December 9, 2009

First and foremost, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! HAPPY CHANUKAH!!! HAPPY KWANZA!!! No matter what holiday you celebrate or don't celebrate, I hope you never feel guilty for saying the words that you believe in.
Secondly, I NEED MAILING ADDRESSES!! And I'm not talking about e-mail. I need good, old fashioned snail-mail addresses to send Christmas cards to. So please, e-mail or write me a note or a message and give my your most updated info so I can send out these cards pronto.
Now, back to the first point about political correctness- the school system is over-ripe with it. Oi vay. Like many good thoughts, it started off with the right intention and has taken on an attitude that effectively puts an embargo on any word or action that is not acceptable by our media controlled, law-suit driven, and consumerism loving society. Enter the catchall phrase 'Happy Holidays,' an excuse to forget the reason for the season and buy whatever we can and can't afford. Which brings me to my soap box of the month...
This Christmas, try not to buy into the whole buying attitude. Whether you believe in Christ or not, this season of giving is not about the next big gadget or the brightest toy, it is about family and love and self sacrifice. Whatever you do for the holidays, do something that won't burn a hole in your wallet. Make a gift, give of your time and talent, spend an evening with family, actually have a conversation on the phone with a distant friend using your whole concentration instead of checking your e-mail while talking (that's one I'm working on personally). And whatever you do, remember the less fortunate in this season and always. As Jesus said, the poor are always with us, a statement that will, I fear, never be out-dated. If you have money to spend this season, thank your lucky stars, and consider giving a gift certificate to a charity instead of a gift certificate to Old Navy. Here are some excellent charities that I enjoy helping out when I can.
Check out, a wonderful way to refocus your attitude for the holidays, and one of the programs that got me started on my high horse of charity and home-made gifts. This is an organization that helps entrepreneurs in developing countries start their own business. The cool thing about this website is that you can give money in someone else's name, and then that person can go on the website and choose which project to fund. When the loan recipient pays back their loan (which I believe nearly 95% do on time), you can choose another project to donate the funds to, and the gift just keeps on giving. This website allows teachers to post classroom projects that need funding online, and then do-gooders can browse the website and find projects that interest them. Many projects have photos and inspirational stories. No gift is too small when it comes to serving kids (they come in all shapes and sizes :-) is a personal favorite of mine, just because the laughter and smile of a child brings me great joy. This organization is all about fixing cleft palates in children born in developing countries and is run completely on donations and volunteered time. While I have been donating to this organization for some time, I would recommend making an anonymous donation, as I tend to get a lot of junk mail after I make a donation to the smile train. Just a heads up.
These are just a few of my favorites, but there are so many worthy organizations out there. Stepping off of my soap box now. Thanks for reading ;-)

Here's a teaching update: Every day I am reminded that I am surrounded by students who are in need: in need of clean clothes, in need of breakfast, in need of attention and love. I wish I could give them everything they need, but for now, I just buy breakfast bars and try to be supportive and caring and to teach them as much as I can in the short time I have with them. I am getting tired and canNOT wait until I get to fly home again and get a big bear hug from those who loved me from day one, but teaching is still what I love to do. The most challenging, time consuming and heart wrenching thing I've ever done, but still the best.
I took 50 students on a field trip to the St. Louis Holocaust museum yesterday and I learned two major lessons- never take that many students on a field trip, and never take a student who has had a referral before. Life is much simpler that way. On the whole, my students were wonderful- very respectful with excellent questions of the three Holocaust survivors we spoke to. It was a great hands-on experience for them, and no matter how many pieces of hair I lost over the stress of making sure I didn't forget the two students puking in the bathroom, or making sure my students didn't write on the walls, or making sure that everybody got to eat lunch, it was worth it.
I had a student come to school with chicken pox today because he didn't want to miss my test. Ah, the little sweetie pie without a clue (he's the same one that pointed out rather loudly that I have a lot of grey hair on my head). He was the cause of what I dubbed the 'scrub party' in which I handed out disinfectant wipes and just let the kids go at every surface my little sweetie could have touched.
Here's a funny story for you all- I have a particular 'favorite' in class, and those of you who know of whom I speak will know that 'favorite' is being very very sarcastic. Today, I decided that I would not argue with said student, whom we shall call Abe, but instead chose to ignore Abe. Completely. As if he didn't exist. Abe acts horribly in class, all to gain attention. It doesn't matter if it is negative, all Abe wants is attention. So, keeping the power on my side, I ignored him. IT WAS SO HARD!!! He was making incessant noise during a benchmark test, refusing to follow directions and in general being a nuisance by asking to go to the bathroom over and over again. The only thing I said to him was to write his question down, because if it was important enough to be written down, it was important enough for me to pay attention to. Wow, what a battle of the wills! I actually thought at one point, "Oh God, let him break, please, let him just write the question down, because I am about to break here."
Thank heaven above because, right after I thought that, Abe finally wrote his question down. First battle, done. Then, I kind of failed at the whole ignoring thing and things became as bad as they have before and I ended up writing him up, but that's not the end of the story. When I told Abe I was going to write him up for being a distraction, he actually mumbled back, "I'm going to write YOU up," which he did. It was the first time in my whole class that I have actually seen him write more than three lines. He was so impassioned that he actually wrote 24 lines! Granted, it was all one sentence, but now I have my writing diagnostic for him! It was a hilarious tale of woe and misery on his part, in which he simply told on himself and didn't make me sound bad at all, even if he miss-spelled every other word, and now I have a writing example from him and I am more than happy. The fact that I am celebrating after making him respectfully ask a question says a lot towards our current relationship. All Abe wants is attention, and he'll do absolutely anything to get it.

So, in closing, I love and miss you all, I can't wait to see some of you very soon, and I really need MAILING ADDRESSES!! Remember, spend money within your means and spend all the time you can with those you love.