Feeling Frustrated

Well, we’re beginning the process…

I emailed the lawyer contact that we were given in Dallas.  Of course she wants me to come to Dallas to file my paperwork.  I don’t mind–it is totally worth it.  I just feel like it seems like it will take for.ev.er. to get my husband’s papers.  I am hopeful about my husband though.

So, with a heart full of trepidation, I began to look over all the legal-talk online.

Sigh.

I understand that immigration is a big tender spot for people right now.  I get that.  Even my husband gets that.  And we don’t want to pull one over, but seriously?  There are about a billion clauses, a billion different forms depending on your situation, and a billion different ways to mess up.

Step One:  File a I-130.  Cost: $420.  Purpose: For citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States to establish the relationship to certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States.  

Sure, let me get right on that…

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A Letter to My Sick Baby

Dear Sweet Ale-Cat,
Mama has never felt more helpless than she does now. You have slept in my arms all day, cuddled up next to me breathing laboriously. You open your fever-filled eyes and look at me–and my heart breaks. Because now, I finally understand what causes Grandmama to say, “Oh, I wish it was me and not you…”

You are so amazing, and Mama loves you more every day. I can’t believe how great it feels to see you reach each milestone. When you push up on all fours–then look at me with glee, I feel so proud! This is my baby! Look what she can do now! Sitting, standing, walking, running, climbing…I know that so much lies around the corner!

Ale, Mama loves all you can do–but most of all, Mama loves your sweet little spirit. I know that God has a plan for you that is great. I feel the burden that every mom must feel: to raise you to know and love our father in heaven! I want you to be aware of God’s plan for each of us, and to listen to his voice speak to your little heart. Little lamb, who made you? Doest thou know who made you?

You’re playing on the floor now with your giraffe, and I watch you with wonder. How could God think that I should be entrusted with a treasure as precious as you? There are a lot of things in life that Mama used to be proud of–but none of them are noteworthy now. You. You alone, sweet baby girl, make Mama’s heart swell.

Every day with you is something of a marvel, and oh! how I long for the moment that your eyes are free from pain. Until then, my love, cuddle your Mama. Let me love you up, mi hijita.

With a heart full of love,
Mama

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What Makes a Good Teacher?

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At Readers and Writers Workshop we talk about what it looks like when you are a good reader or writer. We make statements like, “Good readers look at the pictures to see what is going on,” or “Good writers write about what they know.” I feel like I have reached that point where I can say, “Good teachers reflect on their teaching.”

Because of reflection, lately I have reexamined a lot of things that are typical to see in a classroom or at school. And I have started asking myself, “Hey! What’s wrong with that?”

Example 1: When children run, jump, hop, wiggle.
This is what children do. They seem to follow the rule of thumb, Why walk when I can run? I had a student from last year that had one speed–full throttle. Not surprising, this year he busted his head open the second week of school. Good teachers recognize that children move different than adults.

Example 2: When children talk in a line.
What are we operating? A school or prison? As long as no one is being disturbed, I don’t see the point in a quiet line. Actually, the whole “line walking” thing leaves a lot to question. Good teachers don’t enforce ridiculous traditions.

Example 3: When children giggle or laugh and we shush them.
There is nothing better than a happy child. And how wonderful that we have happy children in our classroom! Why are teachers scared of a giggle getting out of control. Good teachers know that happiness is something that makes work a lot better.

Example 4: When children ask why.
How many times have you heard, “Because I said so”? There is nothing wrong with a student wondering why. We tell them to ask questions, and then when we have students who are inquisitive, it becomes a problem. Why? Good teachers know that inquiry is the basis for life-long learners.

Example 5: When children sigh with boredom when the same old lesson starts. If I were presenting a conference to a group of adults, and they loudly moaned when I told them what we would be doing–I would have to rethink that presentation. Why don’t we pay attention to children when they tell us with their body language, words, sighs, moans, etc. that we are boring the pants off of them? Good teachers pay attention to their audience.

Example 6: When students become excited, and we tell them to calm down.
This happens when we teach new games, when we learn new energizes, etc. We want our audience to be attentive! Why are we always complaining about their energy? Good teachers allow energy to flow.

