Spring Break

It feels so good to finally get some time off. It was sorely needed. I have been sick since the first day of break, and I had to spend two days studying for an exam for my finance class, but today, today I get to just sit around and relax. I don’t get sick very often, and I’m still not certain whether this is a cold or a severe reaction to the high levels of pollen around here lately. I don’t have allergies regularly so I’m leaning toward cold, but the pollen is really high…

Either way I get to be lazy today, tomorrow, and Thursday since all of my grading is done for the third quarter. I don’t have to do any work this week other than preparing for the move. This weekend we visit family in Orlando, we’re planning to speak with a financial advisor and we’ll be going to Epcot for their garden festival. And on the last day of break we’re all going to a spring training game. 

Just 10 more days. I cannot wait to be in our new home.


Checking In and Checking Out

It seems like forever since I wrote last, but really it was only about two weeks ago. I have had a whirlwind two weeks though, and am excited to share what has been happening.

New House

We were approved for our new rental house! In addition to it being a vast improvement over our current living and commuting situation, the lease also came with a first month’s rent free clause as long as we signed a 15 month lease. This was not a problem for us since 15 months would take us through the next school year and would end conveniently at the end of June, giving us plenty of money (summer checks) and time (a month with no work) to move if we absolutely have to. I would rather not.

Now that we do not have to pay first month’s rent we have extra money to enjoy our spring break and to make sure all moving costs are paid, including those troublesome electric and water service deposits. Ugh. Only 3 more weeks until we move!

Certification Test

I have been writing about the exam which is required of me if I want to continue to teach math instead of returning to music education. To say I studied terribly hard for this would not be an overstatement. I purchased study materials and wrote more note cards than I care to admit. It was important for me to understand that while the material was not difficult when I did it in high school, nor would it be difficult if I had the time to plan lessons and teach it to students, it was difficult to learn and retain the information in an a la carte fashion so that all bases were covered at the same time to pass the test.

Saturday, March 1st I spent two and a half hours working devilishly hard on this test. I went back over all the questions and even caught some mistakes I made the first time around. When I took my music certification test I zoomed through it and knew I passed. This test I took the entire time and even then I was not confident about how many questions I actually answered correctly. It was a relief, then, when the administrator of the center handed me my unofficial score report and it read Pass. I was overwhelmed with relief, and when I left the center I cried all the way home. I never have to go back to music education ever again unless I absolutely have to. The change has been made, the path has been chosen and taken. I have pivoted from one trajectory to another, and this action will (hopefully) improve my level of happiness in my work.

Jury Duty

I was summoned to appear for jury duty on Monday and I was selected to appear in a courtroom as part of the jury selection process. It took three hours, and when they had decided on the 14 person jury (12 regulars and 2 alternates) my name was on that list. I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday hearing evidence in a first degree murder trial, and in the end I was the Jury Forewoman who facilitated the jury deliberations. The evidence was strong enough that we were able to find him guilty of first degree murder beyond all reasonable doubt.

So many people talk about getting out of jury duty, and I totally understand why. If I was paid hourly or on commission, I would have lost a lot of money if I had missed three full days of work. However, since my jury duty days are paid days thanks to my school district, I felt no qualms about serving for as many days as they needed me to. It was an interesting experience and it was nice to have some time away from the kids. I actually started to miss them by the end!

Moving Forward

So many changes are still ahead.

1. We have to move and I am not looking forward to packing all of our crap. I REALLY want to make sure that all of the things we don’t need or use get culled out and either thrown away or donated to Goodwill, and I am hoping to have enough money to hire someone to clean this old rental house so we don’t have to.

2. I may have to look for a different job within the district. Since I was hired after the school year started, I am on something called a “temporary service” contract. This means that even if I was highly qualified and certified to teach the subject (which I am now), I am considered to be nothing more than a long-term sub with full-time teacher benefits. So I have to reapply for my position regardless of whatever happens. So everything else equal, I would reapply and keep my position. Unfortunately there are other forces at play, including loss of students and therefore less courses to teach (i.e. allocations). The lower the student load, the less teachers are needed. Also teachers from other schools who have been with the district for 3 years or more are given preference when allocations drop. What I mean by that is if someone is displaced due to lower enrollment, the district has an obligation to place them in a similar position someplace else in the district, often replacing other teachers who are either on temporary service contracts (like me) or who have been at their school less than 3-5 years. So re-interviewing might be a moot point if someone from another district high school is placed at my school in my stead.

