I have been a public school teacher for 15 years. I’ve been in two districts in my career, and have experienced several contract negotiations as a teacher. During my 13th year teaching, I decided to be a negotiator when it was time to bargain our new contract. And now, as a second year teacher in a new district, I am a negotiator for our new contract yet again.
I always appreciated the time my negotiators put in for me and the membership. The union in my previous district was strong and we rallied behind our negotiators and trusted them implicitly. But concessions had to be made, and contract language was brought to us with so many things we didn’t want or agree with. And I could never understand how and why that could happen. People often got angry because the actual negotiation procedures were mostly confidential and we couldn’t be informed of everything that happened at meetings.
So I shot my mouth off back in 2013 after our last contract was ratified, and told everyone that I would apply to be a negotiator when we bargained our next contract in three years. 2016 came around and colleagues looked to me to put my money where my mouth is. And when I came to my new district in 2017, I knew I was going to be a part of the process again.
Well. Let me say that the commitment was more than I ever thought. The conversations, the confidentiality, the picking apart language, the meeting everyone’s needs. The stress is real. You can’t talk about anything with anyone except your fellow negotiators. You have to keep your cool with administrators when they can’t imagine why teachers are asking for certain rights or language.
I guess my message would be that I never realized how much went into this process until I became a part of it. And if you’ve never been a part of it, I hope you realize the time, effort, and energy your negotiators put in for you. We try to have all the hard conversations for all our members. We have to hang our heads and hide our faces when we know we can’t get what our members want. It isn’t as black and white as I always thought. So go easy on your negotiators when you are going through contract bargaining. We really are trying to do the best we can.
It wasn’t a horrible day.
This is what I said to a colleague after the students left today. It was kind of a joke, but looking back and reflecting on the day, I think it was actually a pretty positive statement.
I had to have a chat with my class this morning about the expectations. Again. But it was a good conversation. Just reminders and acknowledgement of there only being five days of school before spring break. We got some stuff done today. We learned some things. We were able to have some laughs. The day wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, but at the end of the day I was able to say that is wasn’t a horrible day.
One day down, four to go.
I have two 4-legged furry children. And, I’m ashamed to admit, I have a favorite.
I’m sure I wrote about these guys last year, but it’s like talking about my kids. They are bound to come up in posts about my life! Bugsy is a 13-year-old Boglen Terrier (Boston Terrier and Beagle mix). Lee got Bugsy as a puppy before he and I met. And from the first time I met Bugsy, I loved him. He’s a good boy–super sweet temperament, well-trained and well-behaved. The kids loved him and we often had Bugsy sleepovers before moving in with Lee, the kids arguing about which room he would sleep in.
7 months after Lee and I met, some people he knew in Michigan had Boston Terrier puppies for sale. He had gone to see the puppies, kept talking about how cute they were, and insisted I go see them. Which of course I did because…puppies.
One sweet little guy really stood out. He had so much personality already, perfect Boston Terrier black and white markings, and big paws. The only problem was he had a defect. The skin never grew around his-ahem-boy part so he has this little pink lipstick sticking out all the time. The breeders were going to put him down because they didn’t know what else was wrong with him. So they gave him to me for free.
Fast forward nearly 9 years. Panda is naughty. He has eaten so so many shoes. He’s hyper and fat and spoiled. He snores and farts and needs his butt wiped after he poops. He has so many strange habits and routines, I think he may have obsessive-compulsive disorder. But, my God, I love this dog like I could never have imagined loving an animal. It makes me so happy and calm to cuddle with him and pet him, and bury my face in his soft neck. I think I take more pictures of him than I did of my children when they were younger. He’s my sweet little mama’s boy and I can’t imagine not having his chunky little body wiggle with excitement every time I walk through the door.
I love both my furry boys. But Panda just has a special place in my heart.
I had to get up early today. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person. I’d much rather stay up late and sleep in. I’m not talking about sleeping until noon or anything…just maybe until 8:30 or 9 would be nice. But Jake had to be at school at 6:45 this morning which meant me waking up at 6 to get him up and out the door. This is earlier than I get up for school every day. Jake didn’t get home last night from his track meet until after 10:30 so I knew he was going to be tired. But I got him up, and once he was out the door, I trudged back upstairs to my warm bed.
But just as I was relaxed and sleep started to come for me, Lee’s alarm went off. And when he’s awake, he wants everyone to be awake. He was heading to Michigan this morning to check on our cottage we have not been to since early winter. So he wanted to make chit-chat before he left. He should know better.
I try desperately to let the grogginess overtake me once again after he leaves, but it doesn’t happen. I scroll through Facebook. Catch up on my Words With Friends games. Realize I should probably just get up.
So here I sit with coffee and a dog. The house is quiet and the sun is shining. I have a lot to do today and plans with friends to look forward to tonight. But I don’t have to go to school, and can find some ways to center myself, relax, and be ready to face everything again in 48 hours.
