Ego Boosters


Yesterday was a day for my history book. Not one. Or even two. But three shout outs from former students. All in different life phases, all reaching for different horizons, but found the time to connect.

One is starting a new life path and diving into entrepreneurship. I remember having deep conversations about life, college, and career paths. He may not be heading down the path originally planned for, but he did not give up. Now, he is opening his own t-shirt shop in town. I look forward to working with him on Peer to Peer shirts later this year.

Another struggled to graduate last Spring. For over a week, I monitored him while he completed laps for PE. He needed the class, along with another credit, to graduate. Each planning period, I revisited tally mark skills as he logged in over 20 miles! He stopped in to say he finished his last credit and received his diploma. I’m not shy, I cried as he gave me a bear hug.

The final ego booster arrived at 12:10 am. A lengthy email from a recent graduate. He is postponing college to follow his dreams and he’s having some successes. “Thank you so much Mrs.z For always having faith in me and always seeing what no one else could you have been my favorite teacher since i stepped in those Doors Freshman year. I will never forget you!!” I’m done, I cried. Again.

The hard days where I’m struggling to manage 18 hormonal teens, I’ll refer to this day. On the sad days when a student wants to drop out and walk away, I’ll tell the story of a student who fought through to the end. Or the days where I wonder when he/she will just “grow up” (mature) and see that there is a purpose, I will reach into my teacher bag and show a flyer from a student who is making it.

As I say as we reach that final senior day together…No matter the path, no matter the distance, I’m here for you.

I’m a proud mama bear.

Bum Dinger


Last night, I learned an important lesson. The lesson is about quarter size with veins of life reaching out. It did not hurt, in fact my ego hurts more than the mark. Our kids were quick to soothe my pain and frustration. “It’s only a tiny mark mama.” “No one will see it,” said another. My van has a new boo boo.

In my rush to run to the store for moisturizer, I backed into my husband’s van. The good news? His 15 year old, rusty edged van sustained neither a scratch nor bruise. The van’s much younger sibling unfortunately has a new bumper now sporting a circular dent and matching crack marks. To my defense, the kids and dogs were involved in a Star Wars galactic battle of epic proportion. I was avoiding the storm troopers and instead ran into the evil Vader. Also, the golden age van was parked in different section of our crescent drive. Clearly the error was only partially my fault. After all, I was attempting to avoid hitting live bodies.

Lesson learned – Moisturizer can not cover up or fix acts of rushed decisions and poor excuses.

Life, please slow down. Remind me to breathe.

Parent Conferences


It is six weeks into the school year.  Do you know what time it is?  For our school, it is finishing up fall sports and round one of parent – teacher conferences.

As a parent, conferences are stressful.  Is my kid performing up to grade level?  What is the reading level?  Does he have friends?  Is she getting her name on the board?  I am a parent and an educator, I worry and fret about my childrens’ future.  They may not be valedictorians or AP bound or honor roll candidates, but I do want them to perform their best.  As I tell our oldest, “I want you to be the best M you can be”.

When conferences roll around and the hubs and I are waiting on tiny hard plastic chairs, my skin begins to tingle, I get a little sweaty, and my leg begins a trembling bounce.  I feel like I’m about to walk into the principal’s office!  Do I have a reason to have a mild panic attack?  No, we have good kids, but my body automatically initiates mid range panic whether I press the button or not.  My hubby gets a little annoyed and uses his counselor ways to calm my nerves.  Well he tries.

This year I approached conferences from the educator side walking in my parent shoes. Perhaps parents walking through my doors are experiencing similar levels of panic, anxiety, and nervousness.  Maybe just before stepping into the school, they  also secretly wish for calming spirits to wash over them.

For day one of parent meetings, I aimed to walk in parent’s shoes.  What would I want to hear first?  How can I best accentuate the positives and calm the areas of needs?

I went to my daily Young Living Essential Oil regimen for inspiration.  Each morning I start my routine with a dab of Joy behind each ear and over my heart.  May my ears hear the joy in my children’s voices and the needs of my students. The drop over the heart to remind me that teaching and parenting is a joyful experience.  Well, most of the time.  Peace & Calming on my neck to calm the soul and bring peace to my active mind.  Finally Stress Away…parenting and education, ‘nuf said.  ;)

Digging into my oil arsenal, I wanted parents, no matter the student educational or behavioral situation, to feel the vibe.  Joy.  Peace.  Calming.  And no stressful presence this conference go around.  Guess what? I believe it worked.  Parents left smiling.  Others said “thank you”.  A few cried, tears of joy.  One commented, “I never thought we would get to this point.  He’s come so far.”  Sure the talk was not all rosy with unicorns and rainbows, as a co-worker likes to say, but a difficult message can be expressed with care and concern.

