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can you be thankful? generous?

Friday, February 24, 2012
If you ever have a day when you are hard pressed to find some a reason to look at the blessings in your life, you need to consider things that we all take for granted. There was a recent blog that mentioned such mudane common items as fresh, potable water that we use to flush our bodily functions with. And, laugh if you must: the joy of toilet paper...

Think about how many places in the world are desperate for the stuff we throw away and would gladly take things we discard like water to cook with and drink: so many are without or have to walk miles to find, and trudge those same miles to return to their families, carrying liquid that weighs eight pounds per gallon.

Do you have a stove that comes on in an instant, as opposed to walking for miles to find firewood to haul back to a small handmade structure where you cook on an open fire to feed your hungry children?

Are you wearing clothing that suits your preference and weather conditions instead of nothing, or cast-off ill-fitting donations from foreigners who think they are being generous by sending used shoes and worn out jeans.

Do you have a warm, dry, safe place to spend the night, where you do not have to worry about the safety and well-being of your children? Abed in a place that is relatively clean, with temperature controls, where you walk down the hall and adjust to 'warmer' or 'cooler' at your convenience? Ever thought about life in a refugee camp, living under a tarp, or out in the open, dependent on the goodwill and mercy of total strangers to provide the next meal, clothing, water for your hungry, thirsty children?

We are all so caught up in a society that has so much, seeing unnecessary stuff advertised in the media, produced by huge, well-funded corporations: promoting the Next Best Ever, that we Need To Own.

Think about what's Really Important and Be Thankful.

Remember that quote about griping about ill-fitting shoes and then seeing a man with none: I recently saw a guy with only one foot, sitting on the tail gate of a pick-up truck, man-handling a wheel chair, trying to get it on the pavement so he could get around.

Kinda puts complaining about having to walk, (heaven forbid - not finding a parking slot near the entrance to the store that has everything you need and pulling out a plastic card to pay for your goods) or not having the newest, best shoes in perspective.

up and down the road - again....

Monday, February 20, 2012
IF there was any way to insure sound sleep, I would be in favor of celebrating President's day by going back to bed. But knowing that I would just lay there and ponder, fret, flop over and over and over, as I did for about two hours after waking up at 4:30, I know better than to put my head down on the pillow again.

Publix job had me working five days last week: Saturday through Wednesday. With Thursday off to get some errands and household chores done. Friday was the day to get up at 4:30 (who needs an alarm clock??!!) and drive to Decatur for a short interlude before going on to Chattanooga for the weekend.

We got up at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, to arrive at Berry College in Rome by 8:30, for the running of the Half-Marathon on the beauty-full Berry campus. My job was to cheer, clap, and give the famous whistle, jump up and down, be loud and obstreperous: definitely not a participant.  Though I know I could have walked the distance for the 5-k (three mile) choice, and burned a few calories while we were waiting for the runners to run the course.

I think I remember hearing that Berry College with all their agriculture classes and animal husbandry-cow raising pastures, is the largest college campus in the nation. I expect those hundreds of hearty souls who ran the thirteen-plus miles of the race saw much more than they wanted by the time they got to 'finish'. Our guy crossed over the line in less that two hours: amazing, astounding, remarkable, and Very Impressive!

Then we had to be back in Ft. Oglethorpe for a birthday party. Which was  mildly amusing. Especially since it was the grown-up kids versus the seven-year old kids in a game of Laser Tag. Hopefully the adults had the advantage of size and strategy - but it is likely short people won due to experience, as I don't think any of the others (myself included) had ever had such an opportunity for craziness in the dark. I still need to put 'laser tag' on my bucket list, so I can mark it off. It was pretty interesting and a whole lot less painful/stressful than paintball.

