Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy No Kids For Two Weeks!!

Wahoo! I'm done I'm done I'm done! I made it! Ok, so it's only two weeks off, but still. I get time to myself. And wouldn't you know it that last night, right after one of the hardest spin classes I've ever taken, I got sick. Of course. So I've been O.D.ing on vitamins since last night.

Today's party was fabulous. In the past, I've allowed the kids to plan the party with a couple students in charge. It's always so stressful because they're in charge of setting up and cleaning and of course they make it a HUGE deal with decorations and games and blah, blah, blah. This year, I gave that up. I decided that I needed to regain control of my classroom parties. Instead, I had kids volunteer to bring food in. So today we ate and we watched a movie. That's it. I organized the layout of the food, the came up and got it table by table, we ate, we watched a movie. Wow. What an incredible difference. They cleaned up after themselves (imagine that), I gave the leftover food to the kids who brought it, and we were done. I was cleaned up before school even got out. Apparently I do need any and all control. But I guess that's one of the reasons I became a teacher.

So here's to sixth graders that are old enough to clean up after themselves, having control, and being high on vitamins. Happy vacationing to me!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wanted: Parents That Sacrifice

Is it weird that the day after the "Johnny" fiasco hit its limit, I had another parent issue?

Friday morning, an uncle of a student came in. This uncle apparently lives with the kid and his parents and asked me to inflict more punishment on his nephew for his recent behavior. This poor kid is rather tall and goofy for his age (probably around 6 foot as an 11-year old) and doesn't fit in at all at school. He had alot of issues last year where kids would pick on him and he'd get really angry. I haven't had any of those this year with him (partly bc my kids know that I would probably physically hurt them if they picked on anyone in our class - or out of our class for that matter). However, whether it be because he has alot going on or because he just doesn't care, he does as little as possible to get by in class. And those kind of students are hard to break because they're smart enough to know how to beat the system.

So I made these issues aware to the parents (I have been for about 3 weeks) and nothing was changing. Finally, yesterday his uncle came in. But it was really uncomfortable. He told me he wanted more punishment at school because it wasn't happening at home and he wanted this problem to be nipped in the bud now. He suggested detentions EVERY time the student doesn't put out the effort he's capable of. This shocked me for a few reasons. One, why am I not hearing this from either parent? Two, detentions? Seriously. Three, why is it not being taken care of at home?

So I warded him off by telling him I'd speak to my principal about possible ideas on how to change the behavior of the student. My principlal immediately told me that the uncle had no right coming in and asking me to do anything in regard to the student because he was not a legal guardian. And also that I was to follow the consequences posted in my room... no more, no less. So it was now my job to call the mother, explain what happened and why I couldn't do what they asked of me. The mother started crying on the phone as I tried as best I could to make a positive spin out of the uncle's awkward visit and the ongoing problems I was having with the student. She asked about counseling (we offer it free through the district, though it's not very good or consistent) and pretty much told me she didn't know what to do with the kid anymore.

I'm not a parent (though I do pretty much parent 31 kids for 6 hours a day) nor do I wish to be one at this moment in my life. So how is it that 2 parents in the last week have asked me for parenting advice because they've all but given up on their children? I don't understand! Don't get me wrong, I love their kids and would do anything I could to see them succeed. But when they fail and I've run out of options, isn't it the parents' job to know what to do? Isn't it the parents' job to find ANY MEANS necessary to help their child? And by any means necessary I mean even if it is an inconvenience to them?

Sometimes I wonder if my parents had it easy with my brother and I. Well, no, because I can think of plenty of instances where one of us were struggling and they pulled us out of it. They didn't give up. So why is it that I come across so many families that don't help their children? Or help them in the wrong way? It's frustrating and it's sad that the ratio of students who have great home lives is usually about equal to the students who don't. And these famlies have mulitple kids. Don't they know what they're doing to these poor kids?

