Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break 2014

It is coming to a close.  Our first day back to the grind will be the day after a shift day, which is probably best.  I won't be tempted to stay in bed longer than I should because he's there and I won't have to help him <insert missing necessity here>.  I have only had all of my muppets under one rough a few days this break, which makes me miss them, but I know they are out having fun and bonding with family.  So important.  

WE are the Bridge...

The Bridge has been a topic this whole break.  It makes me happy that it has stuck with them.  I got to help a FFW bust out of the house for the day, and terrorize the college kids of Northwestern, drinking Chai in the fashionable Unicorn Cafe, while her brave FF held down the fort with my girls mixed in with their muppets. My hubby bought some Chucks for me, not necessarily a newsflash, but it shows that he tolerates and embraces my quirkiness.  We celebrated my mom's 60th birthday, with a lamb cake (Not quite like the cake of her childhood, but close) - that N made using the cake mold I bought on my FFW escapade earlier in the week and my FF decorated because I am just clumsy. 

The holiday was brunch and dinner at my house after a lovely mass and homily by Fr. Alejandro.  Such a nice celebration.  

Summary, a wonderful recharge of batteries.

Tomorrow, we begin the end of the school year.

Bring it on.

Celebrate the coming of spring and the departure of the polar vortex.  Live life in a manner that you make a difference and will be missed because of the lives you touch.  And love that firefighter like there's no tomorrow, even when he's driving you looney. Peace, love and chocolate bunnies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Good From Evil Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the astounding opportunities my kids have had through Serve 2 Unite.  

Today, I get to write about the fact that my muppets also get to be part of this.

My husband has come to understand that my control freak nature, is just that, part of my nature.  It is somewhere in my DNA or in the scarring that is my brain, but it is definitely hard wired.  It drives me to madness when I can't control something horrible and leads me to at least do something to make it better.  It might be safe to call it a bit of an obsession.  I have bring attention or try help the pain ease a bit or something to make things better.  Perhaps it is the idea that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, who knows.  It could literally be due to the immense amount of brain damage I suffered as a child (again, good out of bad).  No matter what the origins, I am also looking to instill this in my muppets.  

Help where you can. If I don't do it WITH them, how will they ever learn this and make it part of their being?

I was so hyped after the success of my kids' community mapping adventure, that I was excited to be part of another opportunity brought to my attention through Serve 2 Unite.  The Bridge Project caught my attention because the Civil Rights issues of the 60s are still impacting us today.  

This very bridge that I was marching with my muppets across was called the longest bridge in the world - it reached from Poland to Africa. Bottles, rocks, slurs, spit and hate met the marchers as they made it to the southside fo the bridge.  This weekend's march was a much needed reminder. A sad testament to the fact that our city was is soooo very segregated.  We are not done, yet.  Saturday, nearly 50 years later, we were invited to join in by S2U.  
Photo credit: Cheryl Polka
The Unity Chant cards
It was cold, it was rainy, the turn out is not what it would have been had the weather from the day before held up.  But it is something that my kids will take with them.  

Photo credit: Cheryl Polka
Armadeep Kaleeka, son of slain Sikh Temple of Wisconsin President Satwant Singh Kaleka, was the Grand Marshall for the portion of the march beginning on the south side of the bridge.  Chants were chanted, my N volunteered to help with the banner carrying - he might have the same drive that I do.  It was an amazing day.  Something that I know the boys will not soon forget and I am hopeful that it will stay with the girls as they make their way into their teen years and adulthood.  Some things are worth standing out in the pouring rain, even with the car is parked a few miles away.  

WE are the Bridge.  If it does not start with us, then when...with whom?  

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

We are the bridge.

N, on his own went out to see if he could help.  He led the way for the southside.

Walking with the DA, some aldermen, and the mayor met us on Canal Street
South meets the middle.

The kids signing the pledge - to be the bridge.

These kids ARE the Bridge.  They are our future.
Let's make sure they reach out to each other.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Good From Evil, Look For It

Not always easy to do. We all have to look for that rainbow that comes after the storm or the fact  that it is always darkest before the dawn.  But, how do you do that when you see nothing but hatred and anger behind it...and the heartbreak left behind in the wake?  Amazingly, I have seen that!  

Since starting at the high school I am currently teaching at, I have been some amazing people - some characters and some simply amazing. The most recent part of that "amazing" came to us in the fall through Serve 2 Unite, funded by Arts @ Large.  Both AMAZING organizations. I'll let you read the back stories of both, but it is found in the temple shooting nearly two years ago. 