We also investigated 'trail rides' while we were there (as if battling a crew of seven-year-olds with electronics was not enough excitement for one weekend). I thought I was interested in riding horses in the park, but it has been so long since I have looked at the world from the perspective of that height, I am sure I will need to practice that particular skill on more level ground first. It has been many years since I have looked at the world from between two point-y ears of a large mammal, I fear I don't know how to 'drive' such a large creature, and will have want to brush up on the finer points, before I get off in the woods on something that size that may or may not be controllable.

There was a time, many many years ago when I was on the back of such a large,opinionated animal who was intent on the food bucket, headed home-ward, that I nearly got knocked off. When he trotted under a low hanging limb, focused on the helping of sweet-feed that awaited upon a return to the stall, I didn't duck quickly enough to avoid getting a hard whack. We both arrived back at the pen at the same time, but I learned to be far more deliberate in my choice of paths as we got close to his food trough. I can't remember the last time I have been on horseback, I definitely need a refresher course.

dedicated to Nick and Diana

Sunday, February 12, 2012
There is a young  couple I know and attend church with who are planning to leave town and what I assume is a fairly good employment situation to take themselves and three kids and go to live on a Mercy Ship. I am awed. I am overwhelmed. I am so excited for them.

I am horribly, terribly, unbearably envious of their daring and devotion. I am delighted to think of what an amazing opportunity they are jumping into, heading out  to be the 'hands and feet', and especially to  model servanthood for their family. What an amazing situation to take kids into: living on a ship full of people dedicated to serving the under-served, those in the most desperate need of medical care who have no financial resources and cannot do anything to help themselves. Taking  your family to the far side of the planet, but in a situation where all your basic needs are provided, which allows you to focus on the people you will meet. To go into the 'uttermost parts of the world' and provide modern medical care to people that will forever change their lives - just the medical care alone will have a permanent, dramatic effect. Each individual the Mercy Ship provides care for will be changed: possibly giving individuals an opportunity get education they desperately want, jobs they need to provide for families, acceptance in a society that had previously shunned them, a chance to have a family, re-build relationships, establish themselves in their communities.

But also using the opportunity to minister to their hearts and fill them with Living Water. It is going to be such a fantastic time for the entire family. It makes me so envious. And thinking of how I wish something like this had happened in my life when I had kids young enough to be easily portable, and I was daring enough leap into such an amazing opportunity to give my family such a life-changing experience. Wow. Oh, wow....

it was a mess of my own making...

Friday, February 10, 2012
After I got down to the south side of town this morning, I discovered the job I had driven nearly thirty minutes to get to did not exist. I called the computer and found that I had accidently agreed to a position that needed to be filled next Tuesday, and showed my foolish self up for today. They asked me if I would take a fourth grade class, and I said yes (but the expression on my face quite obviously said "No").

So they wondered if I might take a second grade position - and I kinda, sorta, half-heartedly agreed. The male sub. who had been sent to the second grade was re-routed to the fourth grade (which was, in my opinion, a Great Idea - he was quite large and readily intimidating for little people of any age - would be much more effectively used to mange a room full of ten year olds), and I was placed, completely un-prepared, in a room with two dozen 7 and 8 year olds who tried their best to give me a head-ache.

It could have been worse. Somehow, I know it could have. But I survived. Even though at one point I sent a student to the office with a note that said he needs to have his attitude adjusted. When he came back, I asked who he saw and what happened. He reported that the principal told him he better  not see him back there for the rest of the day. I think it helped that we all went out on the playground and wandered around in the fresh air and vitamin D for half an hour after lunch, when the teacher had only allotted us ten minutes of outdoor time.

I am sure it could have been worse: I could have been in a class full eleven year olds with hormones and attitudes.And the lesson I learned is to check much more carefully before I hit the 'yes' button that commits to a job - to be sure it is not getting me into another mess of my own making.

another sub. teaching job: I definitely got educated...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
When I went into the pre-K classroom for the substitute teaching job I had the first of the week - I was a little fearful of what 'can of worms' I had opened up... I need to explain what it's like to find a job - so you will see how stressful just making the commitment to getting up and going can be: You can either accept a job when the computer starts  making calls at 6 a/m, and again at 6p/m, or you can look on the Subfinder website with the school district to see what is out there.