Oftentimes these aspects of my job make me sad and discouraged. But then I think that if I'm the only consistency and release they have in their lives, I have to keep doing what I'm doing. It makes it all worth it when I can see them smile at one of my stupid jokes or get an A on a test. So I keep on keepin on....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Johnny, please be good

There's this kid in my class that NEVER STOPS TALKING. I think he's by far the worst one yet. He's a good kid, he just likes to be the center of attention. I moved him to an island (a desk all by himself) about 2 months ago. Generally when this happens, the student shapes up within a few weeks, we have a talk about he/she (actually mostly he) changing his/her behavior and how I'm willing to give them another chance to "be out in the world" (i.e. sit at a table group) if they feel like they're ready for it. They always say yes and I cautiously put them in a table group (where I know they least want to go) next to my desk or the front. They manage to control their talking and we move on with our lives.

Not this time. This time my little Johnny (name changed so I don't get sued by a crazy parent) actually does nothing to change his behavior. I've actually moved his island from one side of the room to the other and just last week moved him right up against my desk. Now I was hoping I didn't have to make this move because I knew it would cause me great stress on a daily basis. But it had to be done. I was literally running out of options. I've talked to the class about ignoring him (which I think only made the problem worse). I've talked to little Johnny about his behavior. I actually asked him what he thought needed to be done to get "out into the world." He knew exactly what needed to be done and I almost thought I had him really thinking about changing his behavior. We made a deal (HIS deal that HE came up with, I might add) that if he behaved until Winter Break, he could be "out into the world" when we came back. Yeah, not so much. The very next day I had to kick him out of class because I thought I might actually throw something at him.

So I decide to call home. Well, his parents speak Spanish so I ask our bilingual secretary to call home. I write the long list of things that have taken place so that she can properly interpret them to his mom. I thought this was it. I thought I had him. That's always my last alternative in cases like this. I feel like I have to give the kid the benefit of the doubt in changing his own behavior before I rat on him. But I was running out of options.

So at lunch today the secretary comes in to tell me about the conversation. And basically the mom says she knows, he's always been this way, but she doesn't know what to do about it. Excuse me?? That's not at all what I wanted to hear. Thankfully my principal was in the lounge when the secretary was telling me about this so she asked me to send him to her. Truthfully, there are few kids that are afraid of our principal so I know this won't work. But still.... What the hell is wrong with his parents? If my parents would have gotten a phone call home about that same issue, my ass would have been red by the next morning. And then she probably would have grounded me and then taken me into the classroom early the next morning (by the ear) and made me apologize to the teacher. I don't understand.....

So everyday, I have to take a deep breath, allow myself not to be overrun by this child, and deal with him like a professional. And from now on, I've decided I'm just going to kick him out when he disrupts. I'm going to start making his life really unbearable until he realizes that he is not allowed to act the way he does in my classroom. He may be able to do it at home, but he ain't doin it at school. That's it. Done. No more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My "Come To Jesus" moment

Wow.... I just had the most enlightening conversation with my roommate. I'm still reading the earlier mentioned book, Eat, Pray, Love and Oprah (yes, Oprah) had the author on again. The audience's experiences with the book were great and my roommate and I started discussing our views on religion. And what she had to say was fantastic.

Believing in God doesn't necessarily mean believing in Jesus Christ or whatever other religious diety there is out there. Believing in God means that I believe in something past humankind. Believing in God isn't necessarily believing in a person or animal or something that I can put a face on. It's believing that there is something out there that is larger than me that knows what is best for me. For my sake, don't call it God, call it "the universe." And religion can sometimes get in the way of my relationship with that "universe." Religion, in my opinion, is just a neat little package where God is the gift. I say, skip the wrapping paper and bows and just get to God...the universe.

So in this sense I've discovered tonight that, yes.... I do believe in God. I believe that there is a higher being out there that I sometimes find myself having conversations with. I believe that this God sends people into my life to save me when I can't save myself. I believe that God sends me signs so that I can learn lessons about myself. I believe that there are enlightening or spiritual experiences that have happened in my life that didn't have to center around being in church or the Bible. I believe that this life has to be about more than just work and play.