I was sitting there, quietly working on my kids' headphones for the coming school year in my bedroom, listening to the kids giggle in the living room...when I got the phone call from my FFW next door - from work.  "Where's J? Is he at the temple?!" I literally looked at my phone.  Why was she asking?  She knew it was a shift day, where do you think he is?  Why would he be at a temple?   I had no clue what she was talking about.  I was watching Oddities and clearly oblivious. "Oh, my god, you don't know."

And my heart dropped.  The tone in her voice.  I hit the news explosion that was upon us and couldn't breathe for a moment.  I studied the rigs, looking for Med 7.  This was the day I learned the difference between those red boxes - MFD has the zig zag gold on the side.  I remember seeing the images...burning them in my mind.  There is one of Pardeep's brother, Armadeep that haunted me.

It is as clear as day.  Even in the dark of this sleepless night. 

As I said earlier, you have to look for that first ray of sunlight that comes out of that darkness.  Luckily, I didn't have to look it found me.  Through Serve 2 Unite.  

Love and acceptance out tragedy, heartache and hatred.

Six lives were lost.  Pardeep's father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was among the casualties. Countless others, rocked to their very core.  Anger and bitterness would have made total sense for the families involved.  NO ONE would have faulted them,. Instead, they turned that heartache into a chance to mend broken hearts and bring an end to senseless violence and hatred.  Through the amazing initiative of a grieving family and a repentant skin head.

Pardeep and Arno.  They are the most amazing odd couple you have ever seen.   I have to admit, I spent much of the first meeting with them trying to figure things out...who fit where, how this ACTUALLY came to fruition...and don't remember much of the actual discussion in our little social studies department. When Arno came to speak to the Sociology class, I brought my World History kids in as well.  His message was worth sacrificing a day of content.  Watching my kids, who didn't quite trust me at that point, listen to this big, raspy voiced man share is tale of hate mongering, with these kids who are all too familiar with it, was AMAZING.  Instant defensiveness.  One of my big guys refused to sit on the same side of this monstrous room.  Another actually commented to me, "You really want me to listen to this sh!t?".  They could not wrap their heads around it.  Experience has taught them that leopards don't change their spots.  And here was this perceived monster who had a swastika tattooed to his middle finger...and I was asking them to listen to him.

Fast forward to this past Friday.  When my kids, 75 kids from so many different paths of life, converged on one of our southside neighborhoods to do Community Mapping, not only with S2U, but also with UWM's Urban Initiatives & Research, to determine through analysis of data, what we can do to make a difference in that neighborhood.  Watching these same kids who did not think Arno was worth  giving up my elaborate notes for...was AMAZING!  The smiles that Pardeep brought to my kids.  And my FF working with a group that was so diligently trying to update their Neighborhood Safety map, made me smile. 

It was an amazing transformation.  In so many ways.  From that skeptical group of kids in October...from that group of kids that was SO uncomfortable THAT morning, because I separated them from their friends and asked some of them to this group this community of amazing kids, working together SO amazingly! It made my heart happy.  

Good from evil.  I didn't have to look for it.  It found me.

Photo credit: Serve 2 Unite

Photo credit: Serve 2 Unite

Why would I post the serious pictures?

It was an amazing day.  Seeing me kids leave their comfort zones within their peer group and into unknown groupings - begging me to change them - and move out into the community to reach out a seek to make it better.  This would not have happened this way had it not been for the tears falling to water such a beautiful, life filled group.  
Please know, I am not saying that I am glad that it happened.  It woke me up in the middle of the night, hence this post.  I am, however, grateful, that hate did not turn into hate.  Instead, into spreading a message of love and tolerance.  And, I am indeed blessed to have been a witness to it.

My husband has been permanently temporarily assigned to the TEMS house - another creation in response to the tragedy of the that fatal day in August 2012.  If, God forbid, we were to see an event of that level, I won't have to wonder if he is there.  He will be there, presuming his formal assignment comes to be.  Instead of watching to see if there, I will be finding something productive to do, hoping for that phone call when all is said and done.  

I will be looking for that break of dawn to get me through the worry that will accompany such events.  We have to look for that ray of helps lead us to tomorrow, no matter how dark the night has been.  My kids are my ray of sunshine.  Be sure to find yours.

Peace and love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

May I Have a Mulligan, Please?

