Time for one last post for the year. Time to dismantle Christmas 2010. Time to close this chapter and year. Time to open a new chapter. Here is hoping that 2011 brings you new joys and strength to meet the challenges that arise.
"May God grant you always...A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you. And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you."
When I was in grade school there were 4 of us who shared the same birthday, and one whose birthday was the day before. I remember this because it was customary for you to bring cupcakes for your class on your birthday, so we always had a sugarfest at lunch these two days! In the last few years I have met 6 more people sharing this special day. Weird! Do you know 10 people who share your birthday? Not the famous people you can google, but people you actually know. I'll bet there are a lot more of us too, since 9 months prior to today (or thereabouts) was Valentine's Day! Hmmm - coincidence??? I wish we could gather for a cupcake party! Happy Birthday Trevor, Talena, Peter, Joey, Dan, Jackson, Julie, Marie, Mark, and Beth...and happy wedding day Matt! It's a great day!
I really just got tired of looking at my summer theme and the last post from the summer. :-]
The more things change the more they stay the same. Same job (sort of), just a different location for me. Same job, same location (for now), just a different company name for Gary. Things are good, we are still here, still following kids sports, still teaching and still raising dustbunnies.
You know the game "Seven Degrees of Seperation"? You sometimes find only one or two degrees of seperation in the most unexpected of places.
Sunday, we went out to hike a trail in Cade's Cove, while here in the Smokies. It was a beautiful (and challenging) hike. It was approximately 2.5 miles in to Abram's Falls and the swimming hole, and then 2.5 miles back out. Up and down a mountainside. As we hiked, many people just passed, without so much as a word. But Gary and I always greeted them with a smile and a "Howdy!" and often I asked where they were from as well. Lots of interesting short little conversations, meeting a couple from the Phillipines, a few from Louisiana and Texas, and other various locales.
On the way back, (I was behind the rest of the group) a family began walking by me, and I greeted them. They all answered back and when I asked where they were from, a woman about 40ish responded Cincinnati, and then the older woman (her mother I was guessing) responded "Fairfield".
me: "Ahh - Ohio?" "No," the woman answered "Illinois"
And from there the conversation went like this:
me: "Illinois? Really? Fairfield,Illinois???" woman: "Yes, why?" me: "My husband's family is from southern Illinois, and his grandparents lived in Fairfield for a long time. Their last name was Osterman." woman(now with a very funny look on her face): "Did he teach in Cisne?" me(now with goosebumps on my arms): "Yes, I believe so" woman: "Sixth grade?" me: "Umm, yes, I think so." woman (now with a big grin on her face): "He was my sixth grade teacher! I loved him!"
All I could do at this point was utter a loud shriek of "Are you kidding???"
We chatted for a few more minutes about family that we had in the small towns in the area and then parted ways. She and her husband were both from that area and still lived there, while the daughter moved to Cincinnati. Her last name (before marriage) was Townes and her husband's is Johnson. And those seven degrees were never shorter than at that moment!
This article appeared in the Chronicle earlier in the week. I wanted to link it that day, but got sidetracked. Casey points to issues we teachers have long questioned. Did we really pass or not? How do you want to spin the results? The problem with spinning results is that you get dizzy and forget or get lost. No telling where the SBOE is on this one. I won't miss it!
A Little History lesson TABS (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills), TEAMS (Texas Educational Assessment of Minimal Skills), TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills), TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) and now STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness)
A different feel this summer. Ending a chapter will do that.
Cleaning out my room at Watkins was strangely euphoric. I was anticipating sad. It was good to go through most everything and toss the totally useless, pass on the useless to me but useful to others, and keep everything else. I am really excited about the coming year now.
The summer schedule looks about the same - swim team, baseball, softball, and house stuff. Getting ready to gut the upstairs bathroom and do some other needed repairs and updates, as well as some major cleaning out of closets and kids' rooms. Fun fun fun!
We actually have a vacation planned to Tennessee that involves only a little sports this summer! It actually involved a fair amount of softball to start with, but Catherine got traded and then the Knoxville team moved to Nashville. So as it is we will see the Pride in Nashville for a couple days, then vacation in Knoxville. We will also make the yearly trek to OKC for World Cup. And possibly a trip to Sulphur, Louisana for NPF championships.
Well, retirement did not last long, but I knew it wouldn't. Well, I thought it might last a year maybe. I will have a new job beginning August next school year.
It all started about a month ago, just before spring break. My friend, Ellen, sent me a link from Craigslist with the note "You'll love this!" Now she sends me funny stuff, stuff to bring a smile to my day, so that is what I thought this might be. The link was a short posting for a biology teacher for a Catholic high school in the Katy area. Now there is only one Catholic high school in the Katy area, and I questioned if the post was legit or not. I mean Craigslist??? Really??? Ellen assured me that she thought it was legit, and her daughter had found a couple jobs through CL, so what did I have to lose?
The posting asked for no phone calls, so I put a resume together over spring break and sent it into cyberspance on the Monday we got back to school. Three weeks pass and I have heard nothing, so I figure it was bogus or they filled the position. then the last Thursday of TAKS (Apr 29) I get a phone call "We would like to schedule an interview." Wow! Interview scheduled for the following Monday (last week) and Thursday they call and tell me they would like me to join their staff.
