Category Archives: education

Not Rocking this Mom Thing

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I feel good at this mom thing about 85% of the time. I get him to school daily, we bathe daily, he eats every day, I get him his medicine and yearly appts. Overall, he is living large. But then school projects pop up or parent homework as I call it and this girl falls a part. Sure other parents think “Poor kid” as he carries his lunchables to school daily, or this mom shows up to parties late or forgets to sign the folder again. But school projects make them shout “Is she even trying!?” Exhibit A: 100th day of school shirt. The poor boy practically refused to wear it. It fell over him like cardboard and ruined one of his favorite shirts.

Exhibit B: That sad robot VDay box that was basically me saying “I am wrapping this box in foil, you figure out the rest.” Thankful this kid does not feel the need to compete because this mama is not helping his chances.

Is this the hill you want to die on?

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I have worked for some good principals, but the one I had 5 years ago was undoubtedly the best. She always put her trust in the teachers that she hired and always saw us as humans first and employees second. When tough conversations were present, she would always say “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Most times, I sheepishly said no then I would turn and just stay silent knowing it was not worth the fight.

But now, I have a situation where I have discovered that I will indeed choose to die on this hill.

The issue is small for most teachers in the education world, but it means everything to this reading teacher. The issue: how we prepare students for reading tests.

Our reading education has come down to test passages and standardized tests and my feelings always have and will be that building lifelong readers comes first. I have done my job if students leave my class loving or tolerating books more than when they walked in. I regularly incorporate reading time in my lesson plans and only read children books so we have something to talk about. My hero is Donalyn Miller and her thoughts give me passion.

But doing this kind of reading means test scores take time to grow. In the beginning, the scores are low because we are not taking test prep passages all day and getting good at tests. We.are.reading! Shocked I have to defend the act of reading to teach reading, but I have literally planned with teachers that have a lesson plan of legit reading passages all.day.long. Well, good for you that your scores are good, but sucks your kids now hate reading.

So spring forth to this week where I have a lengthy conversation with a colleague encouraging me to test prep, do a lengthy list of reading strategies geared for only making them more tired while reading and to read the questions first before reading the passage so we can improve test scores. Forget comprehension or reading for meaning…what was I thinking? We are about passing tests. I sat in shock and explained that some of your strategies will exhaust my advanced readers as they do their magic without all that extra work (aka they read a lot) and my struggling readers may never finish the test. Then while they are thinking about the questions they just read, they are missing the main idea and inferences required to answer the questions and evaluate the author’s craft. But I only have a Masters in Reading, A Master Reading Teacher certificate, 18 years in education with all 18 years getting 80% or above passing STAAR in areas of Texas with high poverty rates so what do I know? (For real, despite my multiple years of reading success-last year over 90% grew from the year before…I am still getting this talk.)

So I sit here and ask myself change my plan to fit their (admin) needs and completely destroy myself as an educator and lover of literacy…maybe the scores will go up or maybe not…or stand firm in my belief that tests will come and go but lifelong readers will not.

You can find me dead on this hill.

The Truth about ADHD

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This is the face of ADHD. As a teacher, I have often seen it as a setback. It keeps the student from working and keeps the student from sitting, but overall not a huge deal in the world of health problems. Then I became the parent of a child with ADHD. To be fair he is more ADD then anything else, but the new trend is to say it is all ADHD and that is fair since distracted decisions can be hyper ones too.

The truth is my son is the most amazing kid! He sees things outside the box for what they could be and not what they are right now. He is full of life, joy, curiosity and wonder. To be honest, entering school has beat a lot of that out of him as testing and being on grade level has overtaken his beautiful mind. He is a challenge to teach and parent, but no other kid will change you like he will…he just makes you see life differently.

As a parent, I can now see why it is considered a disability under Other Health Impairment and is under the umbrella of special education. His ADHD keeps him from learning, being organized, making transitions, keeping friendships, taking tests (and we know school has become one giant test), and socially keeps him acting at a grade level below his which really influences his behavior. As a parent, it is scary to think about him driving and working and even keeping a family…it really does make life as we know it hard, but he hardly notices it. As his parents, we have to teach him to manage it, overcome it and make adjustments to the way his brain works.

As his mom, we have to call in his prescription month by month as it is not refillable and we have to see the doctor quarterly to update progress. Getting medicines is not as easy as some may believe and is very expensive for all those teachers like myself that just said “medicate”. You have to be diligent in getting medical attention and be willing to pay for it. We tried everything before medication including CBD oils since we know all the risks and did not want to lose the personality of our son…but in the end we knew he needed them to function and to learn. It was best for him and we would never say no to medicating his epilepsy, so why say no to medicating this.

I write all this to say if you are like my brother and say ADHD does not exist…you are wrong-this is real. It is more than being a boy or just a kid if you truly have it…it may be over diagnosed…but it is real. If you are a teacher and say that discipline at home can fix it, wrong again. Discipline sometimes beats the kid down as my son was always in trouble. We said all too often, “try harder”, “pay attention”, “listen”…truth is he couldn’t and was trying harder than most. If you are a parent saying that medication seems wrong, maybe try other things first, but at the end of the day if it affects learning and day to day living then ask yourself “Would I not give him cough medicine if he was coughing?” I truly believe this is an illness of the brain and needs and the child needs extra help to do what others can do on their own.