As day two of conferences came to a close, I recalled a parent the previous day commenting as she walked out the door, “I have been waiting for a conference like this since he was little”.  She shouldn’t have to wait so long.  Look for the good.  Find the positive.  See and seize the moment.  I’m trying to walk the talk.

Tomorrow, it’s our turn to be in the hot seat.  I’ll get a dose of my daily trio, take a deep breathe, and relax.  “It’s all good” as my husband likes to say.  And you know what, he’s right.

Shh, just don’t tell him.

Challenging Times


This week, after a torrential morning downpour, several students sloshed through the high school halls. Coats, pants, and shoes were soaked, let alone the students being chilled. How are they to focus? Learn? I grabbed socks, shoes, and hoodies to put in a nearby dryer. The results? Toasty warm gear to refocus the day. Only, I reached a tiny, select group of students. What about the others squeaking down the halls? How did they concentrate whilst drenched and cold? Not well if it was me. My husband, a counselor gave one an umbrella for her walk home in the continuing downpour. The problem? We need more umbrellas to distribute!

Also this week, a male student, who is battling the homeless odds against him, had all of his remaining belongings taken. Our social worker sent out a plea for undergarments, socks, shoes, and clothing – everything. No essentials like socks and underwear? How is he to perform in class, take in discussions, or even take the ACT? When I had a break, I went and purchased socks, underwear, and daily grooming essentials. It was not in our family budget, but my kids are learning about putting others first. Our staff is rallying around this student. Many would be unable to pick his face out of a line up, but supporting one of our own is needed. The time is now. There are others on similar paths.

We educate those who walk through our doors. Whatever the path they walk, we are there. We meet them where they are and hopefully lead/guide them to where they need to be. Often I feel we are failing this generation. Too many go home to homes with inadequate parental support, if any. Some receive their only meals while under our roof. Others live on couches because the one bedroom apartment supports several families or are couch hopping due to homelessness. Yet, we want them to stay awake, pay attention, complete homework, LEARN, and get community service hours…something has to give. Usually, it’s the student.

Answers elude me. Questions build. Five weeks into this school year and I wish I could take in several struggling students. If I had my way, the hubs and I would open our table up for home cooked meals, family time, and maybe a game or two.

This year my focus on Pastoral Care has led me to walk in student shoes, to personalize his/her needs. If it was last week, I would have been cold to my core, sporting soaked garments, and needing a long, hot shower. Each deserves better.

Where will my questions take me? How can I utilize myself to support these needs? More questions…

The Short End

The Short End

Why does length really matter? Short, long, medium, bald…why not embrace each? Hair that is.

As I get older, my hair is getting shorter. Not thinner, but fuller. A pixie cut can take 15 minutes to dry and that’s with a blower! Our family mornings are a loosely oiled machine. Up, dressed, eat, packed up, and out the door in less than 40 minutes. I want my hair time done in 5. Any longer and someone might not get fed.

Often women comment on my short hair and say they wish the could go shorter, but husband/lover loves long hair. Shouldn’t it be what you want?! In our 15 years together, my husband has supported every hair style. Super short to flowing long and everything in between, I am still me and he loves me at any length.

Our Miss E is becoming increasingly independent in the hair department. She doesn’t like her hair long enough to get in her mouth and is not fond of parental hair brushing. Her own solution? Shorter hair. After perusing little girl hair styles on Pinterest, she favorited a short pixie cut. In her brief six years, this is the shortest it’s been since birth. And she loves it! Her sassy personality, curious eyes, and precious smile shine through.

A friend recently commented that she won’t cut her daughter’s waist length hair because it’s the long hair of her dreams. Mama’s dreams by the way. Admittedly she stated that styling and brushing before school can take 1/2 an hour and a few buckets of tears. Another mother stated that she wants her daughter to be a girly girl. Is my dress obsessive, pixie cut daughter less a girl? No.

Miss E gets a lot if wonderful compliments on her hair from the elder population. Little gray hair ladies stop and say how pretty her cut is and how growing up in the depression through 50s, shorter hair was a staple. This generation or two seems to get it.

E may change her mind in a year and I’m okay with that. She’s learning and developing her own identity. Last year M, 7 at the time, wanted a shaggy do. It lasted several months and I think the brushing department was the cause for its end. Whatever the reason, he tried it out and decided it was not him.

Independence one cut at a time.
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A few words of wisdom:




Mrs. Z, what’s new?