I call it 'fishing' or 'trolling' and think that the people who manage the program call it 'job shopping' - whatever. It is obvious that people who are looking for work are a discriminating lot: due to the fact that the majority of jobs I take are for positions as a para-professional/aide. The para. jobs are required by the state, likely funded through the lottery money that pays for the pre-K. classes. I assume the financial support includes teachers' salaries, materials in the classrooms, and probably 'rent' for the class rooms that is paid to the school district.

As I understand it: for every ten children in a pre-K/lottery funded class, they are required by law to have one adult in the room: so if there are eleven little people, there must be two adults. And if perchance the class had 21 (not a manageable situation with four-year olds!) there would have to be three adults to meet the guidelines established by the state Dept. of Ed. that wrote the rules for the program. So - most of the work I end up with is replacing missing para-pros - probably due to the fact that sub. pay for a para is about 2/3 of what a certified teacher is paid. I don't mind doing the work of either - but of course would rather be paid $100 for a thankless job than $65 for an equally thankless day of general chaos...

My choice is to go into a classroom where there are normally two adults: just to have someone in there who knows the names, knows the routine/schedule, can identify at the ones who are in need of correcting and nip the behavior in the bud immediately. So that pretty much limits my sub. work to pre-K, K, and First grade. I know the school district is stretched thin financially, and will likely try to eliminate even more para-pro. positions to lower expenses, as the aides are already now covering more than one first grade class in the course of a day - floating from room to room, greatly affecting effectiveness of teachers who depend on them for support in classroom activities and implementing lessons.

So here, finally, is my story about last Monday. I was looking for a job Sunday night. And found one on the website that was for a pre-K teacher. When you click on a specific job, you only have sixty seconds to accept or decline. But it indicated that there were 'special instructions', that you had to access by phone: so here I am on the computer, trying to find out what I need to know on the phone, while the 'meter is running' on the one minute timer...The recorded info. from the teacher said that it was an 'inclusive' class - which sounded pretty ominous, but I decided to take a chance, and accepted the job.

I got to the school and found two para-pros,or maybe three, I never did fully figure out what was going on.
The kids watched some cartoons on the white-board, which was only semi-operable. And did a Valentine coloring sheet, and colored in a construction paper heart shape. And went to the gym to burn off some energy. And went out on the playground for about fifteen minutes before it began to drizzle and we had to come in. And listened to a couple of books being read, and the telling of the Three Bears story - which really caught their attention, better than picture books.

But as far as learning anything: I think I was the only one who did that. Discovering that 'inclusive' means there are children in there with behavior problems, learning problems, birth related problems. Likely a more p.c term for what used to be called 'mainstreaming'. (This explains why there were three other adults in the classroom, along with me. I guess it also explains why when other teachers were MIA that day, and they could not find subs., the principal took on a class himself instead of pulling me out to go into another room that needed a teacher or pulling out one of the aides who was there to help mange the children with 'issues' to cover another classroom.) The thing is when there are half a dozen kids out of twenty who are in constant need of management/correction - it's hard to capture and retain the attention of the ones who are capable of learning and truly want to be there.

I don't think keeping children with learning disorders isolated is the solution - but am also convinced that putting them in with others who are capable and can soak up information/knowledge like sponges is a huge dis-service. To the parents as well as students who need those basic skills to build upon for the next grade/step. The ones who are co-operative, absorbed with the world around them, ready for learning, are being truly limited by the fact that so much of classroom time and the teacher's attention must be constantly on the ones who are impulsive, out of control, unmanageable, and unwilling (or incapable of) maintaining focus on the instructional materials.

I don't have any suggestions, but it was dis-heartening to think that those mothers sent those little people to learn, and I don't think it occurred.

moving ahead with my plan...

