Is there an “off” switch for the teacher brain?

I don’t claim to be a “veteran” teacher.  This will be my 8th year teaching.  Yet, it seems to me that, within the past few years, I’m noticing a change in how I view everything in the world around me.  No matter what I do, my thinking seems to transport me into my classroom.  Here are a few recent situations where my classroom smacked me upside the head unexpectedly:

My munchkins and I were at Discovery World in Milwaukee (if you haven’t been there, it’s worth the trip!)  and, although the exhibits were a bit above my kids’ heads, I was fascinated with the Simple Machines portion of the museum.  I kept reading all the signs, helping my kids “play” with the hands-on machines.  And then… I was thinking of our 8th grade Science classes and how great of a field trip this would be for their Laws of Physics unit.  Wait.  Pause.  I DON’T EVEN TEACH SCIENCE! And … IT’S SUMMER!

A friend of mine recently decided to take a teaching/coordinating job in a different district.  While I am extremely happy for her, I didn’t sleep for days afterwards.  I kept thinking about how her department would change and what I would do without her to bounce ideas off of.  Wait…  IT’S SUMMER!  WHY AM I LOSING SLEEP OVER SCHOOL?

We were in the Dells recently for a little family vacation.  While I waited for my oldest to be done on his 8th trip on the go-karts with my husband, I wandered around the indoor theme park with the little guy on my hip.  I stared at the arcade games and wondered how I could help my students determine the probability of winning the jackpot on the spin-the-wheel type games.  Hold on a minute… I DON’T DO MATH!  And I’M ON VACATION!

Those who ride in my van exclusively rock out to KLOVE  because it’s one of the very few stations we can listen to. (My oldest son is a sponge for song lyrics and has literally every song the station plays committed to memory. So listening to something like Lady Gaga … not okay.)  Anyway, the station keeps sharing the stories of the immigrant children from Central America who currently sit at the Mexico-US border.  Besides the sadness this causes me that over 50% of US citizens feel no moral obligation to help these children (my thoughts on this could result in another blog post), I can’t help but think about what a fascinating story this would be for my students to use as a Running News Story (reference: Harvey Daniels … I think…).  Pause.  This is a HUMANITARIAN CRISIS, not an exciting opportunity for reading.

So I suppose I’m not sure what to do about this extra setting my brain has developed.  On one hand, it’s great to continually think of new ways to engage my students; teaching should be anything but stagnant.  On the other hand, it would be nice to turn it off once in a while.

I guess this is another example of how the real-world teacher doesn’t actually get summers off.

By the by, my next blog entry will probably be a Running News Story unit on the topic listed above… Go figure.


My Summer of Reading

Ahhh… I love summer!  Time to relax, turn a darker shade of pasty, hang out with the munchkins, and READ!  There are several books on my “done” list and several still on my “to read” list.  I’ll share my two lists and keep you up-to-date.  Also, the hyperlinks bring you to the Amazon listing and review… you know, for your convenience. 🙂

Books I’ve Read

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Okay, so please don’t throw tomatoes at me.  I enjoyed the book.  I cried and laughed. But honestly, I didn’t like it nearly as much as Looking for Alaska.  Green develops the characters well and I appreciated the humor and realness of the plot. I can definitely see why teens enjoy it and why it was turned into a movie (which, by the way, I haven’t seen…).  I just feel that it was extremely predictable.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – I’m not kidding.. this should be on everyone’s “To Read” list.  A phenomenal book about the struggle of introverts in our society to fit in and feel “normal” when extroverts clearly have the preferred personality type.  I always considered myself an extrovert, but after reading, I realized that I am a pseudo-extrovert or an amnivert (a mix of the two).  I see so many applications for me as a parent, spouse, teacher, church-goer… I can’t say enough about this book!  I am SO pumped to facilitate a book club for this book in my school district.
  • Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana – So this book was a freebie at the International Reading Association Convention this year.  I didn’t have high hopes.  But I picked it up in June… and finished it the next day.  It’s a riveting story about a 10-year-old girl’s plight to survive Hurricane Katrina and care for her 2 younger siblings after she is separated from her parents.  I bawled and I didn’t want the book to end.  Lamana is a brand-new author who, as an educator, helped orphaned/lost children after the Hurricane.  Her emotional connection to the event was clear, and I hope she writes more books.
  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce – We read this for the book club I participate in with my husband.  We’ve read some amazing books, but this wasn’t one of them.  Constant flipping between perspectives and time periods, slow character development, and very few characters that I actually liked.  But I did enjoy the discussion and snacks at our meeting. 🙂

