Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Pain in the Neck or Wherever...

In one of my recent blogs, I mentioned that sometimes I skip a blog day because I am having significant pain. Those of us who are in the chronic category of pain and have become enlightened to what's out there know that it is not good to live with pain. I know a lot of people who think that living with pain is some type of martyrdom. There are those who won't go to docs for some reason. But what they don't realize is that the longer a person stays in chronic pain, the more permanent the pain becomes. It has to do with nerve pathways.

Anyway, if you are in pain, it would be a good idea to find a pain doctor. There are many organizations that represent people in pain. Some of them are: American Chronic Pain Association, American Academy of Pain Medicine and the American Pain Foundation.

Many people who take medication for chronic pain still live active, happy lives. There are also many activities that reduce pain, yoga, for example. Also - swimming, meditation...My favorite is knitting.

Stay close!


P.S. I don't mind blogging away happily knowing that only one person is reading my blog. I'm not sure why I am so shy about letting people know that I have one. I haven't even told my family and friends. Oh, I did tell Sofia's mom so she could see Sofia's pretty sweater online!

Ravelry /The Trouble with Substitute Teaching

This blog is supposed to be about substitute teaching, but let me just start with a knitting comment. Last night I signed into Ravelry. (Yes, thank you Charles Leck for teaching me how to do a link!) For those of you who do not know, Ravelry is an online knitting community. I joined not knowing the POWER of a community like this. I have never joined MySpace or any of the other social networking sites, but if you are a knitter Ravelry can take you places you never dreamed of in the knitting world. You really have to join to understand, but I am working on my little Ravelry "world" as we speak. If you are a knitter, please join. It takes a few days. (There is a waiting list). Have I piqued your curiousity? I hope so.

Now, for substitute teaching. The trouble with it (or ONE of the troubles) is that you don't always work on the days you want to. That's pretty obvious. What isn't obvious maybe to some people is that if you want to work, you have to be ready to work even if you do not have a job arranged the night before. Let me try to explain. The high schools that I work for start classes at 7:20 am, an ungodly hour for Mr. Kotters and sweathogs alike. Frequently, I will get my phone call to sub at 6:45 am. It takes me a good 90 minutes to get ready. Make coffee, eat cereal, shower and use (ahem) the bathroom, get dressed, put on my face, (when I was 25 I could skip this part, but no more...), pack a get the picture. So, what I have to do, is get up at 5:15 whether I have a job or not, do all those things, and see if I get called. This is what I did both yesterday and today. And guess what...I'm at home blogging. And making $0.00 for doing it.

I like at home days, but with the economy the way it is, I should have been working today!

My best to you. If you google Mr. Kotter, you can watch old episodes.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Substitute Teaching

I've been busy teaching, so teaching is on my mind. Two years ago, I retired from 31 years of teaching in public schools. One year of elementary teaching in a 2nd and 3rd grade classroom. The basis of this class was - "Let's give the rookie the worst behaved kids". I was exactly 20 years old when I got this job and 21 when I resigned allegedly to get married. My "fiancee" and I broke up 3 months later. Then after graduate school, I taught for 4 years in a depressed section of Chicago. My students were cognitively and emotionally high risk preschoolers ages three to five. I would have up to twelve students at a time by myself. I begged for help but received none. Then for the next 21 years I took on a special education position mainly in a high school here in Missouri. When I burned out of sped, I became an English teacher and served my last 5 years in the pursuit of helping at least some of my students enjoy the sight and sound of our language.

When I retired at the end of the 2006-2007 school year, it was more because of my chronic pain than it was the changes in the field of education (the demeanor of students, the lack of parental concern, No Child Left Untested laws, administrative woes, lack of support, lack of money for training and supplies). I was somewhat done with the job, but I will always miss the connection that I had with students. I never won any Teacher of the Year awards because these are almost all political. (I was Teacher of the month once in Sept. 1999! Whoopee!) However, some of the feedback I received from parents, administrators and students led me to believe that I was an adequate if not good if not exceptional teacher, and despite the bad case of "imposter syndrome" that I suffer, there are times when I am confident enough to believe that I did actually make a difference. I know that when I had a personal relationship with a student, he was more likely to be respectful and motivated.