Obviously, a true diagnosis takes lots of time, discernment and doctor approval, but I write this to speak up for the kids that need you to know the truth. The image above is my son 100%. I see now how much he endures to do very common things and how we need to support, encourage, but also teach him to manage his symptoms. I want to be sure I am not always beating him down with my misunderstanding. I also want to be sure I treat my students with this disability with respect as well. I need to create the classroom environment where these kids can thrive! The truth is we can all do better to understand this and support those that have it or the families navigating these murky waters.

5 Things I Learned from Lupus

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I feel like I am a success story with Lupus. One big reason is that the good Lord gave me mild symptoms and for that I am grateful, but another big reason is I have learned to live with it and know my place with this autoimmune disease. So here are the top five things I have learned after being in tune with my autoimmune:

1. What you eat matters!

This took me a while to accept but it is true. Certain foods (mostly processed) will send me into achy overdrive. It does not mean that I cannot or do not eat those delicious cheese fries, Cheetos or fried anything…but it does mean I know I will pay the price and honestly it is not always worth it.

2.Have less fear if the liquid is clear.

I had read somewhere that the darker the liquid, the more things added to it. No clue if it is true, but I have found the clear liquids do not send my body fighting as much as the dark. Coke, beer, sweet tea (why, God, why?) get me achy and fatigued, but if I stay with Vodka, Sprite or of course water then I can usually keep the party going.

3. Say yes to the mattress!

Who would say no to a good nap?? I immediately get sick when I live a lifestyle of less than 8 hours of sleep. Now life is busy so this is not always possible, but our bodies are made to need rest and we need to choose to listen.

4.Say NO to stress!!

As a teacher, stress is inevitable. A quote I read says “Teachers make more minute by minute decisions than a surgeon.” I believe this…so stress will happen, but I can choose to avoid stress whenever possible and I do. One way is I stopped watching reality shows or any show that is fighting just to fight…trust me this was hard…but Real Housewives or Mobwives just had to go. FB drama had to go too…I refuse to click on the video with the fight or add comments to the political posts going nowhere. In my marriage, when things get heated…I go to the word and prayer instead. Life in general is lived more peacefully when you know God is in control and has a purpose for you. Now, I am not quite at the place where yoga is more calming than painful, but I am sure I will get there.

5. FINALLY..Exercise helps.

This is tricky because overdoing it wears me out. Also, when I have already worked all day the last thing I have energy to do is go to the gym, but it helps. I will admit that. Probably helps with the stress and mind part of things, too. But I used to refuse to work out and now I make time for it. In the beginning, it is exhausting, but as you build stamina it gets better. 

Now I am sure you are all reading and thinking duh! Even people without Lupus know eat right, get exercise, and rest will help the body…but here is the question: do you do it? Likely, a little but not all the way. I have learned I have to do it or I have no energy, run a fever and experience joint pain. No fun, right? So everything is a choice but my choice is made loud and clear with my body. I have learned to (finally) listen to my Lupus for a happier life!

Power of a Teacher

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I never knew the value of a teacher until I put my son in a classroom. Up until this moment, there was no one human (beside his parents) influencing his life…now there is one person we call his teacher; it changed everything.

It started with her rules becoming our rules around the house. Like one day I said booty and he quickly chimed in “Ms. Monica says we do not say booty!” It later turned to the way she does things like pass out snacks or wash hands. I quickly learned Mrs. Monica is a powerful person and to get on the same page as her or be told I am doing it wrong.

Later it turned into more than that…more meaningful. When she picked up his early signs for seizures were starting again so we could call the doctor. When she could tell he was acting off and might have an ear infection. When we were worried about his development and she could honestly say what was normal or delayed or influenced by others. Her experience and input became very important and valued.

Finally, as he was in her class for over a year, she became like a second mom. I trusted her to call me if the symptoms got worse so I could come pick him up. She also would tell me good ideas for next birthday gifts based on things he enjoyed. Made me aware of good times and bad times with other kids since I would hear about it later anyway. Helped with the transition when he began to be over aggressive and allowed us time to correct it before labeling him the bad kid. When he fell she doctored it up and knew he loved band aids or helped me out when I forgot a blanket. She understood the vomiting was not sickness but a side effect of his meds so let him stay at school or the coughing was allergies and not a cold. She especially was a saint when he had diarrhea due to his meds and allergies and heroically changed him or kept him near the potty. Clearly going above and beyond, but did it anyway.

As a teacher myself, she understood that days off are hard so she helped out when she could or at least gave me time to get a lesson plan made and return. She gave patience, grace and mercy knowing that the teacher life gets complicated because you cannot just call in sick without creating a plan. I never expected this of her, but was grateful when she offered.