Books I Plan to Read

YA Books

  • The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale – This is one of the books for the WI Battle of the Books competition, and I’ve been asked to write questions for it.  I’m excited for the opportunity!  Reviews are very positive and summaries have me intrigued.
  • Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth – It’s a guilty pleasure.  Don’t judge me.
  • Endangered by Eliot Schrefer – This was a National Book Award finalist that I bought off of Amazon.  I may not get to it, but I hope I can!
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – This is another award winner from this year.  Unfortunately, my plans to read this were thwarted by a fire-alarm-pulling 8th grader who borrowed it before I got to read it and was suspended for the rest of the school year for her antics before I could get the book back.  Arg.  Still waiting for it from the library.

PD Books

Well, that’s all for now.  What books do YOU suggest for me?  I’d love to hear your reviews and suggestions!

Confessions of a Summer Stay-At-Home Mom

Whew!  It’s been almost 2 years since my last post!  The second kid really IS twice as much work.  More on that another time…

Well, I have been home  for the summer for ONE WHOLE WEEK (because, contrary to the beliefs of non-teachers, we really don’t stop working until nearly July… if we’re lucky), and I have come to realize a few things about being a summer stay-at-home mom (aka – a teacher off for the summer).  They should be worded more as confessions than realizations, because I am not exactly proud of some of them.  Here they are:

1) While I have never looked down on stay-at-home moms, I gain a new appreciation for them every summer.  It can be exhausting breaking up fights, cleaning up the house (see confession #2), taking kids from place to place, finding budget-friendly activities to fill time, and making sure that you keep some semblance of a schedule amidst the desire to throw caution to the wind and take the kids to the pool during nap time.

2) My house is no cleaner in the summer than it is during the school year.  I always have these great aspirations to scrub walls, shampoo carpets, rid the boys’ toy closets of McDonald’s trinkets, etc.  And yet, nap time comes, and other activities eat away the time… like writing this blog post.  I have done some scrubbing, but I wouldn’t exactly want someone showing up at my house right now and witnessing the chaos that is the remains of lunch on the kitchen table.

3) I have given my kids Popsicles for breakfast.  Now, before you call social services, my munchkins had 100% juice pops, so it was basically a frozen beverage.  Back before I had kids, I would have been appalled at shenanigans of this caliber.  But now, I rally for the removal of the “dessert stigma” that surrounds Popsicles of the 100% juice variety.

4) Target is a constant temptation.  I always have a legitimate list.  Really, I do.  But more often than not, trips to Target are an excuse to take the boys somewhere and get out of the house.  This was especially true when I could walk to Target.  Thankfully for my budget, I now have to hop in a car and, therefore, I think about it a bit more.  For maybe 5 seconds… as opposed to 2.

5) I have engaged in napping experimentation.  There is nothing worse than going on a family vacation, only to have super-cranky children because they won’t nap or go to sleep on time simply because they’d rather goof around with each other (an occasion they don’t often get because they have separate rooms).  To remedy this, I have been attempting to have the boys nap together.  It has failed miserably, but I keep trying, hoping one day my dreams will all come true and I will be able to come back from a vacation rested.

6) I love my children, but I have threatened to sell them.  Clearly, I never would sell them.  But, as I pulled Isaiah off of Mason for the 109834534894275th time on Friday, I wondered what price they would bring in at the rummage sale I was hosting.   It may be because they’re used to having other kids to play with and they don’t get on each others’ nerves as much at daycare.  Or it simply may be that I am not used to seeing them interact for days on end without any separation from one another. Which, in some ways, makes me sad. But…

7) I like not working… sometimes.  Despite frustrations of having 2 kids under the age of 5, I feel truly blessed to have a job in which I have this time with them at home.  But it also reaffirms that, for my family, it’s a right decision for me to work.  I say “a” instead of “the” because it would also be “right” for me to be a stay-at-home mom, but I think that teaching affords me the opportunity to be around other people, gives my kids experiences with other children, and makes my family appreciate our time together when we have it.  By mid-August, however, I think we’ll all be ready for me to go back to work.

My next post will be within a few weeks. I have done a TON of reading over the past few months, and I’ll have some reviews for you.  God bless your week!