Sunday, November 6, 2016

Assumptions vs Reality

My anxiety levels increased in the months and weeks leading up to August. I knew life would change drastically, transitioning from life as a stay at home mom with four young children to life as a working mom with four children in school. I had a lot of expectations and made a lot of assumptions. Here's a glimpse into the reality of our current affairs.

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Assumption: I would blog at least once a week. We would do fun things every weekend and I would share photos and stories from the week.

Reality: We make sure to have family fun each weekend. In recent months, we've gone to the mountains to pick apples and swim under waterfalls. We've picked pumpkins at the farm, attended an Indian Festival, and been to a fall festival. We've gone to the circus, my brother's wedding, numerous birthday parties, the park, and more. I have plenty of photos from weekend excursions, but they never seem to make it beyond Facebook. I can't remember the last time I've edited a photo. Obviously I haven't blogged and I can't promise I will return to regular blogging. I do miss blogging, though. Writing helps me sort through life events and photos remind me that I'm still parenting, even if it's less time with the kids.

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Assumption: I would naturally lose weight when school started. I would drink green smoothies for breakfast and pack healthy lunches. It would be easy since I would no longer have access to a pantry and refrigerator 24/7. Plus, I would be on my feet all day and walking around.

Reality: I have gained even more weight since going back to work! Though I am constantly walking around the school, it's nothing compared to the regular Zumba and Y classes I gave up. I haven't had a good sweat or strenuous workout in months. Stress eating is a nightmare and I'm back to binge eating whatever sugary food of choice when I get home or after the kids go to bed. Mornings are a rush. Some mornings we go through Bojangles drive thru. Many mornings I skip breakfast altogether.

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Assumption: Teaching would be a difficult transition, but I would find my groove and love it.

Reality: I used to find such joy, pride, and fulfillment from my days in the classroom. It was always demanding and there were always challenges, but it was my passion. I didn't want to leave the classroom and was initially resentful about becoming a stay at home mom. Now, I find myself resenting the fact that I can't remain a stay at home mom. We're already a quarter through the year and I feel no more prepared or excited about teaching. I still don't have my groove. The concerning part is that I'm not sure I will. I love certain elements of teaching, but it feels like a job right now, not a calling.

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Assumption: Jackson would thrive academically.

Reality: Jackson has been assessed so many damn times, I can't even keep up with the reports. He's literally below grade level, on grade level, and above grade level according to three different assessments. He doesn't do well with timed tests (i.e. x number of initial consonant sounds in a minute) and he is behind on sight word recognition With that said, I'm not worried at this point. I genuinely think the expectations are not developmentally appropriate and Jackson will get it on his own time.
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Assumption: Jackson would make lots of friends and be well liked. Seriously, he's the sweetest, most genuine kid. Who wouldn't like him?

Reality: Bullying starts early, my friends. Jackson has been the victim of bullying on multiple occasions. Children have knocked him down on the playground, causing him to bleed from getting scratched up. One boy stole his jacket and hid it from him for days until I confronted his teacher. Jackson does have friends, but it's not the happy little land of play dates and exchanging numbers with parents that I was accustomed to from preschool years.

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Assumption: Teaching would be no different as a parent. I taught after having Jackson and it didn't change my teaching, so why should it now?

Reality: I view every aspect of life through the lens of a mother first. My kid falls asleep in class? I'm not mad. He needs to go get some water and stretch. He probably had a late night and it's not my place to judge.

My kids are antsy? It's probably because they are sick of testing or staying in their seat. Their attention span is not that long. I don't want Jackson to have to stay in his seat and do rigorous work for long periods of time. They're all just little kids.

Last week one of my students ran into the fence during a game of kickball at recess. He nicked his head on the fence and had a LOT of blood. Without hesitation, I picked him up and carried him to the office, just like I would have done for my own child. We only have a nurse half of the week, so I cleaned him up, called his mom, and waited with him until our recess time was over. (Of course my class was outside with another class so I didn't abandon them or leave them unsupervised.) When I later recounted the events to Jesse, he joked that I didn't follow procedure from the infamous "Blood borne Pathogens" training. That wasn't even a thought at the time. I don't think of the kids in my class as students. They are someones child. And I will always be a mother before a teacher.

