Friday, June 30, 2006

Like Rodney Dangerfield - I Get No Respect

Okay, yes, that's an exaggeration. I waited a few days to post this to see if I'd still be upset about the issue, and I am. At the end of the school year, each person is asked to clean out their room of any personal belongings, make sure things are locked up, that computers are turned off, etc, so that the custodial staff can clean over the break. On the sign-out sheet, I checked off the appropriate things, and then added a specific request that my room not be used as storage this year. This is because, when I first started this job, I came into my office to find a bunch of miscellaneous junk that people didn't know what to do with. So, in addition to doing the normal beginning-of-year preparation to begin speech therapy, like reading and reviewing files, doing observations, contacting parents, making my own lists and getting organized, I had to clean out my office of this extraneous crap. I thought I would side-step this whole scenario for next school year by making my request early.

The other day, I went to my office to check a few things and to get some materials, and what do I find in my office? A pile of shit. Well, not really shit, but someone else's belongings that they have stored in my office. There are two parts to this that piss me off - that this is after my specific request for my office not to be used as storage, and the fact that all of the items are piled in such a way that make it almost impossible for me to get to my materials and my files. This is just adding insult to injury, since this is at the school where I get told by a fellow educator that "I don't count as a staff member since I don't do recess duty" (which is the feeling of at least 25% of the staff towards all itinerants, even though we are there as a resource to them and to help our shared students). This only aids in increasing my doubt as to whether it was the right decision for me to commit to one more year here. This may seem like small beans to other people, but for me, it's one more thing on a growing pile of negative things that tell me that I'm not respected at my worksite.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Don't Care If You Know the Answer - It's the Process

"I don't care that you know the right answer - it's the process that's important!". I have said this phrase more than once to K in the last couple of days as we have begun our work together on improving academics (math and writing/organization) so he doesn't go through the inevitable "backslide" over the summer. Yesterday was a good example. I have a computer program called "Math Success 2006 for Middle School", which provides tutorials, examples, and short practices for various skill sets. Since K will be going into pre-algebra in the fall (and has historically had difficulties with math), I decided to give him a head start by tutoring him myself this summer . Yesterday we did a tutorial on fractions and percents - especially focusing on converting fractions to percents and vice versa. After that, he had to do ten problems on paper to convert fractions into percents. Even after it clearly stated at the top the three steps to do these problems, K started out by just simply listing the percents for the problems he knew. He then became upset when I erased all his answers and said "show your work - like in the example". I could see him beginning to shut down, but then I explained the importance of following directions and following the process of math. I further explained that his math teacher from last year had explained that most of K's poor grades on assignments had been because he didn't follow the process - not because he hadn't gotten the answer correct. K relented, let me do one of the problems on paper for him to show him what I expected, then did the rest of them with me sitting next to him with an occasional "this is hard" or "are we done yet?".

Just as I had begun to question my decision to forego Sylvan, and have been dealing with the battle of wills, I realized that this is not just about K learning. By working with him myself, I actually get to see where the breakdowns occur in K's learning processes. In the past, I've let him be pretty self-sufficient with his homework, and it worked okay up until the sixth grade, when it bit us both in the bums. However, K has had a theme in his attitude towards school work from a very young age (about third grade), which is "why should I explain how I got the answer when the teacher already knows?". It's just that, when he was younger, he was strong enough in other areas to compensate. But, if anything is difficult, he'd rather avoid it - and things got difficult pretty quickly once he reached the secondary level. On top of it all, when doing any kind of assignment (math or writing), if there are small parts that need to be detailed and organized, that's where there is considerable gnashing of teeth and head-butting.

I wonder... how much of one's temperament and attitude towards school work transfer to every day life beyond high school? I try to explain things to K in a way so that he knows I am thinking about what is beyond this madness he calls junior high, but I don't know that I always am able to get through to him. I ask him what he wants for himself and out of life, and he is able to tell me, and says that he understands what is required to get there, but I wonder if he really believes it. I guess I'm going through what most parents of teens go through - trying to picture exactly how my son will fit into this world and hoping he will make choices that will make his life better, and not worse.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Domestic Bliss

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Overworked and Underpaid...Still