So I did not start the year planning to retire, I am. I retire not really planning anything specific, I land a job! Lesson here - plan nothing! It all works out! It has been in my career plan all along to teach high school and to teach in a Catholic school, too. I get to do both.
I love when I hear about former students doing well in whatever. It makes me feel like I was a miniscule part of that in some way.
Through the years I have always run into former students working at different establishments around the area, while in high school and even a few after college here in the district and around. Seldom do I get someone else's view of them, though.
Eduardo was one of my 8th graders a couple years ago. He was pretty much a good kid; but like all 13 year olds, was more interested in getting out of work or doing as little as possible as quickly as possible. Not in trouble often, and very obsessive about his hair. :-)
There is a Randall's grocery store near here that is my regular grocery stop. I know the manager, John, well, and often see former students working there. John always has good things to say about them when I point them out as my former students. Today I was in John's line and Eduardo (who was hired about a month ago) was working the express line. Eduardo came by to say hello, and quickly got back to his line. John had nothing but great things to say about Eduardo. One week he was scheduled for only 16 hours and ended up working over 30 - coming in every time John called and asked, as long as he could get a ride. John went on to talk about how quickly he has picked things up and that he has not had to correct him once yet. Eduardo also has plans to go to school to be a registered nurse.
Thanks for making my day all my former students!!! You all rock!
Walking the dogs today, a young girl about 8 years old was on the greenbelt, with her grandmother, picking wildflowers and putting them in a nice basket. Periodically they would stop to look at what was going on around them - a flock of robins migrating, a colony of carpenter ants, two squirrels fighting. That's the kind of grandma I want to be!
Chris needs a duplicate Social Security card. I lost his original one. He finished the classroom part of Drivers Ed in November, but needs his SS card to get his permit and do the driving part. So I sent in his birth certificate and my passport and the application only to get it back. They need another piece of identification for Chris, the letter says.
So we get a VOE (verification of enrollment) from school and send it in with the other papers only to get them back again. This time the VOE is not good enough because it does not have his birthdate on it. The letter also says something about my pasport not being accceptable as well, this time. So I decide to try to go to the office during spring break and clear the mess up.
I get to the new SS office, take a number and sit and wait for just about an hour before my number is called. While there I notice that there are 48 service windows. Only about 12 of them are staffed and there is a good sized crowd, about 40-50 people waiting in my room, another room has about that many as well.
When I get to the window, the guy asks what I need, and I tell him I want to know why our application for a duplicate card keeps getting sent back, taking out all the identifications I had for Chris in his folder at home. He informs me that a birth certificate is not an acceptable form of identification. It says you can use it on the website though. Only for an infant, he responds. Chris' passport is expired and therefore not valid for ID (I expected that, but brought it anyway). His VOE from school is not good because it does not have his birthdate on it. The baptismal certificate is good only if it was issued less than 4 years ago. Like a dummy I answered truthfully when he asked when I got it. And the immunization record from the doctor's office is no good because it is a copy and has not signature on it. So you mean all I have to do is get this signed by the doctor's office and I am good. Yes, he acknowledges.
So off I go to the pediatrician's office. I chill for an hour at the mall because the doctor's office is closed for lunch. I walk in and tell the receptionist what I need. One of the nurses comes over, signs the form, and off I go again. Back to the SS office.
Sit in the SS office once more, this time for 87 minutes. Walk up to the service window when my number is called and present the signed copy of the immunization record, the application and my passport. Clerk looks at it, says "Fine and thank you" handing me my receipt, telling me that Chris' card should be here within 2 weeks.
All I could think of was that I wasted at least 2 hours of time. I should have just walked out, signed the paper myself and walked back in! They would have never known the difference.
Nine years in elementary school (K-8), four years in high school, 6 years in college for my BS, and 28 years teaching = 47 years in a classroom of one kind or other.
June 3, 2010 - I retire from public education.
I am excited to be able to take some time and figure out the next chapter. I usually have it pretty well planned out, but not this time. The decision to retire only started to simmer a couple weeks ago. The latest round of budget cuts just made the decision easier.
I am sad to leave my absolutely awesome 8th grade team, and my wonderful science department. But everybody has to go sometime, and it is time for me! I leave knowing I did make a difference, and although some things will be left unfinished or not 100% successful, like my athlete children, I leave knowing I did give 110%, sometimes at the expense of others near and dear to me.
But now they get 110% of me, whether they want it or not.
...when schools get all the money they need and the Army has to hold a bake sale to build a bomber?
That was a t-shirt I saw years ago in the Public TV/radio catalog. I wish, now, I had bought it. School financing in Texas has reached crisis levels again, especially in our district. We still have a 20% homestead exemption, and even though getting rid of it would mean more money for the district, it would not be a good thing PR wise, obviously. Kind of like Texas instituting a state tax. Won't ever happen.
The state will not allow us more money unless we repeal the homestead, so now we tighten our belts even more than before. The district had an outside company do an audit and come up with suggestions for ways to cut the budget. Reading it made me ill.