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Assumption: James would quickly potty train once school started. Once he had access to a toddler sized potty and he saw his classmates using the bathroom, potty training would click.

Reality: We go back and forth between sending James in underwear and pull ups. His teacher is fantastic and encourages underwear, but he continuously goes through multiple wardrobe changes each day. The other day he came home in 4t, purple, bejeweled pants. At home, he's peeing and pooping in the middle of the floor. At nearly 3.5 years old, I though he would be potty trained long before now.
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Assumption: The trio would have a hard time adjusting to school.

Reality: If they miss Jesse or me, they hide it well. Jesse still has to carry them into school most mornings. Everyone is tired in the morning and grumpy in the evenings, but they seem to love school. All of the teachers use an app to post pictures and notifications. James' teacher does a better job at it than the girls. They all love seeing photos of themselves and their classmates, and they are becoming more talkative about their days. I am really pleased with their school experience thus far.

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Assumption: I would maintain a social life and keep up with my mom friends.

Reality: I have missed hundreds of texts from group messages. I just can't keep up with the discussions and I get lost trying to scroll back up. I've missed morning coffee, after school play dates, and more. The girls' night out events I do attend, I leave early. It's not that I don't value or miss their friendships. When given the choice between lesson planning and going to bed early vs staying up late for wine club and feeling less prepared, I'd rather stay home.

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Assumption: I would collaborate with my teammates.

Reality: I really enjoy my teammates and would like to collaborate with them more. Unfortunately it's discouraged by some of our administration. We are not allowed to departmentalize but we tried to split up planning where one teacher focuses on math lessons and resources, another teacher looks for reading materials, another teacher prepares science lessons, etc. We were told not to do this. Because we ability group and each class is a different level, administration does not want us to do the same thing. However, we still have the same common assessments every 1-2 weeks.  It feels isolating and and frustrating. We are incredibly over worked with minimal guidance or support. Keep in mind, none of us have ever worked at this school or taught 4th grade before!

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Assumption: Teaching at a STEM school would provide me a wealth of resources in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Reality: This is partly true. In some ways, we have everything at our fingertips. We are 1:1, meaning every single student has a chromebook. I have an interactive white board and document camera in my classroom. We have numerous online subscriptions for students to utilize. There is incredible potential and an abundance of resources.

  • However, my team has received ZERO training on any aspect of technology (or math, or science, or engineering). Everything I have learned has come from hours of trial and error or looking up online training modules. 
  • All of our assessments are done online, which is a blessing and a curse. It's convenient to be able to have assessments already graded. But it's a pain that we teach strategies such as underlining and annotating text, yet students can't apply those strategies. It's next to impossible to reteach or go over a problem or passage. 
  • Students have chromebooks, but not everyone has earbuds, which makes videos and games a headache.
  • Also, I've had to put in numerous tickets to fix technical issues. Our chromebook cart did not have working chargers for several weeks, which meant we had to rotate ten laptops at a time to charge. 
  • They removed all classroom printers. Teachers are supposed to be able to send documents to the main printer, but for two months I could not print from my computer. I had to go to a different classroom, request to print, then walk to the main printer to select the print job. I wanted to buy a printer to bring to the classroom, but was told I didn't have administrative permission to install and connect it to the computer.
  • The sensors on my interactive whiteboard stopped working so I had to control things from the desktop computer, not my printer.
  • We've been out of ink for almost two weeks in all three risos. 
  • The other day there was a schoolwide internet outage. No one knew what to do because everything we do is through Google Classroom or Canvas.

As far as science and technology, they are two electives that students visit weekly. I haven't done a single lab in my class because the elective teachers do them. In the classroom, we only teach science half of the quarter and social studies the other half. I miss having science as a daily part of instruction.
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Assumption: Homework would be a non-issue. Jackson had a lot of homework as a preschooler, so we would be used to that. I rarely assign homework anyway and almost never grade it.

