Category Archives: Family

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!

Surviving Pregnancy While Teaching Middle School: Not for the Emotionally Unstable

So it is very obvious at this point that I am, in fact, pregnant.  I told my students in December and, of course, they were very curious and also excited.  Each grade and gender has its own generalized response.  6th grade girls get all excited and want to throw you a baby shower, while 6th grade boys roll their eyes and 8th grade boys laugh hysterically because, surprise people, pregnancy involves (loud whisper) sex.

I thought that tonight, for your reading pleasure, I would share with you some of my favorite Q&A sessions regarding pregnancy that I have had with my students.  Here they are, in no particular order.

8th grade female Student: Was it planned?
Me: What?  The lesson today?  Of course!
Student: No, the baby.
Me: (awkward pause) Um, yes.  Moving on…

8th grade male when I announced the pregnancy: Wait.  So if you’re pregnant, that means… OH SNAP!
Me: That means what?
Student: BAHAHAHAHA!  You… OH MAN!
(I suppose we will just have to read between the lines on this one.  Or not.)

8th grade student when I announced the pregnancy: Who’s the daddy?
Me: (speechless) (pointed to wedding photo on desk) (wordlessly moved onto the lesson)

7th grade male Student: Mrs. Goodger, what happens if your fountain breaks at school?
Me: (exchange glance with female interventionist) Um, fountain?
Student: Yeah, like right before you have the baby.
Me: (Pause.  Consider options for response.) I believe you mean “if my water breaks”.
Student: (surrounded by hysterical laughter from fellow students) Um, yeah.  So what happens?
Me: You get a sub and I go home.  Immediately.  Moving on…

Another 7th grade male Student: Are you sure there’s a baby in there?
Me: (Pause) Yes, I’m fairly certain.
Female student in same class: Are you saying you think she’s just getting fat or something?  Cuz that’s just rude!
Me: (laughing) No, I’m not just getting fat.  I feel the baby moving around and saw him on the ultrasound.
Male student: Ew.  Gross.

Male student I had for the first trimester and have only seen in hallway since I started showing: Mrs. Goodger, you’re PREGNANT?
Me: Yep.  It’s true.
Student: Oh.  I thought you were just eating a lot of cake.

Female 8th grade student: Mrs. Goodger, I am NOT going to get big like that when I’m pregnant.
Me: Well, we’ll see.  In about 20 years, please.
Student: Whatever.
Me: Pause.  (student turns around) “Whatever” on the growth of tummy or on the 20 years?
Student: Both.
Me: Seriously.
Student: No, I’m kidding.  Just on the bigness.

Same 8th grade female student, different day: Mrs. Goodger, you’re eating AGAIN???
Me: Yes dear, I’m hungry.  Got to feed the baby, you know.
Student: Mrs. Goodger, stop lying.  YOU are eating, not the baby. Jeez.

6th grade female student: What are you going to name the baby?
Me: We don’t know yet.   We haven’t decided.
6th grade male: You should name him Mason.
Another student, yelling across the room: Her other son is already named Mason, stupid.
6th grade male: So?? (defensively)
Me: Don’t you think that would make my house a little confusing?
6th grade male: (pouts) Fine, then.  Mason Jr.


Mice in the Car and My New School Year Goal

Well, friends, another school year has begun.  Mine has been, let’s just say, eventful.  But I believe that my feeble brain has conceived yet another teaching analogy inspired by an unrelated part of my life.  Here it goes.

So I’m getting Mason in his car seat, trying to get a move on to attend day #5 of professional inservices when I see them: mouse poopies.  In my car.  On Mason’s seat, in my cup holders, on the dashboard, everywhere.  Do I have time to clean them out?  Of course not.  So I cringe, wipe them off of Mason’s seat, strap him in, and call my husband crying on the way to work.  Got home, vacuumed the car, Clorox wiped everything possible, and yet, later that night, more poopies.

Luckily, my husband is not cheap when it comes to things such as this. He got the pricey traps.  You know, the “no see, no touch” kind that are little pods which lure the dastardly creatures in and kill instantly?  Lo and behold, the little beast was no longer living the next morning. He had a hasty funeral that ended in the garbage can.

So here’s my analogy between the little crapper who lived in my car and teaching.  No, readers, I will not be referring to my students as “little crappers”.  Rather, I compare the unwelcome mouse to those unexpected things that come up in the classroom on a daily basis: random farting noises spread by giggling 8th grade boys who know better, a frantic secretary who calls looking for a missing student, the fourteenth message over the PA system in the last hour, the comment “but we did this last year” from students upon receiving an assignment, etc.

