Monthly Archives: January 2015

For The Ladies of PRM

I would like to begin this blog by saying that I do not usually blog this frequently.  But today I met a bunch of ladies that I love in the clock-room of our school so that we could do the now mandatory clocking that the school system has us do in order that we might not waste their time and money.  When they started the clock system several years ago, I was so incensed with the situation that I reacted by using my middle finger as the identity print.  That way every day can give the clock my middle finger.

Here’s why.  There really isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t start work early or end it late.  There are times I stop to pick up something for the classroom on my way into work, and there are times that after clocking out I go back to the classroom to do some clean-up.  I’m not supposed to mention any of this because you aren’t supposed to work off the clock,  but working with children isn’t exactly a clock-able situation.  Children require time that at the moment is costing our state government too much  money–they say.

Beginning two years ago our hours were cut to 37.5 and our teacher work days taken from us.  That used to be the time allotted teachers and assistants to get the classroom cleaned and ready for children.  Now just teachers do this work and it is especially evident in the first weeks of school when the preparatory work we used to do in support of our teachers usually doesn’t happen.  We come to school on the first day and begin doing all the work we used to do before school opened.  It leaves us frankly all trying to catch our collective  breath, but this is what the state says it can afford, so this is what we do.

Today I stood in the clock room talking to the ladies who have, for all Intents and purposes become my daily bread.  There’s Leslie, who loves to dance and laugh, and Jocelyn who motivates us and writes our theme songs.  There’s Heather, my go to human when I’m having a hard day.  There’s Janet who talks straight and Barb who organizes us and Lori who makes us laugh and Cyndi who entertains.  There are so many of us I’m not naming and these are my ladies.  We put in the work and the time every day.  We are there in the classroom doing good  work; classroom management,  reading with struggling children, helping with projects and research,  settling disputes, showing kindness and most  importantly  loving–is that educationally appropriate?  I don’t know but I do it every day.   37.5 hours per week is what we’re allotted to do this, with no teacher work days and a pay cut two years ago so CMS could save some, not all, of our jobs. 

Yesterday we celebrated that one of these ladies, Charlotte,  the woman at our school who knows more than the rest of us about botany, became a certified nc nature instructor.  She’s been going to weekend classes forever because she’s passionate about her work.  She takes children on daily walks  to show them about the planet…the dirt, the trees, our edible plants,  and more indirectly, the dust from which we came, to which we go.  Charlotte shows us all (especially children) the Wonderland in which we live.  She also makes the important safety distinction between the safe and poisonous snakes we encounter on our playground.  One afternoon during our recess, she and Leslie did a snake dance,  bagged a family of  copper heads and got them safely to the creek on the green way without a single casualty.

My job in the classroom is support.  I love my job.  I support my teacher Ann, and I support the children of our classroom, who each spend 3 years with us.  I spent one three year period supporting a child who sometimes ran away and had anger issues.  During that same 3 year period I supported a child on the spectrum.  I did listening and talking, and at times when nothing could be solved with words, I simply provided my presence.  And I’m no superhero.  I’m just one of a group of ladies who do this work every day.  We do it with passion and loyalty because it is needed.  Even though the state government doesn’t really think so.  They believe that the teachers we support should really be able to do it alone, what with all the testing, IEPs, PEPs, 504s and paperwork.  The endless meetings and more paperwork.  The state would lead us all to believe that our children don’t really need our time, but testing, electronic gadgets and a long paper trail.  Human interactions?  Meh.

Today I stood in the clock room and I looked around at these  terrific women and I said, “Yesterday I looked at my w-2 forms and I did my taxes and for the first time ever, I made  less than last year.  Did that happen for anyone else?”  This year, for the first time in years, I did not earn 20,000.  Truth be told, I earned less than 19 k for a job I value.  I am a single mom, not on government assistance of any kind, raising a daughter who needs to start college in the fall.  I am lucky enough to pick up summer work and various other gigs when I can, but I admit I was stunned by my w-2.  I’ve worked loyally for the school system for 12  years now.  I do good work and am happy with my job.  I just don’t know how much longer I can afford to do it.