Reality: Jackson's homework is ridiculous. He started with ten spelling words a week and nightly sentences. Jesse emailed his teacher and I had a conference expressing our concern. He now has 8 sight words a week and 8 sentences, along with nightly reading and daily math homework. I'm relieved she modified his assignments, but I also know that he's not mastering 8 new words each week. At his first quarter conference, he had correctly identified 2 out of 32 words. We've started doing more with sight words at home and he's getting better. It's still a lot of work!

I am anti-worksheets and my students and parents know that. I strongly encourage 30+ minutes of reading each night and I've suggested students login to one of the many educational websites they can access. Still, many of my parents requested additional work, I started creating and uploading weekly "optional homework". That way I'm not having to waste copies or grade things, but parents have extra practice that aligns with everything we're studying. I think everyone is happy now.

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Assumption: After teaching at a high-poverty, low-performing school, I made a lot of assumptions about my new, non-Title I, high-performing school. I expected well behaved students who were quick to learn new things.

Reality: I wish I could start the school year over. I was too relaxed with classroom management and naive about their innocence. They're no different than any other group I've taught. I've had a fight where a student slammed another child into a whiteboard and turned a desk over. I've had students throw things, suck their teeth, and talk back. Though I do teach the high group, many of them still fail assessments and are in reteach groups. Some of my students soak up everything I teach; others require extensive guided instruction.                                                                                                            
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Assumption: The parents would be overbearing, helicopter parents who were difficult to work with. I've never worked in a setting with a lot of parent involvement, but I've heard horror stories of parents.

Reality: Part of this is true. There is one parent who brings her child fast food almost every single day. Several other parents walk their child to the classroom every morning. (This still boggles my mind that this is allowed.) I've had parents clean out their child's desk for them during class, text me in the middle of the day to see if their child brought their notebook, and scan and email their child's homework for them.

However, I've had very positive experiences with all of my parents and I feel like we are actual partners in their child's education. I met with all 27 parents for parent teacher conferences and they were all down to earth and kind. I email "Questions of the Day" in every subject every single day. I also upload photos, announcements, newsletters, and practice tests to our class website/app. Parents have responded so well to this. I even had a mom of a child in another class come in my room one day and tell me I was "all the rave in 4th grade" and that all the parents talk and boast about me. I've definitely received the best compliments of my career from parents this year.

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Assumption: Jesse would handle the trio's drop off and pick up in the van while Jackson and I would take the car every day.

Reality: We started school ten weeks ago. On the fourth day of school, the oil filter fell out of the car and left me stranded just as I was merging on the interstate. (Thankfully I had dropped Jackson off with a friend first because of staggered entry kindergarten.) Since that day, Jackson and I have ridden in friend's cars, Uber, tow trucks, and various rental cars. I plan to write a separate, detailed post explaining our transportation woes if and when we ever get the car back! Needless to say, I did not assume we would have such challenges with transportation.

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Assumption: Money would no longer be an issue or concern. We could finally build a savings.

Reality: After you deduct the kids' insurance and taxes, my paycheck is literally half of the gross income. We chose to pay for before school care for Jackson and we "splurged" on a biweekly housecleaning service. We've also been forced to pay for a series of unfortunate events related to the car.

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Assumption: Things would be very high stress and I would likely have another round of depression or anxiety attacks.

Reality: We keep getting hit with unforeseen challenges and there hasn't been a "normal day" in months. I've felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritable at times. However, I haven't cried or had any moments of panic. While this is a relief, I also worry that I'm borderline complacent or apathetic. Strangely enough, I contribute much of my relaxed state from watching ASMR videos every night before bed.

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Clearly, there has been quite a disconnect from what I thought would happen during this time in our lives versus how life has played out over the past few months. It's often felt like a game of dodgeball where I'm just trying to stay in the game without getting knocked out. Unfortunately the rules keep changing (hello, inconsistent admin team) and obstacles are continuously thrown our way. Our routines keep changing and we keep having to readjust our expectations.

1 comment:

  1. How could you post and not link to your ASMR videos of choice? 😂