3. I still have to take the Accounting School Competency Exam so that I can move into my major coursework. I have to make the decision whether to take summer classes or not, but I can’t make that decision until I know I have passed this exam with at least a C grade.

There are other things to think about but these three are the most immediate. Perhaps I will post some pictures of our new home at the end of the month. Hopefully I will post again before then. 🙂

Best of Intentions

This blog is something I want to write on a regular basis so much. With everything that is going on right now in addition to moving and testing my brain is taxed to the limit. When I get home at night during the week, all I want to do is stare at the television and not think about anything. The drive to work and back is definitely starting to take its toll on me. One hour there and one hour back (if there isn’t traffic in the afternoon) is two hours a day I could be relaxing, working, sleeping, cleaning, or anything we don’t do on a regular basis now.

On Tuesday we applied for a rental house much closer to our work. Our drive will now only be about 20 minutes instead of an hour plus, and the house will be much larger than our current one. The price was also right, since it was cheaper than the other houses we were looking at. I’m excited to live in a housing development with an HOA. The yards will be nice, the sidewalks will be taken care of, and I’ll be able to walk my dogs without worrying about crazy people out and about (or at least not as much). I’m also excited to see what the neighborhood will look like during Christmas, since it seems like the kind of place people drive through to see the nice lights.

We had to compromise on some things. We were hoping for a fenced in backyard so that we could continue to be lazy about letting the dogs out, but when we saw this house it was something we were willing to give up, especially because it seems like it would be easy to walk the dogs. Other than that we got everything else that we wanted. The kitchen is huge with ample counter space. There is a two car garage. The master bathroom will officially be the best bathroom I have ever had with a separate (large!) shower stall and a deep tub that is TOTALLY going to host some relaxing baths. 🙂 I’m not even sure what we’re going to do with all of the space, but I can’t wait until the end of March, when we’ll be moving.

I hope that once we move things will calm down and I can start writing here on a regular basis. This is something I really want to do. I want to build up a readership and comment on the blogs of others. I want to be part of a community online. So I’ll keep posting when I can and hope for the day that I can spend an hour every day adding to the online universe.

A People Puzzle

When I first began teaching I was very naive. I thought that everyone would value music education at the same level I did, and I chose every battle that came my way in defending this belief. I made enemies three times faster than I made friends, although the friends I did make definitely made dealing with the enemies more bearable. It was clear that while I had great knowledge concerning music and music instruction, my ignorance concerning politics and dealing with people got in the way of me performing my duties effectively.

The skills involved in solving the ever changing people puzzle of education are not taught in undergraduate coursework, nor are they encouraged in the first years of teaching. In most states a teacher can be fired in their first year for any reason and the administrator or supervisor doesn’t have to tell them why. After four years of academic coursework, a (in my opinion) piddly internship which the student has to pay to take as course hours, and an interview for a job to work with a large group of strangers with whom they may or may not be compatible, they then have to navigate their first year of employment under constant fear that if they make one false step, if their principal doesn’t “like” them, if a coworker complains about them, they could be fired and they would never know why. Honestly I would not be surprised if these firings had more to do with relationships among colleagues and communities and less to do with whether the new teacher knew how to teach.

As I step off my soap box, I am reminded that there was no one to help me navigate that part of the transition. I learned through the emotionally costly  trial and error process. Despite the emotional and professional costs and mishaps along the way I became adept at recognizing certain personalities and eventually I also became adept at dealing with them. Every school is a people puzzle, and if you enjoy or are at least good at puzzles, changing your behavior to be a part of the puzzle isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

This week I will be exploring five of the most prominent personalities within a school and how to best deal with interaction with them. In addition to that I’ll also be explaining how to make them work for you if you choose to be more active or proactive.