A few months ago, I was struggling financially and my daughter and I were in the kitchen making dinner.  I was explaining, as I’ve done a lot this year, why we were having a hard time.  I said, “I think I may need to quit my job and find something else.”  She looked a  me so faithfully, with so much love that  I’m not sure it’s possible she’s only seventeen, and she said to me, “Mom, you can’t quit your job  you love your work.  I make my own money now and can afford my own clothes.  Please don’t stop working at Park Road.”  This year is the first time I’ve ever wanted to do that.  It’s the first time I’ve ever balked at making ends meet and the sacrifices we, the assistants of PRM (and other schools in our district and state) are making every day.

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The Magic Sweater

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By:  Bethanie Johnson

Right now it’s eleven thirty at night and my friend Liz just told me not to wish to be someone I wasn’t.  I was in the process of telling her how much I hated how my brain works, and that I’m always and forever “all or nothing.”  So she told me that thing I just said about not wishing to be someone other than who I am because I am passionate, and I throw that into everything I do.  And then I rode my bike home enjoying the complete silence of the night and the sweet nothingness of the dark.

I came home and realized I needed music, so I put on what I believe is maybe my favorite song in the universe, though it’s difficult to decide on just one.  It’s from the movie Janie Jones, which I highly recommend.  The name of the song is Find Love.  Here are the lyrics:

Don’t let hurricanes
Hold you back
Raging rivers
Shark attack
Find love
Give it all away
Wrestle bears, bring ’em
To their knees
Steal the honey from the
Killer bees
Find love
Give it all away
Don’t be scared
To connect the dots
Dig for gold
In the parking lot
Find love
Give it all away.

While I was listening to this song and feeling just vaguely sorry for my brain which is giving me troubles at the moment, I thought about Noelle.  I’ve known Noelle for less than a year now, and of course we met riding bikes.  A few weeks ago she stunned me by taking the shirt off her back and handing it to me.  I was so humbled and honored and blown away by this act that I’ve insisted on calling it the Magic Sweater and telling the story to anyone who compliments it (lots of people do since it is a great sweater).  The song reminds me of Noelle and the sweater because when Noelle saw me and I complimented the sweater (particularly the thumb holes, which I love), it didn’t occur to her that she wanted to keep it.  Instead she handed it right to me.  She gave it away, without hesitation.  While she was handing it to me, she was telling me about a retreat she went to in Big Sur (maybe my favorite place on earth).  She talked to me about not wanting to hold onto things anymore, but instead just let them go.  She told me about the freedom she felt in releasing things, and how she wanted to do more of that.  The song reminded me of the sweater because that’s what it’s talking about.  It’s talking about fighting so hard for something you believe in, but then releasing it as well.  You know, not white knuckling it.

The sweater is magical because when I look at it, I think of Noelle.  I think that nobody ever on earth has given me the sweater off their back before, just because I thought it was nice.  When something like that happens it holds the same sweet impossibility as “stealing the honey from the killer bees.”  Nobody ever does that, except once in a while, they do.

We come here and we’re not meant to hold onto things with a white-knuckle grip, even though that is exactly what we instantly set out trying to do.  We’re not meant to always have everything be just the same, we’re not meant to never lose or never get hurt.  We think we want those things, but we don’t really because if we have all that safety it’s because we never really ventured out of our comfort zone or attempted the impossible.  And really, sometimes in life you want to attempt the impossible, because we are only here for a few short years, a centimeter of time really.  Nobody knows what happens after that.  It’s a mystery, though everyone has a theory.  All we know is here and now.  All I know is that one day, I told Noelle she looked awesome in her sweater and she gave it to me.  And I’m so glad to live in the here and now, just for precious moments like those.