So, the first night I spent at my dad's place, we sat up late drinking wine and talking about various life issues. It started pretty lightly, but then moved to more serious topics - one of which is very important to me (for obvious reasons). Dad mentioned a book by John Stossel (of 20/20 fame) that makes the claim that it is a myth that men make more than women, and asked me what I thought about that statement. I think a lot about that statement. My first reaction was to become upset and say what an idiot Stossel is for asserting that women make just as much as men. And, I suppose, if a person was to look at side-by-side comparisons of a particular occupation (all other things being equal such as education level, years of experience, etc), that a woman and a man have the potential to earn the same salary. However, what happens on paper and what happens in real life are often two different things. For example, employers are not supposed to discriminate when hiring potential employees based on race, background, age, disability, or gender, but you and I know that they do. Also, does Stossel's claim take into account gender specific fields - the fact that a higher number of women are teachers than men. Why is that? Gee, it might be because teachers have more "family friendly" hours than, say, firefighters. Why is that important? Who is expected to take care of the household and bring in her share of the family's bacon? Women can't do that if they take a job that demands a 12 hour workday or that puts her in dangerous circumstances on a regular basis. Now, some women would argue that you CAN do it all, but I'm not one of those women - I am a realist and I will unashamedly tell anyone (usually when they are making requests of me) that "I am not Wonder Woman". So, strictly speaking, yes, it's a woman's choice that she takes jobs that are less in-demand and less dangerous than the jobs men take. But who decides that the male dominated fields should pay more than the female dominated fields? Possibly the same people who thought, some 40 or so years ago, that a woman's place was strictly in the home.

Not one to spout off without at least providing some facts, I did a Google search on women's versus men's salaries. I was feeling pretty validated when I found an article that made the points I've mentioned above, as well as some others - they even referenced Census Bureau statistics and the NAFE (National Association for Female Executives). However, there are plenty of articles that support Stossel's claim - even going so far as to say that, because men are more productive than women (WHAT?!?), they get paid more for similar jobs. There are also government websites with articles comparing male and female salaries in engineering, with results that would indicate that the pay is similar. They also mention that this particular field is about 90% male and 10% female - no surprise there. I came along a very interesting article on the US goverment's website under the National Agricultural Statistics Service, which highlighted the fact that women (and girls), on average, spend more time in "unpaid" activities (which, in this article, are referred to as "economic contribution") such as childcare or care for the elderly. On the plus side, since we live in a "developed" country, higher education is afforded to both men and women, as opposed to "developing" economies, where men have more access to education than women do. Unfortunately, this articles does not go in-depth as to the disparities between men's and women's incomes, but instead suggests ways in which to obtain more information. A good, general knowledge website, that provides information on various professions, including working conditions, education requirements, salary, etc, is the US Department of Labor site. Again, I was not able to find statistics on male-dominated versus female-dominated fields, but if you read the description of "nature of the work" for each field, it is not difficult to determine which areas are "male-friendly" and which ones are "female-friendly".

The bottom line is that I will not argue that women are slowly closing the salary gap, but we're not there yet, unless you take a very over-simplified view of men's versus women's salaries without looking at "real world" examples.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Visit to Seattle

This evening, I'll be headed home from my mini-vacation in Seattle. It's been so nice to get away and not be on any kind of schedule. I was able to see my good friends, spend Father's Day with my Dad, and take in a few sights. Two of my friends I have not seen in a year and I was surprised at how easy it was to pick up where we left off - it was like I'd never left. I don't think I've laughed this much in ages, which has done wonders for reducing my stress level. Purposely, I did not rent a car - mainly to avoid the cost - but also so that it would force me to walk a bit more. Dad rented a few flicks - Nashville (a 1975 Robert Altman film) and Glory Road. Both were pretty good, but Nashville was quite interesting and has stuck in my brain just from the sheer odd-ness of the story. I won't do a movie review for it, but if you want something a bit off the beaten path, then I would suggest this show. The pictures below are from Alki beach:

Anchor at Luna Park

cute goslings at boat launch

obligatory "flower" shot - because I love flowers

picture in concrete of swimmers at Luna Park

view of Space Needle from Alki

Interesting History of Alki: According to the government site for parks in the Seattle area, Alki beach was where the first white settlers came to the Seattle area in 1851. They were greeted and helped to build housing by Chief Seattle and his tribe. One of the first proposed names for Seattle was "Duwamish", which came from the Chinook word "duwampsh" (meaning many colored river). Apparently, in the early 1900's, Luna Park was built up - complete with amusement rides and music (none of which remain today) and was considered the "Coney Island of the West".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Roller Coaster Ride