This past week, the district admin and principals have been meeting trying to hash out what budget cuts will and won't work. Do more with less, and still do what is best for kids. I am not so sure about that, this time.
Among the cuts - doing away with all co-teach classes, and replacing them with "In Class Support". A co-teach class has 2 teachers in class for the whole period every day. It supports students who are most likely below level in reading (like 3-6 grade levels below) but allows them to be in a regular science or US History class. It is a "least restrictive environment". In Class Support is a paraprofessional or possibly a certified teacher in the class for about 20 minutes 1-5 times per week, depending on what is decided at the child's ARD.
This year, I have one extremely challenging class. It has 16-18 kids out of 28 who are in a reading class of one type or another (meaning they failed the TAKS reading test) and a few are only reading at 1st-3rd grade level. Several are in Math block (meaning they failed the math TAKS), several are ESL (both active and monitor only), almost all of them are econ disadvantaged as well and there are 5 co-teach kids. I have a co-teacher in that class, and the thought of trying to teach that class without someone in there every minute of every day is daunting to say the least. I could not do it! I might as well cut off my right arm.
I don't know where money could come from, but budget cuts are never in the best interest of kids. Among other cuts - going from a 5/7 teaching day to a 6/7 teaching day was expected. Cutting all department chairs and team leader positions was a surprise. So much for instructional leadership. It will take effect this year at the middle schools and next year at the high schools.
We want excellence in education, but we expect teachers/schools to do it with less and less. I want that t-shirt. I want the Army to have to hold a bake sale.
At inservice this past Monday, we were being inundated with the idea of a 21st century learner and what skill set they need to be successful in the future. The thought floating around in my head since then is "Why and/or how is the 21st century learner any different than the 20th century learner? Is it REALLY that different?" I don't think so. The tools might be different, but the desired skill set is no different today than it was for my great-grandfather at the turn of the 20th century.
We want students today to be problem solvers, information seekers and analyzers, to be literate and able to communicate clearly. My great-grandfather was born in 1873 and came to the US from Europe in 1898 or so. He had to be able to do all those things in order to 1) travel across the ocean and halfway across the continent 2) successfully buy property and set up his farm and 3) sell the farm and set another business when time came. The only difference I see is that he lived in the time of exponential growth of transportation. Today we are seeing exponential growth in information systems. But what do we need to do that is so very different than 100 years ago? I don't think it is anything.
That being said, do we need to change the way we teach kids today? Hell yes. the changes in the delivery of our information makes for a different type of learner than 100 years ago, but they still need the same skills. We do not need to invent another wheel! There - rant over. I feel better already!
Our neighbor behind us, a divorced mom of 2, moved out the other night and left every light in the house on, including the backyard lights. There has been one of those huge dumpsters parked in her driveway for several days now, as well. No clue why or what happened though, other than the dumpster seems to be filled with debris from tree pruning and yard work.
This always makes me sad, even though I don't know them well at all. Weird, I know!
I did not get to send out cards this year, time just flew by. So to all 5 of my followers and everyone I would have sent a card to - here is a recap of the year in the Houston O house.
What stayed the same? I am still at Watkins - and still loving the changes I see happening. Catherine is still at DePaul coaching, still playing with USA when they are in season. Craig is still at McMurry, swimming. Gary is still at XTO, enjoying his work. Michelle is still in Dallas, Neil & Jane in Wimberly, Sue & Dave and Sharon in Wisconsin, and mom still in Antioch.
What has changed? Gary's company was sold to Exxon/Mobil. That could mean changes in the future, we will wait and see. Rockford Thunder was sold and was moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and renamed the Diamonds. Chris started high school, he is a Cy Lakes Spartan now, swimming and playing baseball. My brother moved to Kentucky, officially closing the Chicago location of Chez Kellen. But it means we now get to learn and explore Lexington soon!
We said goodbye to my dad. He is missed daily, but thought of every time I hear or read a bad joke! I see Heineken, Tangueray, or smell cigars and think of him. It was amazing to see all the famiy and friends that turned out to help us say goodbye to him; especially Brian coming in from Afghanistan wearing his dress blues at the funeral. No man is a failure who has friends.
While visiting Chicago, I also got to reconnect with a couple old friends - always nice. Lisa and Monica are never far away in my thoughts even though we don't talk often.
We also said goodbye to Duke, the king of the house. But then we welcomed Rowdy, the prince of mischief.
Travels once more took us to sporting events - swim meets in San Antonio (visiting Mike and Diane) and Dallas (visiting Michelle), baseball tournaments around Houston, and softball once again in Oklahoma City (seems like our second home).
We spent the Christmas holiday with Gary's folks and brother Bret and his kids. We rented a house on the beach near Clearwater. Nothing can replace sitting in a raucous house on Christmas Eve, watching the cousins enjoy themselves playing pool and flying helicopters. It was beautiful weather, with a couple warm days and an awesome day spent at Universal. If you want a rec for a beach house, I have a great one!
And so now we look forward to what the next decade has to offer. If it is anything like the last decade, I am in for a great ride! I can't wait!