I can't tell you how much better this makes me feel about my beliefs. It all made so much sense to me tonight. I finally feel like I have a solid viewpoint about what God is. I'm interested now in where this new spiritual realization will take me in my life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"The One"

The one moment (or moments for this matter) that has been the pinnacle of my life was the relationship I had with the ex. I was "that" girl. The girl who took his shit and kept going back to him. The one whose mom hated him for what he was doing to me, and all I could do was make excuses for him...or not tell anyone about it at all. The one who was blind to every bad moment, because I was convinced that he was "the one." Goodness gracious... I was "that" girl. I hate "those" girls. I wanna smack them and tell them to wake up. Who lets a guy treat them like that? Who lets a guy run their life? Well, apparently me.

So I met him when I was 18. I totally brushed off our initial meeting...I wasn't all that impressed. But weirdly enough, he called that very same day and we went out that night. I remember coming home from our first date in a blissful fog. That fog wouldn't go away for 8 years. We were together and then he'd break up with me. No reasoning... One day everything was fantastic, the next, he didn't want to be around me. This attitude toward me eventually led to him finding an excuse to break up with me. Gone, out of my life. Then suddenly, he'd call. And we'd argue and he'd tell me he missed me and the cycle would start all over again. And I let it. Over and over and over and over again.

This lasted about 3 years. Make up, break up, make up, break up.... Until he started doing drugs and drinking heavily. Then the make up, break ups turned into friends with benefits. Right... who does this really work with? There's always ONE person who wants more. Guess who it was in our case? "That" girl. This lasted for about 2 years with various hiatuses on his part. It's funny, he'd say goodbye and I'd work SO incredibly hard to not call him. And I did a great job. I'd "move on" with my life. I'd date other guys.... those were train wrecks. Then, as though he knew I was trying, he'd pop back into my life again. And really at this point, it wasn't his fault. It was all mine. I let him back in knowing what he'd ultimately put me through. But I was CONVINCED that we were supposed to be together. CONVINCED that all relationships go through this give and take; it was all normal in my eyes.

So in the 7th year, he comes back AGAIN and I give him another chance. This time, he wants me to be his girlfriend and he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and we were supposed to live happily ever after (again). And the bliss was there for about 4 months, though I was doing most of the work. But these were the sacrifices I was willing to make to be with him because he was "the one." Well, it ended badly, as it always did (I still swear he cheated on me). But something inside of me clicked this time. I was the one who broke up with him. He drove me to it, but I broke up with HIM. Damn, that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But, as always, I tried my damndest to stay strong.

This is when I met Mark and he pulled me out of this horrible downfall. The funny thing is, Mark doesn't even know the extent to which he saved me. But guess who calls out of nowhere just as I'm finally healing? And who'd really blame him... he knew the drill. It ALWAYS worked for him. Boy was he shocked when I told him at the end of the conversation that I had a boyfriend. The next thing I knew, he was calling me a month later telling me he was getting married. It was at that moment when I realized that I had given this guy WAY too much credit. Why it took me this long, I don't know. Maybe I'd finally grown up and grown tired of being his doormat. Maybe it was the sacrifices Mark was making for me that showed me what I was missing. But something clicked in my head and I was done.

He actually has called me since then but I ignored his call. He hasn't called since. It's been 2 years. The longest break we've ever had. Last I heard, he was in fact engaged. I don't know if the marriage actually happened. I hope it did. I hope he found someone that he actually loves like I have. I'm sure I'll see or hear from him sometime in my future. In fact, I'm convinced of it. And when I do, I'll stand up straight and be the sweetest person, happy for his life. What good would it do to be rude? I've let him go. I know we're not supposed to be together. I'm convinced of that now. But that doesn't mean that he still doesn't creep into my thoughts every so often. He had an affect on my life. He taught me that I was not the person I thought I was. He taught me to open my eyes and see everything about someone, not just what I want to see.