Saturday, February 4, 2012
After I got over being so distressed about finding myself secretly dropped from the donor list of eligible blood marrow transplantees, I decided to pursue donating a kidney. What???? Why? Are you Crazie? Well, yes, probably. But that's nothing new to anyone who knows me fairly well.

I have been patiently waiting for many years to get the call that they had found a use for my marrow, even though I understand the harvesting part is excruciating, and I am a class A wimp. But when I discovered late last year that I am past the age of being considered for transplanting my marrow into someone who could use it - it made me sad. I've been enjoying it all this time, and it still seems to be perfectly good to me. Maybe not the freshest ever after all this time - but remember: I am the one who can eat things out of the 'fridge that would make anyone else here deathly ill, without any apparent ill effects to my digestive tract. So I assumed I was taking good care of my marrow too.

I read an article several weeks back about a combination of people who had donated or received kidneys in a kind of round-robin situation, and thought: well, maybe.... so I checked to see where the nearest hospital that does transplants is: Emory in Atlanta. I made the call a couple of weeks ago, and talked to someone who set me up with a telephone appointment. Which we did last week while I was in Valdosta. And I got a stack of paperwork the first of this week, which I mostly completed today. And will finish up to get in the mail and send back to the transplant program on Monday.

It is understandably complicated. You'd want to be sure you were going to have success if you went to all the trouble to have someone else's body part inserted into your personal space. If the paperwork appears satisfactory, I would have to go at some point to spend a couple of days having a lot of outpatient testing done to be sure everything is in good working order. And then they would have to find the recipient.

When I was doing the phone interview last week, the nurse asked who that person was, and I said I did not know. She said: 'Oh, you are an altruistic donor?' I said 'No, not really...I don't think so - I just have something someone needs and don't mind sharing'. In the same way I donate a pint of blood four or five times a year (even though I know this is much more involved and risky). It's just something I have - spare parts, and I know it can make a big difference in someone's life.

So... we will see how things go. She told me they take the 'spare' out laproscopically, and only make about a three inch incision - which shortens recovery time considerably. But I am pretty sure the person who gets the upgrade has a much larger hole with all it would take to get the plumbing reattached.

on the road (a whole lot) again...

Friday, February 3, 2012
Having just gotten back from a round trip this afternoon to Americus, 75 miles each way, I am ready to confess: Tired :-( Obviously a result of all the flapping and dancing around that accompanies burning one's candle at both ends while trying to find a place in the middle to hang on, as one gets covered with hot dripping candle wax.

I was in Decatur for the day two weeks ago tomorrow, (driving up and back that same Saturday) celebrating with the self-promoting Birthday gal. And went back this week, to-ing and fro-ing (at least that one was an overnight trip) when I went to visit my pen-pal in South Carolina. In between all that, I spent a day and a half in south GA providing transportation and assistance to my auntie in Valdosta when she had scheduled cataract surgery.

I had not factored Valdosta in my travel plans or probably would not have chosen last weekend to go to Chattanooga to visit. But I did go and go and go.And hope I won't be going any place that involves buying another tank of gas (especially now that it is $3.49 here. - though I found some in TN last weekend for $3.18, and some in Americus for $3.40 today.)

I expect to be working my part-time, off-and-on, minimal/marginal employment Publix gig for several days before Feb. 14, and if my calendar is  not swamped with volunteer 'opportunities' next week, will try to get in a couple of days of sub. teaching. The only thing that keeps me going back to sub. work is when I remind myself that it is only for 6 1/2 hours - and I think I can tolerate most anything that long...plus the fact that I don't depend on it!

diversity of an unexpected sort....

A couple of substitute teaching jobs the first of the week have been on my mind since I survived two days in the public school classrooms. Pondering the differences in management styles has created some interesting unanswerable questions...Observing how individuals choose to apply and enforce discipline has been educational and thougth-provoking. Knowing that being a teacher is one of the most thankless jobs ever - and getting more-so on a daily basis, I'm certainly not the person who has Any of the answers to how one might go about instilling discipline when there is often none in other areas of a five year olds' life.

