Wednesday, May 30, 2012

UTAH- This is the Place!

This last weekend my family finally made the flight to Utah with me, just to see what the fuss is all about. We were actually there to get some wedding/married life business straightened out and taken care of, but of course, as Peters we managed to learn a lot about each other AND the great state of Utah along the way. For instance:

1. You can, and you will, get lost in the Salt Lake Valley. I don't care HOW many of you constantly tell me, "It's a grid system, it's SO EASY to figure out!" Also, Utah traffic heading down to Provo on a Friday night is atrocious, and Utahans... you cannot drive. So yes, driving in Utah is ALWAYS a pleasant experience.

Where are you going? Well... wouldn't YOU like to know?! And don't even get me started on Utah below the point of the mountain...

2. You could probably go an entire year, once a day to The Cheesecake Factory, and never try EVERYTHING on the menu, it's that huge... And, no matter how full you are, there is ALWAYS room for key lime mango cheesecake. It's tradition.

I normally don't stray from my Dulce de Leche cheesecake... but for you? I'll make an exception.

3. It WILL snow in Utah the last weekend in May, and you better be ready for it. And if you're going up to Park City to sight-see on the aforementioned snowy May weekend, you should bring a coat, because people WILL get upset if you refuse to get out of the car.

Okay... maybe this is an exaggeration of the weather...

4. Joe's Crab Shack= obnoxious on Saturday nights. We had the rudest server EVER, and on top of that, at around 8 o'clock the girls tried to dance like they were contestants at Coyote Ugly... only a lot less graceful [if Coyote Ugly has any grace]. But I did get a SWEET T-shirt.

You feel awkward just looking at this, DON'T YOU?

5. IKEA cinnamon rolls will bring families together... and that store has everything. Want a dancing carrot doll? Done!

I finally saw the nutrition information on these. I still eat'em.

Carrot= Matt; Strawberry= Me; Broccoli= Stephen

6. City Creek Center is closed on Sundays. Fashion Place is not. Deal with it.

All in all, it's always hard to say goodbye to Utah. No matter what you all might think about the place... it certainly makes for an eventful trip!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Musings of a Fourth Grade Teacher

Like I've said before- there are some BIG changes coming. Changes that have caused a lot of struggles, arguments, and flat out second guessing. I've been praying more with much more fervor recently, trying to find a reason for all these changes, looking for guidance, comfort, and just trying to make sense of it all. I've even begun to wonder if I am in the wrong profession.

I've been a lot more angry recently, too. I've been blaming my problems on everyone but myself, even going so far as being resentful towards my students for all the problems educators are facing these days. I can't tell you how many times I have gone to school in the morning and beat myself up over the fact that most of my students don't seem to be able to retain anything. In my head I am screaming, "WHY can't you care? WHY don't you turn in your work? WHY do you talk so much?," but until these last few weeks I've kept that anger away from the kids. With the M.S.P. rearing it's ugly head though, my private thoughts have become vocalized. I've begun to find myself scowling at my students, thinking angry thoughts, turning them away from my desk when they've had questions ("I JUST explained that two minutes ago, you can't tell me you've ALREADY forgotten it!"), quieting them when they've tried to tell me about their weekend. I've yelled at them, pointed fingers, saying "IT'S UP TO YOU TO CARE AND TRY YOUR BEST! I'VE DONE MY PART!," shaming them in front of their entire class.

I've gone from waking up, excited to try to open my kids' minds to just how amazing the world around them really is, trying my best to inspire them to learn, to flat out wondering if I am any good as an instructor. The news at school is continually bad- state budget cuts are hurting us, our test scores are failing, our state standards are being dropped for national standards. I barely have the money to purchase pencils for my classroom. I've felt hopeless, trampled on, silenced, and discouraged.

I continued to pray though. The world around me was starting to open up opportunities that might allow me to actually step away from education... but is that really what I wanted? Spiritually, I have had reassurance in the past that teaching is my path, but it just didn't seem that way anymore. Why had things gotten so bad? Why wasn't I receiving any guidance?

Yesterday, I woke up, and told myself I would try harder. If not for my sanity, but for my kids. I had gone home on Thursday night completely defeated- nauseous, sick with worry about the writing M.S.P. they had taken that day, disgusted with their behavior after the test, discouraged by their apathy towards the test. So on Friday morning, I put on my pink, sparkly Toms, and resolved to be my old self.

I pledged to my class- the old Miss Peters will be here today. They all cheered, I'M NOT KIDDING. A few of my outspoken students raised their hand and told me they hated how cranky I had been- I told them I hated it too.

Following their departure to P.E., I had to make a few parent phone calls. I saw the name of one of the parents I had to call, and I froze. She is, to date, one of the most difficult mothers I have ever had to work with, and Friday proved to be no different. Upon calling to let her know I had suspicion to believe that her student had forged her signature on their mid-trimester report, this mother unleashed Hell. She began using our phone call as a platform to state her grievances- how much she hates the block scheduling, how her student "bloomed" in their third grade class, how that student had become a liar and a thief, how her student hasn't formed a bond with any of her instructors, how she hates the administration in the district, and how she like to see her student pulled from our school for fifth grade. I was dumbfounded. The old me would've crawled into a corner, started crying, and started blaming this phone call on the student, but then the mother said something that hurt even more than what she was saying about my school-

"I give up. I wish I would've never adopted [this student]."

Talk about a kick to the gut. I literally almost dropped the phone because I couldn't believe what I had heard. To give up on a TEN YEAR OLD... and then it hit me: I had given up on 75 ten year olds. My behavior was just as revolting as this mother's. I myself had thrown up my hands and had said the very same thing, "I GIVE UP." After making apology after apology, and promising everything I could to help this student, I hung up. As angry as I was with that mother, her phone call had awakened something in me that had been dormant for too long- these kids need me.

I was put on planet earth to be an advocate. Not for something fruity like union involvement or gun control laws [oh no, I am TOO Republican for that business], but for children. The climate at my school is what it is because of the society we live in. Family structure has been torn apart, children are not disciplined, but most of all... children are not shown the love they need. I can't tell you some of the other comments I have heard from parents AND students these last two years I have worked in a public school. There are children in my classes literally BEGGING for attention, for someone to say "I love you enough to not only be here for you, but to also provide you with a safe place where you feel comfortable, to show you and teach you about the world around you, but to also give you enough structure to succeed." Some of my kids (not all, I also know some AWESOME parents!) never feel this way at home... and somehow, along these last couple of years, I have forgotten that I may very well be the only adult who gives them this.

Needless to say, before the kids left that day, I pulled this student aside and said- "I wanted to let you know, I called your mother. She knows you forged her signature. I also want to say that, no matter what happens at home, just know I do care about you, so much. I want to help you. Let me help you." I gave this student a big hug, and although they pulled away from me looking puzzled, if not slightly apathetic, I hope they remember what I said, not only now, but for years to come. I really do love my students. I love my job. I love the opportunity it gives me to impact so many people, and I know THIS is what I meant to do.

Thank you for showing me that.