Example 7: When someone farts and all the students giggle.
Farting is funny. For years I would give the old everyone-does-it-and-it’s-normal speech. Then I had a kid. We all laugh when she has gas. It’s especially funny if she has gas when we are just sitting around and it is quiet. Before you tell me it isn’t funny–think about the shows you watch on tv. I bet there is farting humor in most of them. I always choke back my giggles in class. No more. Laughing is allowed. Good teachers can see humor through the eyes of a child.

A good teacher recognizes when change needs to be made. A good teacher admits when she is wrong. And a good teacher vows to be different.

I Am The 22%

This is in reference to an article posted in The Washington Post today. You can read it here.

Two years ago my life changed for the better. I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, I really never could have imagined all that was in store for me. Two years ago (and a few days) I quit my job.

I didn’t have another job. I really had no clue what I wanted to do, but I knew that I couldn’t survive another school year at the Northern Virginia school where I had spent the last three years. With the support of my family, I walked into the office that Tuesday, and resigned. It was easier than I had imagined it would be–probably due to the end of the rope that I had been dangling from snapping in two.

It took me four months to recover.

Luckily, I was able to rediscover my love for teaching, and I moved to Mexico to teach in an American School. This school was far from being perfect. The teachers I taught with were very unhappy. As foreigners teaching in Mexico, they were lacking the support that most international schools offer. I didn’t mind. I was happy with my shabby furniture, the extremely hot houses, and the lack of water.

One of the teachers who was experienced in teaching overseas said, “You know, Jania, you were just in an abusive relationship before–so everything seems great to you now.”

Oh, how true those words were.

I feel somehow validated to read about my school in the Washington Post. I was one of the 22% who left with the first mass exodus. We knew as we left Fort Hunt that we couldn’t cite the REAL problems as reasons for leaving. Fairfax County Schools probably has a file folder full of teachers resigning for “personal reasons,” “health reasons,” or “moving to another area.” That’s so far from the truth. The truth is that telling your future employeers that you had to quit because you couldn’t work in a “toxic environment” any longer makes you sound like you’re weak. Telling future employeers that your principal sucked the life out of a great little community school makes you sound like you shift responsibility. Telling future employeers that you were promised many things that never came to light makes you sound like a whiner. Telling your future employeer that you were switched grade levels, given split days of two grade levels (around 50 students), and not given the special ed support that you were meant to have (by law) makes you sound inflexible.

When other teachers left, we were led to believe that changes would occur. That the whole reason why we were miserable was due to the a group of old school teachers and their negativity. We started Happiness Campaigns to boost moral, but that will only go as far as the administration allows it to go.

The readers of the Washington Post article speculate (as did the parents) that teachers left due to the population of students. False. Our students were the best thing we had going for us. We had a great mix of low-income minority students and the neighborhood kids. I say a great mix, but for years they weren’t allowed to actually mix. The administration did actually encourage that to happen–but with very little cultural understanding.

The teachers were completely unsupported. One teacher was told after a trip to the hospital with heart palpitations (at the tender age of 24 or 25) that she needed to learn to deal with her stress better. I was told in a post-evaluation conference that sure, I would be a good reading specialist, but so would my co-worker. We were built up and broken back down on a daily basis. Teachers were moved like pawns to intentionally (admittedly) disrupt their comfort. Teacher after teacher would leave the school ragged, tired, and worn out. Happy Hours became more common, and more teachers than not would mention the need of alcohol to relax. Many teachers retired before they planned due to the environment. Some teachers left to have their children–choosing to stay at home. One employee told the cluster superintendent that he would take a demotion rather than work at that school another year. Others did move to areas outside of Northern Virginia. But most would have stayed had the situation been different.

I feel like I suffered from PTSD while working at Fort Hunt. I have blocked entire memories out of my head. Sometimes, I think of something–and often it is with wonder that it even happened. Be assured: this article isn’t lying. It isn’t exaggerating. It’s the real deal, people.

Maybe you don’t feel like pointing fingers at the administrator is an appropriate thing to do. The truth is, in this situation, it’s the only thing to do.