So, not even 8am - my psych grades have DISAPPEARED  from my gradebook.  Minor Holy FREAKING COW Freakout on my part.  I have the paper grades at home. (I am SOOOO glad that I have that!  I don't have them for my other classes!) I will see if I can sneak out of the building and grab them.

My back pocket is empty - that means no card to get water from the vending machine and I CANNOT drink the water from our bubblers! Dehydration is bad for the mood!

Laptop cord anyone????  Anyone? Yah, that is at home, too.

Courtesy of my dear friend, Staci..."you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive, you forgot your flashdrive,you forgot your flashdrive..." But, only for the next 5 1/2 hours!

How about that flashdrive - with all the amazing resources you have created for the educational environment you are fostering?  Nope, not here!

Paper in the copy machines with the newly added lock codes.  Funny girl!  Are you crazy!

WHY, you ask, are you such a mess??  You might think that it is because it is a shift day, but alas, it is not.  So, you say just have your FF run all that stuff up to you, you guys only live 5 minutes away.  Sadly, not feasible.  He is subbing, extra money is always good.  However, because he is teaching, somehow that excuses him from having to deal with the morning chaos.  You know, he has to get there early to make sure everything is a sub.  You know, where the regular teacher MAKES the copies for you.  The regular teacher also does the lesson planning for you.  As a sub, you are not required to attend morning meetings.  But regular teachers have to do that - while fussing at the muppets, who could NOT get their arses moving to save the ever loving souls, this AM.  I was so busy making sure they had everything because Daddy was gone, I did not even give myself a once over, clearly.  I even had to go back in for my phone.

I love him dearly and do appreciate that he is working for our family's needs.  But, I feel as though I am a bit undervalued.  Shift days, he has to leave early so he can relieve the guy on the shift ahead of him.  I get it.  Long nights make things miserable.   And now that he's working at the school, awesome.  But he needs to leave early to make sure everything is in place and ready to go for the day.  All the rewards of teaching, without any of the paperwork headaches!  Score!  I am so thrilled he is not one of those subs, like I had a few weeks ago - with her back to my kids while she updated her Linked In Account - on my white board.  However, that time from 6:30-7:30 on NON-shift days is GOLD.  There is not another living teacher soul in this one chatting my ear off while I am trying to get somewhere or accomplish something.  No kids that need my undivided attention.  I value that time and it is when I am most productive.  I am afterall, very much a morning person.  Just me, Pandora blaring and my work.  And, I have lost that now.  With no real concern to how that impacts me.  And it does bother me...a bit.  He will feel bad if I bring it up, but at the same time I don't want to play the martyr.  We need to find a compromise.

Only 8 more hours to go.  I am a FFW.  I thrive through adversity.  I got this!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Week in Review

Craziness does not begin to explain it.  The Boston Fire hits home, even though we are half a country away.  The Fire Wife community gasped a collective breath.  I know sometimes the guys think we are over reacting...and some are.  But, for that split second we can all feel the heartbreak that those left behind will feel for the rest of their lives.  There is of course much discussion to be had in our circles.  I pray we never have to have these discussions again.

Work was insane, but in an amazing way.  My kids latched on to a 95 Theses project, that I always do, like I never expected.  It real, it was genuine, and it was a bit raw.  But they EXPERIENCED learning, like I think they never have before...or at least have not felt often enough.  And, unlike Martin Luther, the anti-Semitic, misogynistic, ill tempered scripture scholar, the voices of my kids were heard.  Our principal is going to address some of their concerns. I found that out while they were working with Serve2Unite and the University on a HUGE community service project.  And when I stepped back into my room and shared the news, their collective faces lit UP! They even came up with a name - the BVHS Neighborhood Ninjas. LOVE! From there, the inspiration flowed through the room and it was awesome to see.

I went to a Bucks game with the kids and my FF on Thursday.  I did not sleep well at all, so I was searching for a proper excuse to NOT go.  Couldn't find one...and so I went.  Suddenly, I got a text from an amazing FFW.  She came out of the bathroom and there were two little girls that looked amazingly like mine!  So, given the empty nature of the BC, we found 2 rows we could all fit in.  The FFs sat and chatted all night, the kids bonded and I enjoyed myself where I expected to be fighting to stay awake.  Such a nice surprise!