Frustration with Diagnostics

Today has been a fairly good day overall. This morning Scott and I went down the street to Pep Boys to pick up my car and drop his off for an oil change. Then we came home to enjoy his homemade bread for breakfast and so I could complete the assignments due today for my Expository Writing course. I finished around 1:30 and we went to Sam’s Club for our bi-weekly grocery trip. We have been enjoying these trips, mostly because we are seeing our food stores increase and our spending on groceries is decreasing over time. We used to get groceries every week, buying meat and non perishables at our regular grocery store, but we finally joined Sam’s Club and discovered we could get most our supplies much cheaper per unit/oz in bulk than buying them one at a time. So right now I have 6 pounds of ground turkey, 4 pounds of chicken tenderloin, and 4 pair of one inch thick pork chops in the freezer, ready to be thawed and cooked. This provides such a lovely sense of security for me, and makes life seem less stressful.

This evening I sat down and installed the test prep software on my old PC laptop so I could take the diagnostic exam for the teacher certification math test I talked about yesterday. I took it and didn’t do too badly (65%) considering that I only need a 71% to be certified, but it looks like I need to brush up on my geometry and calculus and that’s SO MUCH STUFF. I am feeling overwhelmed about it but since I scheduled my exam for four weeks from now I have plenty of time to study up. I just need to take a deep breath and make sure I study a little bit every day.

This three day weekend was much needed and I am glad I have been able to make the most of it. Tomorrow I am hoping to hang out with friends and prepare my teaching materials for the week. I need one more powerpoint presentation, an assignment, review materials, and the Chapter 9 exam for Friday. There are so many times I wish for just one more day to get stuff done, and so I do not plan on wasting this one.

Three Day Weekend

The past week of teaching and working seemed to be so long. It was only a normal 5 day week, but for some reason it seemed to last forever. It was one of my best weeks because I had most of my materials prepared ahead of time and almost all of my grades are already in the book. There isn’t much I can be proud of in the area of teaching I am in, but when I can keep up with the demands of the job, even for a week, it is a reason to celebrate. 

Now we have arrived at the first three day weekend of the spring semester and I am already relaxed. I had to take my car to Pep Boys for an oil change and some diagnostic services, and then I spent most of the day reading and writing for an expository writing class I am required to take for my accounting degree. Most of my credit hours from my first bachelor’s degree transferred so most of the general coursework was taken care of, but the newer requirements that I wasn’t grandfathered under are still on my list of “to-dos.” The assignments and readings I have had to do thus far have been enjoyable and I can definitely see how this course will improve my writing immensely.

In addition to working on my coursework I also signed up for the certification test I have to take in order to become certified in math. Two-hundred dollars later I have four weeks to study so that I can keep my job. Changing course from teaching music to teaching math has been much easier than I thought, but this test is the last great hurdle to get over, since I am confident that the administration will want me back as long as the enrollment justifies my position. Even this change will be short lived because once I finish my accounting degree and pass the CPA exam I want to make the full switch to becoming an accountant. I ordered a book through Amazon that will help me study and it allows for a four week study plan which I will start tomorrow. 

Usually my three day weekends don’t start out quite so productively, so right now I am feeling quite self-celebratory. And because I was productive the next two days seem even more inviting! Tomorrow I will study for my test and finish up the assignments for my writing class that need to be submitted by tomorrow evening, and Monday we are planning to spend some time with friends. I am just glad that I was able to work on all the things I need to do in order to make all the changes I want to make in my life.

Zero to Hero Challenge #11 and 13

Challenge 13: Change your blogroll to categories. If I do say so myself, it looks pretty amazing. Like a real blog!

Challenge 11: Leave comments on three new blogs. I left comments at www.ginandtacos.com, Hyperbole and a Half, and The Oatmeal. You should check them out, they are really funny and smart blogs

You can find the list of challenges at The Daily Post if you would like to join the fun!

For those of you who have been waiting for a real post, tomorrow I’ll be attacking challenge 12, which asks me to link to one of the posts I commented on and then write a post in response either comparing my experiences or commenting on the content that I previously commented on. And I will finally do the 8th challenge, which was to create that About Me page.