This brings me to my experience of yesterday. I substituted at a high school for a special ed teacher whose main job was to assist with mainstreaming 9th and 10th grade students with learning difficulties and emotional problems into regular math, and science classrooms. I particularly noted that in almost every class, the students (both the ones with IEPs and those without) frequently talked back to the teachers, used bad language, ignored the instruction, talked to each other during the instruction, refused to do the tasks assigned, and failed quizzes and tests. In the classroom in which the regular teacher was present , I noticed that her attitude was that the kids cannot learn anyway. This was a teacher who is only one year from retirement, and while I can't assume that she has had the training that I have had over the years in dealing with at-risk and special needs students, I would assume that she has had SOME inservice training on motivation, classroom instruction, organization, classroom management, effective instruction etc. etc.!!! All teachers in Missouri are required to take a classes in Exceptional Learners for certification. I did not observe any techniques on the part of the teacher that would help the students with motivation, control, or development of positive social relationships.

What I saw was pitiful. Yes, the students were rude, ignored instruction, talked to each other etc. But it was very clear that the teacher had reinforced this behavior since the beginning of the school year. She had told me before class that most of the students had failing percentages. Her major technique for control was telling the student that he/she would lose points for poor behavior. When I asked if she gave extra points for good behavior, she just looked at me...

In another classroom in which the regular teacher was absent, the rudeness and poor behavior of the students was so striking that I asked them to behave as if the regular teacher were present.
They told me that they acted the same way when the regular teacher was there. This was confirmed other school personnel.

I have seen wonderful teachers in my time affect students in wonderful ways. My sister, Amy Hathaway, helps elementary students with learning disabilities with incredibly positive and creative drive. My husband taught Art and Art History for 31 years and still receives letters and phone calls from students who became teachers, artists, or designers, and credit him with inspiring them to excel. My friend Dorci Leara in Arizona is a star among English teachers,
motivating them to read and write, to become authors and journalists. My long lost friend Mercedes Lopanec, now in Florida, is the amazingly gifted teacher who showed me how to get through to every single student in classes as large as 34 students. This was inspiration I used every single day of my teaching career and even into my "career" as a substitute. My daughter, Annie, has the gift. She tutored Math with drop-outs, parolees, and drug offenders who were working their way back to GEDs. I am sure she inspired them.

I guess the point of this post is that it is a royal shame that students are rude, disrespectful, and unmotivated. But, I know that more, much more, could come from a few teachers who aren't digging deep enough into how they really feel about their students and what is expected of them.

Today very closely knit,


P.B. Mark's scarf is now 18" long. The green and grey are beautiful together. Much thanks to KnitPicks for making delicious yarn affordable.

P.P.B. Someone explain to me how to make words in my blog into links.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two different kinds of pain

The reason I haven't posted in several days is pain. I am a chronic pain patient. I won't bore you with the details, but when I am having a bad bout I can't sit at the computer. So no new blogs. If you are suffering with pain of any kind. Don't suffer. Get help. There are pain management clinics and docs that specialize in interventional pain management. Google those words. I'll try to get you some links. I won't be sitting for very long today.

The other pain I am having is California's Prop 8. I can't understand someone voting to take away a right that someone already has. It is disgraceful that the Mormon Church could serve up so much spiritual violence in one fell swoop. And the fact that they targeted California is sickening.
We will win this battle. If you want to join this movement, and especially if you are nauseated by how religious groups use the Bible to torture homosexuals in as many ways as they can, go to An amazing group.

I hope I will be able to post blogs more often. Yesterday I almost took the whole blog down. But if you can be patient...

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative commentator who also happens to be gay writes about Prop 8 in his recent blog in the Daily Dish. More on that later.

I have my husband's scarf on my needles. It is grey and green, bulky yarn from KnitPicks (Cadena), and I'm improvising a pattern from one he saw on the Banana Republic website.

Trying to stay out of pain and closely knit...GbLts, keep your chins up!