Saturday, May 29, 2010


What a week.

Wednesday was the last day I will ever teach at Dead President School, and believe me, I was happy for the day to be over. After school, I pulled my car up to my classroom and loaded my personal belongings (a lot of books, some stuffed animals and framed pictures, and other odds-and-ends) into the trunk and backseat. I said my goodbyes to the kindergarten teachers, who are very sad to see me go. I did not say goodbye to my middle school colleagues, because the gossip and meanness from a couple of them are what helped drive me from this school in the first place.

It was tough saying my goodbyes--I went through a few tissues, and came home with a brutal headache.

Thursday was the last day of school for the kids. I was at Civil Rights Leader School that day, and I helped chaperone an 8th grade field trip to Boomer's, one of those obnoxious miniature golf, go-carts, bumper-boats, batting cages, huge arcade places that are fun for about an hour and then you realize you just spent $25 to play endless SkeeBall and all you got was this over-salted pretzel.

Still, the kids had fun, and I attempted two firsts--the climbing wall (epic fail--I froze about three feet up and thought, "I'm going to FALL AND DIE" so I gave up) and the go-carts, which were a ton of fun, even though I was the granny driver who got passed by one student TWICE. My kids were laughing at my slowness. I just smiled and said, "There is a reason I'm a teacher and not a NASCAR driver."

I didn't get home until 6:00 that evening. Needless to say, I was exhausted, but I still made myself run a mile, and felt better for it.

Yesterday was a teacher day. I stopped at DP school to sign an attendance form and say goodbye to the office ladies. While I was doing this, Mrs. Principal came out. I didn't look at her or speak to her. I just said my goodbyes and left as quickly as I could. I can't even look at her after everything that has happened this year. It's not immaturity, it's simple loathing that one person can get away with so much. So many complaints have been lodged against her, by so many people, and nothing happens.

After this, I went to CRL School to tear some stuff down from my classroom walls and check out. It didn't take me too long, so I spent some time in the middle school pod, chatting with my colleagues there, who have been so supportive this year. We had a school-wide potluck at 11:30, and then it was time for me to go. I cried a little, and received a lot of hugs. I also received a lot of, "You are a good teacher, and you will come back from this."

I had the best of intentions--I got home a little after noon, intending to load up my car, take out the garbage, and go for a good run. Insted, I flopped down on my bed and dozed for an hour. Then I loaded my car, took out the garbage, and headed over to the gym for an appointment with G. the Meanie.

We're down to seeing each other once a week, and because he hasn't been working afternoons much, I hadn't seen him at all since last Friday. We started with some long sprints (150 yards, yikes), which were hard, but definitely got me going again. Then we just did resistance training. By the end of my hour appointment, I felt awake and lively again. Amazing how working out will do that.

We took my measurements. My waist is now five whole inches smaller than it was in February. My bust is six-and-a-half inches smaller. New bras are on the shopping list, for sure.

After my appointment, I loaded Millie and Harley into their carriers and whisked them off to Mom and Dad's house. I had a lovely lie-in this morning and now the most pressing thing I have to do today is drop some books off at the used bookstore and get some new ones to read in all this upcoming free time.

I have an interview with a duck on Thursday--I'm in the exploratory stages of working for the Feathered Guy, but it's definitely worth looking in to--and finally enough time on my hands to really get to the task of applying for jobs. I get two more paychecks from the district--one on Monday and one at the end of June--so this staves off unemployment for a while. A very good thing, because a new pair of running shoes are needed (they need to be replaced every six months and my current pair are getting quite worn from all the running I've done). I can justify this expense, and not, say, a couple nights in a hotel in Monterey because I've got to keep up the running. Not only has it made me lose a ton of weight, it clears my head and makes me feel good. The perfect stress-buster.

I'm at peace today. The really hard part (basically the whole month of May) is behind me, and I feel pretty good about my future.

Doesn't hurt that I have tickets to see Keane in Oakland on July 20th. ; )

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Feelin' Keane

Allow me to indulge myself. I've had a stressful day. I shall now post pictures of the awesome men of Keane, and drool into my hot chocolate. Keane makes me happy.

I would love to know what Tom or Richard said to make Tim give them the bird.
Yes, Tom. You guys do kick ass.

Rock stars making time for a cuppa. So British!
Richard's smile in this one slays me. He is so adorable.
I [heart] Nerds!
They often end their shows like this--three childhood friends, now in their thirties, still like brothers.
Tim--keyboards and the musical genius behind the music.
Tom--the man with The VOICE and the one most girls swoon over. But not me, because I'm half in love with...
Richard, the drummer. He's British, he's smart, he has a social conscience and he has cats. What's not to love?

Teacher Lady

It's not polite to talk about money, but I'm going to tell you what I took home on last month's paycheck: a whopping $3,032.17.

For some of you, that might seem like a small fortune. For a single gal who pays $995 in rent (not to mention bills, groceries, keeping gas in the car, etc.), it's not huge. But then, I've always said that I didn't go into teaching for the monetary rewards.