We found a place that will take my grandpa.  They have a secure facility.  My dad and grandma were happy with what they saw.  OF COURSE, there is a bump in the road.  Things were going so smoothly.  He had TB when my dad was they point where both of his parents were in a sanitarium.  Any TB test you give him, will come back positive.  So, we go through the X-Rays, but he can't take a deep enough breath to get a clear image.  So, yesterday they were doing a CT to check.  And so, we hurry up and wait.  My dad is meeting with the admin of the building we are hoping to move him to this week. Fingers crossed.

We are just wrapping up a 48.  I had to run to the firehouse Friday night to drop off his meds. That would be a BAD thing to go without on a 48. The tones went off after he got done mopping the kitchen - in his sexy basketball shorts, black socks and Crocs. <snicker> Tones said hit by a car or ejected from a car.  As I was leaving, a witness pulled up in a panic.  I calmed her down and assured her, they were leaving in a matter of seconds.  I speak enough Spanish to usually get by, but speedy, freaked Spanish is not in my repertoire.  I got her calmed down - turns out it was a pedestrian hit and her foot was amputated.  Clearly a reason to be freaked out. 

The Muppets are doing well. One is barking like a seal.  Her bronchiospasms are insane. Clearly, there needs to be some medical attention given.  Our honey cough syrup and cough drops are not cutting it. Although, if I could get her to NOT run or yell, I can keep it undercontrol.  The other girly girl smooshed her glasses.  The boys and I did some spring cleaning...which was interrupted by iPod usage.  Needless to say, I confiscated said electronic devices. Way too much like work.  Funny thing was, I got the same excuse - checking the time.  My only issue with that - he was in the living room on the couch.  Had he been in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher - where there are 3 clocks available in an 8 foot radius. Sooooo, they are now sitting on my dresser.

I also addressed my bedding issue.  Our dog fur layer, does not stick to they satiny type comforters. So that is what I have been buying.  But, they do not hold up to polar bears sneaking up on the bed.  So, we needed a quilt.  I looked into a couple of options, one I would still like to make happen, but I bought one in the mean time. The fireman approved from afar, so life is good.   

Bucks won, Badgers are in the Final Four, Opening Day is upon us. ON WISCONSIN!

And now, I am waiting for the day to begin.  Mass and then breakfast with my FF.  From there, the three stooges are going with my FF to see my grandpa.  My seal-girl and I will be staying behind.  I do believe she will be getting some much coveted computer time and I will be getting some grading in.

Have a great Sunday!  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grief from Afar

Two more firefighters lost.  It sends off a swell of beautiful, heartfelt images.
Source: Boston Fire on Twitter – @BostonFire
I should be in bed, but the sound of an engine flying down the street woke me up, my FF never flinched.  From there, the usually comforting sound of his CPAP is just not allowing me to go back to sleep, so I write.

The "what-ifs" and "I can't even imagines" have begun to creep into my mind.  We all know all too well that we do indeed imagine...every time this news hits.  I am not sure why we lir to ourselves.  We put ourselves in the wife's shoes.  Every single one of us.  

I have honestly been trying to avoid the world of LODDs.  I haven't sent cards quite as religiously as I had before.  It was more than I could process while keeping all of the other balls in the air going.

Clearly, my avoiding it did not serve as a very good cease and desist.  There was no purpose to my avoidance.

I have no words.  I have no advice.  I can't even think where to go with this this.  I am not sure why it is bugging me so much.  But clearly it is and hence the reason why I am on this blog, when I should be allowing my brain to recuperate. 

There is a family left behind to go through this.  Forged both in blood and fire.  One of the FFs left behind a wife and three kids. The other was a Marine.  He served his country and his community. There were real people under those lids and SCBA with real lives.  I hope the families can take come comfort in knowing how many lives have been touched by their dedication and sacrifice.

I got an email earlier this week from A. Nonymous...upset that I was losing my focus as a FFW blogger and yapping too much about my classroom.  This is a blog that is supposed to focus on the life involved with being married to a firefighter.  Guess what, my classroom is part of my life being married to a firefighter. It is part of my soul and therefore part of his life as well.   I am the sum of all my parts, as I said earlier with a flurry of complaints that were a complete 180. People were upset that I was losing myself as I transitioned into their world of being married to a FF.  Now, they don't want to hear about my mundane part of life. 

Guess what, I would rather be writing about my classroom right now.  I hate writing about this.  I hate researching who the people were behind the symbols of grief that flood social media.  I hate looking for those left behind.  I hate knowing that there are hearts breaking and lives being turned on their ears and there is not a damn thing that I can do about it.  