This seems to be the question of the week, or now the year.  My hair, well it’s the same.  As evidenced by my ID photos from this year and last.  photoDo you see it?  Upon receiving my ID this year, I assumed the district was saving a few bucks by reusing photos from the previous year.  Much to my shagrin, a noisy co-worker lovingly pointed out that I had indeed worn the same outfit, earrings and all, two picture-day years in a row.  Lame!  But no, that wasn’t anything new. sigh I actually thought I had a new do.

So the hair, and apparently the clothes, were not new, what could it be?  The 1:1 technology our district is implementing? While the tech is really cool and I am bounding into the building each morning eager to present new tech tips, share ideas, and relish in the increase in student participation and collaboration, that isn’t it either.

One week a student commented that I looked “hip”. Well apparently I did have a new outfit or two up my sleeve. Another day a male student said I seemed happier, almost “crazy” about teaching.  Still another remarked that he didn’t know what was going on, but that he liked my classroom better than previous years.  Hmm, reflection time.

What’s changed is me. Deep down, I knew a change was in order.  A mental and physical overhaul.  The big girl panties that I relied on to pull me through were worn and lacking elasticity.  Tossing the fading grannies aside, I started anew.  New perspective, new life, whatever you want to call it is fine with me.  With the exception of a few spoonfuls of decadent ice cream this weekend, I cut my sugar intake to virtually nil. Gluten products down to 1-2 times a week.  Fruit and vegetable intake greatly increased. And most importantly, our family is now an Essential Oil loving group. My mornings are filled with dabbles of Joy, Peace and Calming, and Stress Away.  A sense of peace and belonging seem to engulf me as I ascend on this new path.  The next hurdle is to increase the exercise regimen, time and baby steps ahead.

But for now I know “what’s new”.  It’s my outlook.  It’s me. Happier in the classroom, a more relaxed mama at home, and so “what’s new”…I’m ready to see.

Writer’s Notebook – Student Samples


With student permission, I am sharing some wonderful student writing samples. I am a special education resource room teacher. The students I service have a variety of needs; learning disabled, emotional impairments, Autism Spectrum, hearing impairments, and several other social/emotional needs. Reading and writing skills range from 3rd grade levels to high school levels. Each day we face challenges. School and academics are often the smallest challenges these students experience.

*Permission was granted to share these pieces.

Sample #1 – The assignment was to write a plan for the future. This student rarely participates in class discussions. He is thoughtful, quiet, and as a writer, has always struggled to his ideas out. Together, we have spent 3 years getting to know each other and while I knew about the love for gaming, I never knew about his desire to sing. Through our new 1:1 devices, Evernote, and sharing his writing, he is stepping out of his comfort zone.  This piece represents a new beginning.

My video game skills are forever because I enjoy them. I have a second passion, my singing. I still have the problem of singing to someone else and memorizing the songs when I sing. I also have the problem of competition and my frustration. Competition can bother me since I can get frustrated and forget since I want to win. It’s like a champion who wants to keep his/her title and make mistakes that ultimately lose that same title. But now, since I don’t have to compete in singing or video gaming, my problem won’t show.

I listen to Minecraft songs and most of the time I feel the urge to sing along to that song. I also notice that people find it annoying at times since they get headaches from listening to me. I believe that I do have that trouble of listening to people when the volume is at max. I hope for the best that my voice is put for the better instead of for the worst.

My video game skills are at my best which is normally easy. I want to find a nearby video game competition so I can enter it. Of course, there’s the whole being competitive and losing every time thing. In fact, I have never entered a competition of sorts. I only play with my friends when possible. If not, then I just play solo and it gets lonely at that point.

My dream job is simple enough on my end, Video Game Tester. All I have to do is to test certain levels and see the glitches/bugs that can effect the game play in some sort of way. I would then write down the glitches/bugs so I can add that to my e-mail message and send it to the producers. They soon correct those mistakes so the game will be ready for the release date.

These are my passions and a reason to plan for the future. My plans are to take art and math classes in college to understand more about the business I’m about to enter into in the future. I hope to enjoy this type of job that I have a passion for.

#2 – Write a poem about an artifact important to you or your family. A quiet student, who is an amazing artist, wrote this piece.  She is multi-talented and I hope, she’ll spread her wings and continue to write and create.

The Drumstick
From the shop of his school,

He uses it for his dreams.
Made from iron and love,
He uses it as a tool
To produce the metal he loves.

He hands it to me
To fulfill his destiny.
For a dream that couldn’t happen,
I must repair it damages.
I shall pound against the drums.

I will make his dream come true,
For this is my drumstick.