That is what I feel like I'm on lately. The last day of school is tomorrow. Today, I had a parent drop by my office and thank me personally for working with her daughter, and I had a student come by to give me a hug and bring me a thank-you gift and card. I felt very appreciated and that it was a good choice to promise my services one more year. Everything I sought to get done today I was able to accomplish, but if you'd talked to me at the end of last week, it would have been a different story. I had three meetings last week that came straight from hell - the last of which was a complete train wreck. You know the meetings are bad when you cannot meet without having the "higher ups" in attendance. From the first instance of "arms across chest" to the first verbal jabs, I knew it was gonna be rough. At one point, there was the perceived threat of physical harm from an "outside professional" to a member of our team, to which my (half-joking) reply was "You should have let her hit you - what about taking one for the team?". My suggestion was met with a jab in the ribs from the "possible hit-tee" and smirks from the other team members. It was the only time I can remember having a meeting called to a halt because of obnoxious behavior (not on my part). This was on Friday afternoon, which was after two other meetings where I had to sit and listen to obnoxious parents with outrageous requests that there is no way anyone, short of Wonder Woman, could fulfill. The nice thing was that, by the time the third meeting adjourned on Friday, all I could do was laugh and wonder how our situation would have been sensationalized by Jerry Springer, which is the opposite of what I usually do after something like that (the opposite being cry, bitch and moan, and carry on - all followed by consumption of wine or other alcohol and a hot bath). So one week I feel like I can do nothing right, but then comes this feeling of gratitude right before things all come to a grinding halt for the summer.

Now, if this wasn't enough, I go from being proud of K for bringing up two grades right before the end of school (usually a time when kids generally flake out and I think they might have been abducted by aliens), to being downright dumbfounded as to how a kid can make his grade in a class drop several percentage points by getting 7/100 on a test. How does one do that poorly? UGH! To borrow a beloved phrase from the "Breakfast Club" - "I'm crackin' skulls!". Mainly K's. Not really... but damn! Someone's ass is going to be in Sylvan all summer long (not mine - K's). That is my method of crackin' skulls.

At the end of this crazy roller coaster ride is a very much needed solo venture to Seattle to see my friends and my dad for Father's Day. I have nothing better planned than leisurely lunches with the girls, a manicure, and possibly a few movies at the Seattle International Film Festival. Then, K will be visiting all summer, which I'm really looking forward to, despite my recent and current grumpiness with him.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Movie Review: Cars

Let me just say that the movie "Cars" was better than I expected it to be. When H asked me how I liked it in comparison with the other Pixar films, I'd have to say it was not as good as "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo", but I liked it as well as "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life". I'm not a car racing fan, but I really did like the parts where they were racing. I like the idea of cars having names and personalities - I had my first truck that was named "Betsy", but if she didn't start, sometimes I called her other choice names. I wonder if that's the premise it came from - a lot of people "humanize" their cars.

At any rate, they made good choices for the voice actors - Owen Wilson (whom I adore) is Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy played Mator the Old Towtruck, Paul Newman was "Doc", the old has been speedster, and John Ratzenberger (Cliff from "Cheers") played Mack. One of the things that was most enjoyable was that, even though the music was under the direction of Randy Newman, I did not hear his voice once in the songs. He was able to get musicians like Sheryl Crow and John Mayer to do the singing, which was a good move.

Some of the references in the movie were things kids would not know about - like Route 66, some racing fans and their snubbery(is that a word?) of American racing versus Italian racing, and the premise that was "borrowed" from countless other Hollywood movies, most obviously "Doc Hollywood". You know the story line - big town guy gets stuck in small town, tries to get out but can't, meets girl who seems out of place in small town but is definitely staying, big town guy starts liking small town, and has a conflict in the end with possible return to big town dreams. One reference was not particularly flattering, which insinuated that small-town people are somehow less smart than their big-town counterparts.

Overall, though, I'd give this movie 7 out of 10 dancing feet. It's not a "must see" in the theater, but it was definitely entertaining. I won't spoil anything for those of you who intend to see it, but don't leave right at the end of the movie - some of the best parts are at the end.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Learn A Lot From Partying

So this is the time of year when I break out the cookies, popcorn, juice, and games - it's speech party time!! This week is my last official "therapy" week with my students, which has been spent making it fun for them. This is because I have noticed my students "flaking out" and fastidiously keeping track of exactly how much school year we have left. It's been quite fun and interesting to see how kids react to the speech parties I throw. When I break out the goodies, there is a mixture of reactions - most of the girls are shy at first and will request the smallest amount of goodies. The boys go for the gusto and aren't afraid to ask for seconds and thirds. Some of my students who are "lower income" are very pleasantly surprised at what I have brought for them and they express their gratitude. One boy today said "we are so lucky that you are our speech teacher!". My "higher income" students complain that I don't have exactly what they want and ask if there is something different. When I say "nope, what you see is what you get, and be happy that I have provided this", they grudgingly accept my offer of juice and popcorn. When it comes to the games, some of my students are very competitive about winning and will go to any extreme to achieve this, even going so far as to cheat. When I ask if it's more important to win the game or to have fun playing, they say "win". They need to be coached to be gracious to their playmates - and need modeling to say "good game". Others will quietly play by the rules and will "win some and lose some" and seem to accept this and enjoy themselves. I've noticed a mixture of boys and girls with the "competitive" streak, and I have just as many girls play "cutthroat" as boys. Overall, no matter what their background, my older students (fifth and sixth graders) are less excited about the speech parties than my younger crowd (kindergarten through fourth grade), which makes me a little bit sad because I think we lose our excitement over simple things at too young of an age. All of my students agree on one thing, though - that they would rather have the speech party than be in class. Some things, like wanting to have fun even when there's work to be done, are universal.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