An entire community mourns, an entire family - spanning the globe mourns.  We can all put ourselves in that situation and feel those emotions as real and as raw as it was us.  The difference is, we can shake it off and know that is okay.  For Boston, there are people that will spend the rest of their lives trying to shake it off and accept that this is real. 

And here is where I kick myself in the arse for not replenishing my card stock because I did not want to deal with it.  Deal with what?  Sounds so silly and self centered, doesn't it.  Guess who will be hitting the Hallmark aisle to grab some more to keep on hand.  That would be this girl.  There is no excuse for not letting a family know they're not alone through all of this.  Letting then know that there is a whole other family that is willing to help in anyway possible, even if it is just a late night conversation when the demons come in the dark of night. I have never had a family or spouse take me up on it, but that does not mean it is okay for me not to make that offer.  Hypocritical, for certain, as I sit her writing and chatting with 3 other FFWs during the course of this post.

To the families and loved ones of Lt. Edward J. Walsh, 43, of West Roxbury -- a father of three -- and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park, a U.S. Marine veteran - know our love, support and fallen tears are with you. Say the word and we will make sure you are not alone.  We can't bring your FFs back home to you, but just about anything else is possible.  To the men and women of the Boston Fire Department, our hearts break with yours.  PLEASE reach out for any support you might need.  PLEASE take advantage of the grief services offered to you.  It is the least that can be offered to you.

Kiss those FFs, hug 'em tight.  I have to be up in 3 1/2 hours, so I am off to join mine.

Peace, love and prayers...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Grass is NOT Always Greener

And we need to remember that.  

When I left the public schools and went to a Catholic School, I thought it was divine intervention.  I was THRILLED to be where I was.  They apologized for the class sizes being more than 25, all of my classes had laptops, parents actually came to conferences, I could teach - without having to deal with much in the way of classroom discipline.  It was heavenly, for that first year.

The second year, I took a peak behind the curtain and was not so happy with what I saw.  There were definite inequalities.  And personal responsibility lessons were lost to the fact that the student might not get into Harvard, with that A- in my Morality class.  Plagiarism was rampant.  Personal expression was muted if it did not fit within the box.  Money talks. 6th graders in tears because of the fear of the wrath that the B+ in Introduction to Computers would bring was such a heartbreaking.  What in the heck was I doing?

I did not fit into that box.  I had to buy a whole new wardrobe - skirts and blouses and dress pants; heels and dress shoes.  My tights were not necessarily embraced - they were too red, too purple, too argyle.  I am a Chuck Taylor and stolen husband button down shirt type of a teacher. I literally looked at myself in the mirror and asked what the heck I was doing.  What happened to "To thine own self be true."  I needed a jeans pass to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I had become a hypocrite.

The third year, I confessed to my husband that I was miserable.  I wanted to stick it out until the kids were done with high school - but that 14 years away.  What kind of person would I be?? Miserable old lady, lost within the confines of my box. I started looking right away in September for a new home.  Kids were not allowed to go on a trip for their Social Justice class because they would be spending the night in the inner city - locked in a beautiful church - and would be working with the homeless and hungry. And I shook my head. I don't need to air dirty laundry, but I was unhappy.  

When I broke my ankle on that Saturday last March, I found out on Monday that I needed surgery (after my FF had a endoscopy and colonoscopy - my surgeon happened to be in the same hospital a squeezed me in at the end of the day), administration couldn't understand why I took off for his surgery, if he was able to pick up the kids and drive. (He didn't get into the fact that his poking and prodding were at 8am and the anesthetic had worn off.)  Wednesday was my surgery - plate and screw inserted. Money was tight because of all the driving I had to do and the fact that my Catholic school salary took me back more than 10 years.  After my surgery, I was expected back to school immediately, even I was not allowed to drive until I had a cast and I still had narcotics flowing via a nerve block just below my knee. It was especially significant given the icy weather that caused the break in the first place. It was frowned upon that I was not back to school on that Friday. THIS blog got thrown in my face in disgust.  I was, after all, a THEOLOGY teacher...I don't think anyone actually read beyond the title.  They simply made their inferences from there.

Clearly, there was a message here, whether divinely originating or not.  That school was not my home and I needed to move on. 

So, I enjoyed a spring time recovery and found myself back in the public schools.  Taking all the technological ideas that I was graced with in the Catholic schools followed me into my classroom full of broken teenagers, just looking for someone to love them and guide them.  The service I was looking to carry out was right in front me all along.  It was here! In my classroom.