In nine years of teaching (eight credentialled, one year of subbing and student teaching), I have encountered rude parents, snotty kids, assinine state regulations, bosses who make my head spin, daily frustrations caused by working for a beauracracy, unfair conditions, helicopter parents, red tape, and disasters large and small. In two years of teaching high school, I had to have an ambulence pull in front of my room twice--once for a possible overdose and another time for dangerously low blood sugar because the girl was fasting to lose weight.

Kids have lost parents. Kids have told me things that make my hair curl. I have filled out a mandated reporter form. I've been called a bitch. I've been told by a drug-addicted mom that I'm a terrible teacher because I wouldn't let several middle school kids cross a busy San Francisco street to use the City Hall bathrooms (instead telling them, "I'm sorry, you'll just have to wait 'til we get to Pier 39."). I've been lambasted for giving a "star singer" a B in choir. I've had five-year-olds wet themselves in my classroom. I've seen barf, blood, but thankfully no feces (yet--my time will come). On a regular basis I am locked into a classroom with an overactive heating system while one (or more) middle school students are in desperate need of deodorant, or Beano.

I have heard more whining, seen more tears, heard more fibs than I can count. I've contracted strep, flu, colds and upset stomachs from working with kids day in and day out. I have cried in my classroom, and I've laughed myself silly. I've yelled, I've whispered, I've sung, and I've ignored.

I spend my free time researching and writing lesson plans. I spend my personal money on books, copy paper, pens and pencils. I spend my lunch time sorting colored pencils or washing paint trays. There are days that I don't sit at all.

My time isn't my own. Have to pee? Gotta wait for break or lunch. Lunch is 40 minutes, but more like 20 by the time I get my class on their merry way, check my mailbox, go to the bathroom, etc.

I referee arguments, deal with drama, and "knock it off!" has become a permanent fixture in my vocabulary.

Why do I stay? What has made me spend nearly a decade pursuing this? Why do I put up with it and only take home $3,000 a month? Some of which I spend on stuff for my classroom?

It's not a job, teaching. I knew in high school that I wanted to be a teacher; I knew at a time when most kids are still thinking that a pro ball career or a pro singing career are in the stars for them. I never thought that--sure, I daydreamed, I secretly wished. But I knew then that I would be a teacher. A good teacher. I pursued the career because I love kids, and I love music. What could be better than putting the two together?

I deal with so much crap--it's true. And yet I'm not ready to give up on this calling. That's what it is, a calling. Not a job.  A job is something you do from nine to five, then you go home. Teaching is a calling, something that consumes you. Even when I'm hanging out with friends on the weekend, I am the Teacher Lady, the childless woman who still knows a thing or two about dealing with kids.

Today, it hit me especially hard that this calling, this path I've spent a third of my life hiking, might soon be yanked away from me.

It was my last day at my "bad" school, the one where I could do nothing right. The school that tested me every day, that put me on anti-anxiety medications. I packed up my personal belongings into boxes and loaded them into my car--a decade's worth of books, resources, Snoopy stuff, posters and wall hangings. I turned in my keys and said goodbye to a few key people. Then I got in my car and bawled like a baby.

How did I get here? How did a career I love get pulled away from me? How is it possible for one person with so much hate in her to put such a dent in my calling?

I'm facing a huge, wide unknown. I have an interview with Aflac next week, to possibly sell insurance. Me! Selling insurance. I'll do it, if it keeps a roof over my head, but I am baffled that I'm here, that a good teacher who sometimes struggles, as anyone does, is contemplating selling insurance. I could have been tenured into my job, but instead, I'm looking at unemployment.

Above, I listed all the things that could make me throw up my hands and run screaming from teaching--that haven't. Because while my job is often difficult, almost always thankless, it is also wonderful.

I inspire children. I make them laugh with my silliness, and they are contrite when I call them on bad behavior. I have seen the lightbulb come on over so many heads as what I am teaching them takes hold and begins to grow.

I have provided a safe place for kids with no other place to feel safe. I have given opportunities to children with no opportunities. I have watched kids go from resentful and surly to trusting and sweet--because of music, and because of me.

Kids rush to tell me when they have good news, or to show me how well they did on an assignment or test. I have watched reluctant singers become true vocalists, and kids who can barely color in 7th grade become my best artists in 8th. I encouraged a kid who could easily lose his way when he gets to high school this fall to join the mariachi group at one of our local high schools--he had no idea the mariachi program existed until I told him, and now he's going to be part of it. I think it will keep him in high school.

I can't tell you how many "hip hugs" I've received on the playground, how many times I've heard "I love you, Miss Cooper!"--even from 8th graders!

I have known the satisfaction of seeing my beginning choir rock out to "Seasons of Love" in front of a thrilled audience, and the gratitude of students who got their choir trip to Disneyland (not all of my high school charges were so bad...). Teaching has taken me to England, where I dosed out a little bit of California Girl on my unruly charges and got them (mostly) in line within a school year. The sweetest memories I have include hearing an entire K-5 school say, "Good Morning, Miss Cooper!" at our weekly Morning Sing.

There was heartbreak in filling out that mandated reporter form--but also satisfaction in knowing that I could do something to help a little girl.