With all this talk about teacher this and that…it all changes when it is your kid and you really see their power and influence on your child. You want the best and I was fortunate to have that in Mrs. Monica. Today is his last day of Pre K. He will no longer go to this daycare as he starts Kinder with me in the fall. I am thankful he has had a great 2 years, but sad that it is over. It means he is growing up and moving on and the moving on means change which is hard for this mama. I will no longer have her as a partner in raising my child (and for those haters…teachers see the child awake more than the parent most days so yes they partner to raise them…the teacher should not do it all, though). 

So today I thank and salute the teacher that does way more than teach. I thank you for loving and praying and filling in the gaps that this working mom leaves. You are a gift from God and an answer to prayer. Your influence is endless and will be remembered for a lifetime as his first school teacher. Thank you!!

Present vs. Perfect

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Parenting is hard. Let’s face it there is no manual yet we all do the best we can. I found this in our backyard and it made me stop and think about how I can improve as a parent. My husband and I parent differently…not sure if it is a gender thing, but we do make different decisions at different times. Baths are optional for me, food can be eaten anywhere, matching is important…I cringe before teeth brushing time; the tough things in parenting scare me. I tend to avoid the meltdowns while my husband walks right into them boldly. 

But one thing he has mastered is being present. He plays, he colors, he draws, he throws, he catches, he mows only when kid can ride with him. He seizes the opportunities to have togetherness. I tend to work, clean or be busy instead. I am a work in progress and I know it is an area that I need to improve, but I tend to take the lazy way out. It could be my number 9 nature where I like things easy and this is where parenting is hard; doing the things that tire you out as I do not have the energy of a 5 year old. But thankfully my husband is there to step in where I fail as I continually change to be better. I want my son to remember those times of playing just he and I and way more than I want him to remember the house was clean or I finished my last book. So I proclaim that this will be the area I focus on this next school year to follow the motto “Wherever you are-be all there!” I will focus on doing what needs to be done to be present even if it means the things around me are less than perfect. This motto will be part of my classroom as well as I miss great conversations trying to get all my work completed.

Thankful for the fathers out there on this weekend made for you.  Thankful for you for all that you do that makes your kids smile. Thankful you carry the load with us mamas!

Urban to Rural…year one done!

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Last year, I made a big career move by switching from Mesquite ISD to Crandall ISD. Big move meaning less pay, less resources, went from 34 elementary schools in the district to 4, went from a support role with less stress to the classroom which meant more preparation…a lot of change! Now that the year is over I can say it was the right move, but I still miss Mesquite greatly; it was my home and still where I feel the most me.

But looking back here is a list of some of the biggest changes:

1. Resources- no printer in my room, a rough curriculum that was new, no chart paper readily available, one person was the go to for all the curriculum needs vs having department heads. All of this obviously due to size…this district is growing, but some of these perks are not needed yet.

2. Freedom- freedom to make your plans as you see fit, to try new ideas, to leave on time, to focus on teaching and not testing. Returning to the classroom could have only been done if I could reduce the stress and this district was the answer.

3. Respect-at my campus families still respect the profession. Behavior was awesome because parents would punish if not. Parent phone calls made a difference; the student behavior was to blame and not the teacher. The community valued the profession…lots of respect for this passion I pursue.

4. Pride- Mesquite has pride, but with so many schools that pride is spread out. So many great schools leads for lots of ways to shine which Mesquite often will, but this small town vibe sends all their students to one high school which leads to one big ball of CHS pride. I will love this in the future when I want to see former students and know where to find them.

5. Purpose- there is purpose at both but in Mesquite I knew mine daily. There you are more than a teacher..you are life. More is expected of you emotionally and spiritually. Your coworkers are your soldiers fighting the urban education battle of poverty with you. I was emotionally fatigued daily but I was needed, changing lives and doing the impossible daily. 

6. Connection..this will be the last reflection, but the smaller district gets you connected quicker.  We meet as a whole district to cheer each other on, parades and pep rallies are attended by the town, Friday night lights is a thing, the admin knows you by name and make sure to address your concerns…the lack of Title One money means there is not as much stuff, but the relationship of knowing who you are is powerful.

The purpose one often has me question if I will return to Mesquite or at least a campus in this district that is more needy..maybe even middle school someday, but for now I am trying to remember I did my 14 years in the trenches and it is now time to see a different side. Still tough, still needed, still so much work but with some benefits so I do not get burnt out. 

I am especially excited because my son comes to school with me next year!

Hard to believe this baby is now five!

If you are thinking about switching districts, my advice is think about the location, money and then your health. Decide what you can balance.  I am fortunate we could take the pay cut. The new location limits us since my family and our activities are in Mesquite plus Crandall is limited on food and shopping. We drive a lot, but at least not in the morning like I used to do for two years commuting to work. Being in the classroom is long hours, but adding driving time means you are away from home even more.  For me, it came down to health. Even when I was crying because I missed my support system and school where I was known and loved…I knew I was healthier because I was less stressed and had help when I needed it. Lupus is a disease triggered by stress and I need the less stress possible. Being in the classroom filled my passion, but it also brought back work only a classroom teacher could know. 

Health won.

I encourage you to pray to God about where he can use you and then obey. When it is all happening then you will have peace if you are in his will. Even during the tough times then you will know God led you here and He is with you.