My life now with Mark is more than I could have ever expected. I've put him through ALOT of emotional shit that I had to deal with from the ex. And he's stuck by me through it all. He loves me and I never question that. He is the reason that the 8 year veil was lifted from my eyes. I love him in a way I never thought I'd love again. And I NEVER thought that that would happen. Ever.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Brandi-anity

I know I'm opening a can of worms on this one but it's on my mind. I've recently started reading a book called, "Eat, Pray, Love" and it's caused me to take yet another look at my beliefs...or lack of them. It's about a woman that goes on a spiritual journey after a divorce and a bout with depression.

So I'll just get it out of the way.... I don't think I believe in God. Now, before you throw all sorts of judgements my way and say, "I never thought you were one of those," I must interrupt. I am a I-believe-it-when-I-see-it kinda girl. It's as simple as that. I believe that there was a man named Jesus Christ that taught a number of people some ideas about the religion he believed in, but I don't think he's a supernatural being. I saw Passion of the Christ and it really moved me, but I don't know if I really believed he rose after his death or was even born from miraculous conception for that matter. I've been to church (mostly Christian based) and tried so desperately to FEEL what everyone else was feeling, but I don't and never have. One of my BEST friends is a strong believer in the Christian faith and I respect her faith and beliefs, but I don't believe in it.

Does this make me a bad person? I say, no. I think that I am a good person with positive values, but I don't live my life through my religion, hoping that someday it will get me into Heaven. Do I believe in heaven? I don't know. Do I believe in any sort of afterlife? I think I might. I believe that my loved ones that have passed still have spiritual presence in my life, but I don't know if I believe that they sit around on fluffy clouds all day looking down on me. But I guess everyone's interpretation of heaven is different.

Now this is where it gets complicated... I teach 6th grade. Social Studies consists of studying ancient civilizations and their ways of life. The most fascinating religions that we study are Buddhism and Hinduism, at least in my opinion. Buddhism is so simple. People suffer because they want, so stop wanting. I am a long way from becoming a Buddhist monk, but I find living the simplest life possible to be so interesting. I don't even know if I could do it, but I would love to learn more about it. Hinduism, if I remember correctly, is centered around karma. How you live your life will determine where you end up in your next life. Do I believe in reincarnation? I don't know. But I find both religions, in their simplest form, fascinating.

What it all comes down to is that I live my life based on the decisions that I think are good for me and those that I love. Not based on what might get me into a supernatural afterlife. I try and be positive everyday and make others around me enjoy my presence in their lives. If I could wrap all these values into a nice and neat religion, then call me a religious person. But please don't judge me because I'm not, at least not in the I-believe-in-God terms. Actually, if you're going to judge me, let me know. Because I'd rather not have the negative energy in my life.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Do they really come in threes?

Ok so today has kinda been a downer.... Early today I found out that my great grandma, who was over 100 years old, passed away on Tuesday. Sure, she was super old and lived a FULL life but it's still sad because it's my dad's grandma and my grandpa's mom. And when you become so accustomed to people being in your life, it doesn't matter how long they live, it's always hard when they pass.

Then mid-afternoon I received a voicemail from my doctor that my blood test results were in and the doctor wanted to schedule a follow-up appointment with me to go over them. What the hell does that mean? I've never had a "follow-up" appointment when I've had bloodwork done. Granted, I went to the doctor to find out why I've been ridiculously tired lately and losing more than a usual amount of hair and, as a result, she sent me to take a full-panel blood test. But it's still scary to hear that I need to come in for a follow-up appointment. The Dr.'s assistant assured me it was nothing to be worried about...if it was, the doctor would have called me personally. So then why can't they just tell me over the phone? Why do I have to wait until next Wednesday to find out? Oh wait, they probably want my co-pay.