A little nap later will probably help with that.
Parent-teacher conferences can be exhausting for teachers. It’s actually one thing I really enjoy as a teacher, but it is exhausting. I’m fortunate that I have a great relationship with many of my students’ families and most of my conferences can be so validating when parents talk about how much they appreciate and notice the ways I take care of their kids.
But there has been some talk this year from several parents that has really hurt my heart. If you’ve read any of my posts, you know this has been my most challenging group of students. Ever. And my stress and anguish and how much this group has affected my mood and personality and my opinion of myself as a teacher has not gone unnoticed by some of my students. And these kids know me well, as I had about half of them in my class last year, too.
It’s things like, “Oh, Ms. Link (student’s name) is so worried about you this year!
“(Student’s name) says you are so stressed!”
“Ms. Link’s face is not like it was last year…she seems unhappy.”
“I’ve never heard Ms. Link have to tell kids to stop doing things so many times!”
“Ms. Link has a really tough class this year!”
“I feel so sad for Ms. Link this year because the kids are so bad in our class.”
Yep. These are things parents have told me their children have said this year. And there is more. It breaks my heart that these kids are not getting the teacher they know and love from last year. I don’t get to be the teacher I’m known as. I have to be this other kind of teacher I never knew I could be. And I hate it. I hate that I feel the way I do every single day, and contacting parents about behavior doesn’t help, rewards don’t help, consequences don’t help, changes and modifications and goals don’t help. I’m suffering through this year, mustering up every ounce of physical and mental energy I have on a daily basis to reset every single day and come to school with a smile and positive attitude so I can give my students what they deserve.
Honestly? I don’t even feel like a teacher this year. I feel like someone’s sick joke, and they are just watching me be abused and disrespected every single day to see if I can make it to the end of the year.
Guess I’m glad it’s the weekend…………………
While I’m strolling down memory lane, I was thinking about a time when I stayed with my sister after she had surgery. I had to have been about 9 or 10. She was in high school and lived with our dad by this time; I lived with my mom and brothers. She had some large ovarian cysts removed and was going to be couch-bound for at least a week. It was summer, so I decided to stay with her so she had someone to help her.
One particular day it was storming. It was dark, and lightning ripped holes in the sky, bringing booms of thunder that shook the house. It was a fantastic summer storm. I was still in that in-between stage of liking storms (I LOVE them now) and still being a little freaked out about them. So Deana and I watched trashy daytime TV and let the storm do its thing.
Soon the crashes of thunder dwindled down to far-off rumbles, and the sky began to clear. Deana asked me to bring in the garbage cans that were out at the street. I slipped into some flip-flops and headed out the front door. As I walked down the sidewalk, a flash of lightning caught my eye. And then…an earth-shattering, ear-splitting explosion of thunder happened and I thought my heart stopped. I ran, screaming, back into the house, and lost a flip-flop on the way. As I burst through the door still in mid-scream, I saw Deana had gotten up off the couch and a look of panic had taken over her face. Her voice shook as she asked if I was okay, and when I finally caught my breath, I told her I was. She thought I had gotten struck by lightning! We laughed when we realized I just been scared by the noise, and my sister-no longer energized by adrenaline-doubled over in pain and I had to had to help her back to the couch.
We still laugh about this from time to time, and I often think about this when one of those end-of-storm thunders happen after a good storm. But now I know better, and try not to go outside until I’ve heard the evidence that the storm is really and truly over.
Sometimes when I look back on my childhood, I think I’m lucky to have made it to adulthood relatively unscathed.
I grew up with three older siblings. My sister and I didn’t have a great relationship; she is 4 1/2 years older than me. My twin brothers are only 13 months older than me, so we were much closer. Well, except maybe that one time Victor shot me in the neck at close range with a bb gun…
I have a lot of great memories of hanging out with my brothers when we were kids. One strange memory in particular is from a hot summer day, when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. We were playing in the yard alongside the garage. We had a concrete bird bath in the yard that was usually filled with water. Victor thought it would be a good idea to fill it with something else.
The garage housed all kinds of things we should not have been playing with. A full red gas can was one of them. Some of the details are hazy, but it’s one of those days I can still remember how hot it was, and how the grass smelled, and how scared and excited I was to be doing something so naughty.
I remember the gas can must have been heavy because I can still see how Vic had to use two hands to carry the can to the birdbath. We lifted it up together after opening the cap, and poured a little pool of gasoline into the concrete bath. We must have had matches, as I remember standing back as the WHOOSH sound transformed the gas into fire. And then it was kind of like a dream…watching the fire burn, realizing we could be in some trouble, wondering what to do next…
The next part is hazy…I think the hose may have been involved. No one got hurt. Did we get caught? Did we get in trouble? I’m not sure. But we most certainly should have. Mom? Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe I’m just imagining all this.
I sure am thankful that these crazy things we did as kids didn’t scar me for life.