10 Most Important S-Words

I shamelessly stole this idea from Julia - here is my list of very important S-words, however they are subject to change at my whim:

1. Summer Vacation - This happens for me in 7.5 school days, or 9.5 calendar days. This is my most important s-word because I'm having a lot of....

2. Stress - This also happens towards the end of every school year because my students are flaking out on me, my parents are wigging out, and my co-workers' eyes and brains have "glazed over". All of this means more stress because I am commonly sought out as the resident "fix it" person.

3. Shit - This is my most favorite swear word, besides "dammit", and it's what I say when I really don't know what else to say. It's also my mom's favorite swear word - I learned it from her.

4. Sewing - This is what I do when I stress out, because it's something that I have complete control over and usually can see positive progress on rather quickly.

5. Sighing - Apparently, I am doing this so much lately that my autistic students are now copying me, including the obligatory yawn and a small-voiced "excuse me".

6. Sleep - I've been having funky sleeping patterns lately. I get to bed at a decent hour, but because I am having trouble clearing my mind (or maybe it's the heat), I start waking up at 2 a.m., then each half hour until my alarm goes off at 4:45.

7. Starbucks - This is an indulgence that I allow myself a couple of times a week just to break up my routine and to have someone serve my wants/needs for a change.

8. Strength - Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm starting to feel the effects of working out regularly for the past month. Each time I go, I try to test my strength by either adding weight, increasing intensity, or doing more reps for even just one exercise. Again, it's my need to see progress.

9. Schedule - I'm on a very strict schedule during work, and I am trying to plan for when I won't be on a schedule so that I can still be productive. I have a hard time finding a balance and tend to relax too much, which makes it hard to go back to work in August.

10. Self-Employed - This is what I will be working towards this next year. My goal is that, wherever we end up, I will be working for myself so that I can regain some of the professionalism and autonomy that gets stripped away when one works for a state-run agency.

I will not tag anyone, but feel free to do this activity. It was good to stimulate my brain on an otherwise lazy Sunday.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reckless Abandon

So I've almost hit the "one month" milestone of having joined 24 Hour Fitness and actually using the membership (quite a concept, I know). I wake up at about 4:45 most mornings and get there before the rush. Previously, when I've tried an exercise routine, it was in the evening, which lasted for about a couple of weeks, especially during times when work was demanding. There was always a reason why I was too tired at the end of my workday to go exercise. At least in the morning, nothing has happened to screw up my day yet, so I cannot make any excuse to not get my ass outta bed and get to the club. I thought I would be more self-conscious about the state of my appearance that early in the morning - I basically roll out of bed, manage to brush my teeth, get dressed, and go, which means that my hair and face could be in all sorts of disarray. However, it seems that I'm in good company in the wee hours of morning, because I'm definitely not the only poor soul with bad hair.

For a few weeks now, I have been annoyed when I begin working out, because about five minutes into my time on the elliptical, a middle-aged man shows up with disheveled hair and a muscle shirt, popping his gum loudly and singing to what is on his iPod. He also closes his eyes and throws his body all about when he's exercising - it's quite distracting. In general, he is "loud" and seems to be exclaiming with how he presents himself, "Here I am in all my glory - take it in!". Let me be clear - it's not that I'm as much annoyed at him as I am at myself. I don't have the kind of reckless abandon that other people seem to. First of all, there's no way in hell I can close my eyes and move my body all over when I'm on the workout equipment, otherwise I'd fall off in a most disgraceful fashion and land in a heap on the floor. Secondly, I care way too much about how others view me and I like to remain as inconspicuous as possible, which I accomplish partly by not making eye contact with others while I am working out.

This self consciousness seems to be a theme lately. When we visited Carmel a few weekends ago and were listening to the band play in the park, there were people who got up to dance while I opted to sit and relax. These people were not the prettiest people in the world, or the most graceful. But they didn't care - they shook their groove thangs anyway without a thought as to what others' impressions of them were. When I drive around or walk around, and I catch someone looking at me, I scowl at them as if to say "don't look at me!!!". What is my big aversion to being noticed, even for positive reasons? How can I live my life with a little less anxiety and uncertainty and a little more confidence and assuredness?