Then after finally convincing myself to get my ass off the couch and go to the gym, Mark texts me to tell me that his grandpa had just passed. This broke me. His grandpa was a completely healthy man literally 2 months ago and then had a series of small strokes and went downhill fast. They were all just waiting for him to pass during the past week but getting the news was still hard. Just because I know how devastating this is to the close-knit family. And seeing Mark's mom and grandma go through this is hard. Mark is struggling with it as well. And in the almost 2 years we've been together, I've never seen him cry or break the I-can-handle-anything outlook that he has. So needless to say, I feel helpless knowing that he's broken right now. I just want to be with him and be his rock since it seems like he's always the one picking me up.

So now I go back to my blood test.... Don't these things always happen in 3s? Is there something I need to know about my health? I know I'm freaking out WAY too much over this but I can't help but think that something could be wrong with me.

I'm ready to curl up in bed and call it a night.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I need some clean air

OH MY GOSH... SOMEONE PUT THESE FIRES OUT!!! Ok, yeah, it's got to be devastating for these families that have been left homeless and with nothing and I feel horrible for them. But that being said, my students are DRIVING ME MAD!!! Because of the poor air quality, we've been on rainy-day schedule for the last 2 days, therefore leaving my students INSIDE for the 6 hours and 38 minutes that I have them. They're going crazy. They've lost their minds. Yesterday, a very bright 6th grader thought that putting glue on a neighbor's chair was something that was ok. Today, a few of my students thought that sword fighting with rulers was something that would NOT make me yell at them. As I walked back from my shortened lunch break, I can see 3 of my students in the doorway shouting, "SHHHHHHH! MISS LOPEZ IS COMING!!!!" They stomp their feet on the blacktop as we walk to lunch to see the ashes turn into powder. And not just one or two students.... all 31 of them. They're folding their spelling homework into mini trash cans. They're tapping their pencils on their folders. They're out of control. And seriously, I don't really blame them. It's not their fault. They need an outlet for the energy that builds up inside of them each day. And on top of that, they are 11 years old. They're going through puberty. My roommate suggested allowing them to do laps around their desks. Great idea, but their awkward bodies would most likely go flailing into each other, probably on purpose for some of the young men I have. And I can only imagine, that at that very moment, my principal would come walking in with some district tightwad. That would be my luck.

So, in closing, I wake up each morning giving thanks that I have my own bed and house to sleep in.... and praying that the fires have been cleared up. If not, I'm going to need someone to help me push all the desks to the outside wall of my classroom so that I can do relay races during the last half of the day. It would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Unda presha...

Why do I always put too much pressure on making myself a perfect person???? I swear I'm a freak. My parents tell me that when I was younger one of my teachers asked them if I get punished harshly at home when I do something wrong. When they said no and asked why, the teacher said, "Because she cries when she doesn't know the answer to something." Even as an adult, I cry over the lamest things. I remember being in the first semester of my Masters program and getting a 3 out of 5 on a paper and I called my mom and cried. What the...? What grown woman does that? (Though in my defense that is a 60%.)

I had this crazy idea filtered into my head recently to go for my PhD. So, being the "I love knowledge" geek that I am, I decided to begin researching programs in the area. There's a couple of reasons I think I may want to do this.... One, I may want to teach at the university level one day. I'm not bored with the elementary classroom yet but I'm afraid I will be later in my career. So why not do it now? I'm not married, don't have kids, and could afford the time it will take. Two, I've always liked a challenge. I was the kid that got straight A's in elementary and jr. high because I competed for grades with a good friend of mine. Since then (minus high school and the first couple semesters of college) I've always been into challenging myself on a personal level. Whether it be in my classroom, in my own education, or just in exercising... I always love to challenge myself because I usually succeed and success feels so good.

