classroom again. Or maybe I just need this time to focus again and reinforce myself.

Whatever the reason, I am not teaching at the moment, which is making this impending fall somewhat bitter-sweet. I love the change that the season brings even without the excitement of a new semester. It’s not gone, it’s just different.

 

Life training is job training

As I hang out with my fourteen month old daughter and watch her alternate between playing with the puppy and eating the de-husked pieces of popcorn that I’m leaving for her (sometimes both at once as she feeds the popcorn to the puppy), a sentence occurs to me that is one of those great truths that we come up with once in a while:

Being a mother is being everything to everyone, all the time… and on half the sleep.

<img src=" http://mybabyexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/motherhood-quotes.jpg&quot;

Now I know that this blog is supposed to be about writing and teaching and learning, but that's exactly why my kid, husband, puppy, and kitty (and mom, and dad, and brother, and in-laws and…) all make appearances. I do think that a lot of what I have learned being a wife and mother is helping prepare me for whatever is ahead of me in the classroom. If you have experience being a mother or mother figure, you know that you have be be prepared for people with different needs and perspectives, and you have to be able to change up what you're doing with no warning.

Teaching someone who can't talk, and who you can't tell if they understand anything you are teaching them, is certainly good training for teaching any one. You have to think of so many different ways to explain things including visual and auditory, and you can't just rely on the text book. You can't expect the pupil to conform to your way of teaching, you have to figure out how the pupil learns the best and go with that. You have to try to cover all of the bases and teach everything that you can think of that might possibly apply, then you have to let go and watch what happens. And let's not forget the innate ability of babies and toddlers to turn any adult goofy.

Now, that's not to say that you should hold the hand of every one of your students and spend every waking moment working on new and different ways to write you assignments, but a little creativity and fun go a long way to helping your students figure out how they learn best. I had the great good fortune to be home schooled for most of my formative years, and that helped me figure out how I learn best. Unfortunately, most of your students will have gone through a standard school system with overworked teachers and strict requirements that don't allow a great deal of creative thinking or exploration. The best teachers, the ones that your students look up to and remember years after graduation, will be the ones who were creative and exploratory, anyway.

I'm not saying that everyone should run right out and find a baby to raise, but there are opportunities for everyone to mother or mentor.  If you take these opportunities, not only will they often look really good on a resume, but they will help enrich your life and teaching experience, as well. Every teaching experience is also a learning experience, and should be appreciated for it.

And going to college was the second best test for how much I could get done on too little sleep…

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