Are these things frustrating? ABSOLUTELY!  You’re trying so hard to keep students focused and give them the best opportunity to succeed in life through the skills they learn in your class, yet your efforts are thwarted at every turn.  But what I learned from the little mousie who thought he could conquer my car is that you can either complain about it or do something about it.  You can either become frustrated at your noisemaking students or you can make every effort to show them how to behave in a classroom and why it’s an important lesson to learn. You can either become frustrated about the calls you get or understand the importance of having secretaries so you don’t have to do all of this.  You can take your students’ complaining about already having done an activity and use it as an opportunity to teach them the value of rereading.

My goal this school year, besides the always-present goal of being SuperMom, is to take these inconveniences and DO something about them.  I spend a lot of time whining and complaining about things, but I don’t have time to do that anymore.  I HAVE to be efficient with my time and find solutions to my problems that make whatever curse I face into a blessing.

That is my rant for today.  It is time to make cookies, exercise, and shower in the next 45 minutes.  Can I do it?  YES I CAN!  Bless your weekends!

My August Ritual

This will be my 6th year of teacher (if you count student teaching).  The list below has become my August Ritual in preparation for the impending school year.

1) Watch sale ads at Walgreens, Office Max, Target, and JoAnn Fabric for really cheap school supplies (because students NEVER have pencils and lose or draw inappropriate graffiti on their folders).  Once a sale is discovered, run to store immediately and buy items in immense quantities.   If there is a limit on number of items you can purchase in a single transaction, ask cashier if you really have to have 6 separate transactions for the 60 folders you want to buy.  (Usually they’ll just ring it up in one transaction if you haven’t carried the entire shelf over.)

2) Go into classroom and start moving furniture, posters, books, and materials around, knowing full well that you’ll probably hate the arrangement within a week.  Bring child with to school, avoid newly waxed floors, and keep child occupied with newly purchased school supplies, snacks, climbing toys (aka desks), and songs.  (Bringing toys to school is not necessary as they will not actually be touched.)

3) Begin lesson planning during nap times.  Create fancy shmancy calendar marked with days off, early releases, and marking periods.  Write preliminary plans WITH PENCIL because they will need to be modified within the first week anyway as students are absent, pulled out of class, or frankly don’t get what you’re talking about (forcing a reteaching day or two).

4) Make plans to meet with other teachers to plan curriculum and generally shoot-the-breeze.  End up altering or canceling plans due to family emergencies, lack of childcare, or behavior of child if he was brought along to the meeting.

5) If any time is left, sort through the massive pile of materials you accumulated over the last couple of years (including the entire filing cabinet filled with stuff the LAST teacher left you) and sort/throw items.  Alternative A: Find a new teacher who is anxious for classroom materials and pawn stuff off on him/her.  Alternative B: leave it for next year, making the goal to sort/throw materials even more lofty.

Things I Borrowed from Other People

Several of you have asked for some recipes.  They are all ones that I’ve borrowed from other people, so I will give them credit here!

Homemade Yogurt:
From Things I Did Right (friend’s blog)!  It is delicious and less than half the price of buying the little containers of yogurt.  Plus, you can pick your flavors depending on your mood of the day and avoid fake sweeteners.  Here’s what I’ve tried – Banana Chocolate Chip, Honey Almond, Blueberry, and Peach. All highly recommended!

Homemade Quaker Granola Bars:
From The Color of Contentment (friend’s blog)! I would say these are even better than the Homemade NutriGrain bars from a couple weeks ago.  She’s got some great suggestions for flavors you can make.  The first batch, I decided on a Smore flavor (mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, crunched up graham crackers).  It was amazing, but a little too sweet and squishy because I chose honey as my “liquid sugar”.  Second batch (which I brought to Bible study and came home with none) was peanut butter chocolate chip.  I used light corn syrup as my “liquid sugar”, half butter and half peanut butter for my “fat”, and some extra oats with crushed peanuts and chocolate chips for my “bulk”.  Yum!  Next batch will be an attempt at “Blueberry Muffin” flavor (cinnamon, dried blueberries, not sure what else…)

No-Bake Cookies (AKA Cow Pie Cookies):
This is from my wonderful mother and was a favorite at my house growing up.  It is now a favorite of my gluten-free friends and I have a friend who is going to try subbing in a non-peanut peanut butter for her peanut-allergic child.  Here’s the recipe!
2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. cocoa
1 stick margarine (butter works fine too)
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. peanut butter (I use chunky)
3 C. instant oatmeal
1 tsp. vanilla

Add the first 4 ingredients together.  Boil for one minute. (This is very important to melt the sugar.  Otherwise, the cookies are grainy and not as good.)  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter, vanilla, oatmeal and nuts.  Drop by spoonsfuls on wax paper. Let sit for at least an hour or until cool and solidified.