So last night was my info session at Chapman for the PhD in Education. I had high hopes that what they were going to tell me was going to be what would make me fall on whatever side of the fence I was supposed to land on. I got out of the meeting more overwhelmed than I had been since the beginning of this voyage and I wanted to cry (of course). I've decided not to pursue the degree at the moment because it's not something I'm ready to commit myself to for 4 years (that's right, FOUR years). But all I can think about is this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've disappointed someone. Everyone that I've kept posted about it has been like, I think it's a good decision with valid reasons.... so who is it that I've disappointed? Hmmmm.... maybe.... me? What's my problem? I know it's a good decision, but I'm disappointed in myself because I'm NOT doing it. Eckgh.... again I ask, is there something wrong with me???

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why am I so into it?

So I was at the gym today, rockin' out to JayZ and Linkin Park and the Foo Fighters and some old school Michael Jackson, holding on to the handlebars as I briskly walked on the Nautilus machine... you know, the one that's the challenge to the treadmill. It looks like a treadmill but the ramp is split down the middle and the ramps go up and down in opposite sync. I've found, through many almost-spills, that I am unable to walk on that thing without holding on. It doesn't really matter how fast I'm going, my feet are unable to walk parallel to each other without me looking at them. And I can't do that because I have to stare at everyone as they come in and leave and get on the machines around me and get off the machines around me and every-so-often read the conversations on the TV and watch the hot trainers go by and wonder how some of the chicks there manage to have the bodies that they have, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, I don't miss a thing. Am I the only one? I can literally watch people around the place for a half hour as I sweat off a few calories and not even realize the time has gone by.

Mark made me laugh the other day... he, my roommate, and I were out one night and this girl was crying at the table next to us. I couldn't stop watching her. At one point, Mark's head was in the way of solving my mystery and I literally lurched forward to see past him. And he says to my roommate, "I'm not drama. She's not drama. We're not drama together. But she (meaning me) cannot look away from drama."

And it's so true! ALL of my favorite shows are reality shows. I can't live without The Hills. Why? I even find myself watching Rock of Love and The Pickup Artist over and over. Why???? Why am I so involved with other people's drama? Is it because I want to compare my life to theirs to make sure I'm normal? Or do I just like to see people suffer and succeed? Are either demented reasons? Is there something wrong with me?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sometimes I wonder...

Ok, so here it goes...

I have always wanted to write a book about my life. Not that I think I'm the most interesting person in the world by any means, but I remember being in my late teens/early 20's loving to read books about people's lives. I didn't care if the stories were true or not, I just loved reading about how other people lived and the things they learned about themselves. Looking back now, I realize that I was going through what I like to call my "Realizing I'm Not a Kid Anymore" phase. You know, where you realize, among other important lessons,that your one true hero, your mom, is not always right.

See, this is the thing... I grew up in a wonderful family. My parents were supportive and oftentimes VERY overprotective. I was the girl who had a curfew that was earlier than everyone else's and I always had to call home to check in. And I'm sure, though she'll never admitt it, my mom was the one who called my friends' parents to make sure was where I said I was going to be. And although it was tough being her daughter at times, I really feel like she's made me into the woman that I am now. One who is independent, loving, and real. I love her and she is my one true hero in my life.

But what you need to understand is that I started making decisions about my life that she did not agree with. Mostly having to do with my ex-boyfriend and our on-going, unhealthy relationship. Sure, now that I look back, she was absolutely right the entire time.... but that wasn't something that I wanted to see during that period. But I'll have to say, though those eight years were long and emotional, I learned SO much about myself.

And this is where I wonder.... does every woman go through these things with her mother? Where they grow up, thinking everything she says is perfect and true and right? And then one day realize that she's not the perfect woman you always thought she was? And that your beliefs aren't exactly the same? Then what? Is that what marks the beginning of womanhood? Coming into your own? And does every woman struggle with keeping that part of your mother that you loved so much inside of you and becoming your own, independent woman? Does it ever have a balance?

I recently moved home for 5 months and the one thing that worried me before going home was my relationship with my mother. And what I learned is that I am more independent now than I ever have been in my life. I have her strength and outspoken personality but yet there are things that she does that I do not agree with. Does that make me ungrateful for all that she tried to teach me? Or does that make me the newer generation of what she once was? I can only hope for the latter one.