I get paid to sing the Racecar song, or "Six Little Ducks." The kindergarten teachers go on and on about how much their students love coming to music, how excited they are each week when it's time to line up and walk to the music room.

I am a good teacher--and no one can take that away from me. It breaks my heart that I might have to leave the career for a while. But I'm also hopeful that I will find my way back. The good far outweighs the bad.

Teacher Lady isn't done. I've been knocked down, yes, but I'm not out yet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


There is so much coursing through my mind right now:
  1. Tomorrow is my last day at the "icky" school. EVER.
  2. As of next week, I am officially without a job.
  3. I have been on a weight-loss plateau for a MONTH and I'm sick of it.
  4. I feel bloated. I drink a ton of water so that my body won't hold on to it like a camel. Not working. But I do have to pee more often.
  5. It doesn't feel like May. It's May 25th in California, and we've got rain. Rain! I don't mind it, but it's baffling.
  6. I want Evan Lysacek to win Dancing With the Stars...and this is the first time I've ever watched Dancing With the Stars. Why I care tonight is anyone's guess.
  7. I really wish I didn't have a huge, rabid zit in the middle of my right cheek.
  8. I'm reading a surprisingly entertaining young adult novel at the moment, A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy). It is mysterious, somewhat creepy, and full of Victorian-era girl drama.
  9. There really is nothing like hot tea on a rainy evening. Even if this time last year I was gulping down ice water.
  10. Evan's on. Gotta go.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Random Pictures

I haven't done a Week in Pictures post in a few weeks. I've been meaning to, but either I don't have enough pictures, or I forget/don't have time/don't feel like it. So tonight, I'm uploading a bunch of the random pictures I've taken. We'll start with the cats...because there are always cat pictures.

Tuna Time at Meg's House
How he fits his 13-pound self in there, I have no idea.
This is what I sometimes come home to (and yes, this includes the mess of cat toys).
This is my sofa, all folded out for a one-woman slumber party...because that little orange dude barfed on my bed.
"Hey! We smell a cat that isn't one of us two. Not cool, Mom, not cool."
The cat that causes a ton of drama 'round these parts.

Then, of course, there's school stuff.

The solution to wearing heels to work--take slippers!
Some art samples I've made over the last two years to show my kids.
"What do you find scary?" One kid's priceless contribution was to use the oil pastels to write the word, "Algebra."
My colleague at one school used my room as an art gallery during Open House. She did not ask. Open House was on Thursday night. This picture was taken the following Monday morning, five minutes before I was supposed to have 30 8th graders in there. Needless to say, I was a little pissy.
My favorite classroom poster.
The time has come to pack my stuff...
All of my plushes, and, underneath them, my bag of finger puppets.

That's it for now. I'm hoping to get enough pics this week. It's the last week of school and while I'm worried about what the future holds, I'm also excited for summer vacation.

Monday Music: Journey and Petra Haden

After recently featuring Journey's awesome song "Lights," I had to include a double-header for today.

You might be familiar with Journey's big hit, "Don't Stop Believin'."

Well, check out Petra Haden.

Video courtesy of kristinsaurus

I first heard of her on a trashy celeb blog that I no longer read because the man who runs it is a misogynist jerk with no manners, class, or style who fancies himself a celebrity and "writes" under a tag that might make one think he's a hotel heiress. The one good thing this blog ever did for me was introduce me to the awesome bit of magic above.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back To the City: Part 2

From Pier 39, Summer and I walked over to Cost Plus and Barnes and Noble. I stocked up on some summer reading, as school will be out this week. I bought Chasing Perfect, A Wrinkle in Time, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Bunnicula. Yes, I'm catching up on my young adult and children's books!

After the bookstore, we decided to hoof it back to the Powell St. Station to catch BART back to Oakland. It's quite a hike, with one big hill involved, but it wasn't too bad. I got some wonderful building and sign pictures along the way.

I just LOVE cheesy old signs!

When I saw this, I shouted to Summer, "I've found my new career path!!!"

This is a middle school. I've never seen such a nice-looking, gum- and Sharpie-free school.


Taken through a chain-link fence.
Not sure what to make of this one..."Doo wash your clothes?" or "Wash the doo out of your clothes?" It's a mystery.

My inner 12-year-old giggled at this one.

Coit Tower through the trees.

Just one of MANY hills in San Francisco.

I am immensely proud of this picture. I laughed and said, "Fella Street!" Then I noticed the fella just hanging out, stopped in my tracks, and got the pic.

From getting off at the Embarcadero station to our return to Powell Street Station, we walked well over three-and-a-half miles, with one pretty substantial hill (we don't need to stinkin' trolleys!). Summer had a blister. My knees and shins were letting me know that they don't appreciate going downhill. Uphill wasn't a problem--I was barely winded. I climb mountains, you know.

After meeting up with Rosie Pro in Oakland, I drove Summer home, and then got on my way back to Stockton.

Incidentally, here's the super-cute new skirt I wore today:

I bought it with a black tank top, and intend to wear it this summer, sans tights. I found that it made a great Day in the City outfit, except that I had to be careful in the wind. I had a few Marilyn moments.

It was great, as always, to catch up with Summer, and to visit San Francisco. I love that city.