Anyone who says this is the easy path and we are overpaid and underworked, is completely full of crap.  We work non-stop.  I work through my lunch hour and after school.  At home.  In my sleep.  I live and breathe education - public education.  

For a while, I thought the grass would be greener if I did not have to fight the effects of poverty in my classroom.  It wasn't.  I just saw how much fertilizer was spread around to make that grass so pretty and I wasn't a fan.  I am back to where I am needed most.  My guilt has been abated.  Perhaps that is why I felt so guilty, it was not meant to be my place in this world.

Now, this is not a bash on Catholic Education.  There are amazing things happening in those schools, just like there are here.  It just wasn't for me.  And for the first time, my oldest was happy and THRIVING in school.  After trying charter schools and Catholic education, where he just wasn't blossoming.  Here, in a plain old boring, amazing neighborhood K-8 public school, he is thriving. The stories the teachers share with me about my muppets, leaves no doubt in my mind, they are where they need to be.  As am I.  I am a product of public education - Continuous Progress and Arts based Education.  That made me who I am.   My teachers had a major hand in molding me.  

And now it is my turn. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Hell Hole

I was just joking with Safety.  I told him I was walking the halls and he needed to send me home.  He said it has become chronic after 1st hour, so he was going to bump it up to a 3 day suspension.  Another staff member walked by, asked what the banter was about and his response was, "Oh no, she worked at Grand Avenue.  That was a hell hole.  She's staying."  

And I came up to my room, slightly really freaking offended. 

I am not going to tell you it was all a bed of roses, because it was not.  There was no tip-toeing through the tulips, but we had those kids moving and grooving.  The staff was AMAZING.  We were doing team building, through Ropes and Challenges, which I miss more than anyone will ever know.  The kids were doing that same kind of team building and problem solving.  They learned how to think outside of the box.  You should have seen our staff parties.  Ropes games everywhere.  In fact, I was on a High Ropes  portion of the course when one of my babies fractured their skull, falling out of the crib - and everyone's heads looked up to me. 

I learned how schools actually ran, because our admin had us involved in just about EVERYTHING.  Each team had a communicator, a chair, if you will, that went to a weekly meeting.  Our voices were heard and the information was spread.  I was involved in the Scheduling Committee and the Budget Committee where we, as a team, literally fit the pieces together to keep as much going as we could in the era of declining budgets.  We hand scheduled our 150+ kids, three times a year.

Technology was HUGE.  I had more technology available to me 15 years ago, than I do now.  My classes were not much smaller than what I currently have, but I had the technology to break things up.  On top of what was in our rooms, we had 3 or 4 full labs.  That was the school that truly nurtured and developed my classroom geekdom.  We had a Family E Newspaper and every team took 6 weeks and the kids produced the Friday News show. Portfolios were maintained and defended. 

My kids were amazing.  They were broken and bruised, just like my kids today, but they were hungry.  I had my 6th graders writing cited research papers and my 8th graders developing projects and community service ideas, based on the 10 page papers.  We had an 8th grade memorial garden in the courtyard outside of our classrooms, they organized a Comfort Drive for our troops in the days post 9/11.  They were real.  They were up to the challenge.  Today, I am fighting this sense of apathy at every turn.  10 page paper?  HA, I am fighting for a 5 paragraph essay, where I am feeding them the information, just so they begin to understand the structure.  

I look back at the amazing work we did and I am beyond offended.  We were doing amazing things!  Times have changed, money is not flowing. But I can't help but feel protective of the AMAZING things we did there.  I have yet to work with as wonderfully cohesive of a staff as I did there.  I will probably never find that again.  It was built as a school that was probably ahead of its time, but the ideas for multiple intelligences and project based learning were seen everywhere...and are still in my classroom today.

And ironically, I find myself defending my current school in much the same fashion...except to the community.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  People fear what they do not know or understand, even within education, but also within the larger community.  We need to find a way to work together, instead of tearing others down.  There has to be a way.

So, to my staff from Grand, I miss you guys and what we had there. Maybe I should have stayed on for the last year. I am so proud of what we accomplished there and the connections that were made. Regardless of what anyone on the outside says, we were doing great things.  Anyone who does not know about what we were doing, was clearly on the outside looking in.  Call it what you will, I cannot control that.  But Hell Hole, nah.  Those were my kids and my teachers.  That was our school.
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