Both classes were students who were first grade level - and there is often a huge variance in the abilities, skills and overall maturity level of little people that age. Just spending one day with them, and taking the time to listen to them read a couple of sentences, either doing it smoothly, or stumbling over 'sight words' that they should easily recognize makes it plain that some have a home life that involves books. That they receive time from their 'elders', with individual attention devoted to the written word, and people in their lives who know what they will need to be on track for success as they advance through the system.

I spent several hours in one class with a little boy who lead  me to believe he was disrespectful, defiant and had an all 'round bad attitude. But when he was reading to me, one-on-one, I was astounded at his ability to whiz right through those little 8 page books. He is far more capable, advanced than what the teacher was having him do. I know there is value in repetition- but his was 'way ahead of her in that 'game', ready for second grade (or higher) challenges with his reading material.

The class I was with on Monday was general all-around chaos. A group of twenty kids who apparently had little to no 'impulse control', continually chatting and highly distractable. Really unable to stay on task and finish work due to being so 'sociable' - which in itself, is not a bad thing. But when being so willing to converse causes one to never finish an assignment, it is definitely not a good thing. They were just like a group of magpies - in constant conversation.

It's so difficult for a substitute, not knowing names, unable to identify students by name, and correct behavior on an individual basis to Nip It In The Bud, it was a very frustrating day. I had several people who came in the room during the course of the day: a rotating para-pro, a couple of high school students, who could 'pin' names on them, who were helpful. Sonetimes it is just a matter of calling out a name, catching their attention and giving that particular wanderer the 'stink-eye' to get him/her back on the right path

I believe a lot of management/control is just being able to call someones' name to get their attention: name-to-kid. The teacher did try to help with that, leaving construction paper 'tents' (paper folded in half the long way) for them to write their names on that should have been helpful - but ultimately that idea only served as a great distraction as they kept playing with, decorating, moving them all day. So though I could identify the most likely suspects/culprits by the end of the day, I could not actually attach names to them.

On the second day, I was the Para-pro, and moving through the day in two different, adjacent classrooms (in addition to lunch room duty for a head-ache inducing hour). Those teachers, maybe the whole school, with a different 'tenor', discipline theory established by the administration, were Very Firm. Both I spent time with were quite strict in the way they managed classrooms, expected standards of behavior to be maintained. Really enforcers of propriarty/minimum standards. I was at times a little taken aback at the way they talked to the kids, but believe if you establish high standards from the get-go, and show you are willing to enforce your expectations, they are much more likely to be met.

So I guess with all they are expected to accomplish in the course of the day, week, school year, the kids come closer to meeting the goals someone in the remote state Dept. of Ed. sets for five and six year olds is mostly met.

It's been very educational - for me. And I'm not the one who needed to know. It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with someone who was trying to correct behavior of a seven year old: I commented at how impressed I was with the adults' willingness to be the 'enforcer', stay with the child until the task was completed. That time devoted to the follow through seems to be equally as important as the initial instruction: if you don't stick around to see that it is thoroughly completed, not willing to devote yourself to knowing it was really done - it likely won't be finished, and you will find yourself saying 'arggghhh' when you are the one picking up the remnants of fun from hours ago. Remnants that are no longer fun, but an annoying nusiance since the person who created the amusement was not made to take responsibility for the activity. Not fully aware - as few if any, little people are: actions have consequences.

Which is basically what I see at the issue here: kids with no impulse control, not being taught that there will always be consequences to what they do (or don't) get accomplished. Which causes them to engage in so much impulsive behavior. (This includes kids of all ages who do not think through the responsibility that goes along with pet ownership..because if they did - there would be fewer household animals in need of on-going, never ending maintenance.)

But now that I have seen it - I understand every time I go into a classroom how under-valued our teachers are. And how thankful I am that I am not 22 and out there as a freshly minted education major, expectantly thinking to be an agent of change...