Archives for category: teaching

I need to write. I find my mind is tattered and unfocused, or obsessively focused upon unimportant matters. And though I rarely have time to shower, or to plan, or to knit, or to do anything that I consider *mine* these days, I need to commit to something for me.

And writing is for me.

I have been sneaking in small amounts of fiction writing, often at midnight or so, pencil in hand and headlamp on as C slumbers next to me. But when I say small, I mean *small* — paragraphs, sometimes just a sentence or two, before the thought of the night wakings and eventual morning waking bring my hand to the headlamp’s on/off switch.

I am going back to school. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I am going back. I hope that the actual teaching excites me more than the decision itself does.

But a vow — at least one entry a week. I can do that. Really, I can.

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It’s raining.

Anyone living anywhere near Colorado knows how precious that is right now. There have been fires all over the state, all over the region, for the last month, and no rain. 350 homes gone right outside of Colorado Springs, in a canyon I had planned to hike soon. Homes lost in Fort Collins, near a hike Chad and I did four years ago. Smoke and haze obscuring the mountains from our view, a non-sight that is utterly disturbing to any Coloradan, since the mountains are … right … there.

But it’s coming down, and it’s not just an afternoon shower, either. Streaks of water, barely any angle to their trajectory, just down, down, down, into the ground and along the gutters. I swear lightning almost struck my house just minutes ago, and the sound was terrifying and ohso welcome. Even better that E miraculously slept through it.

There were moments where I thought about dancing for the rain, and I definitely prayed for it. And it came, in its own darn time, but I am so thankful.

Life is kind of awash right now, as well. My high school psychology teacher was training to be a Jungian analyst, and I will never forget her lecturing us about dreams having to do with water. Emotion — water is emotion. I feel like I’ve been soldiering on, that Chad has been soldiering on, through the heat and through the desert, looking for something that we need, though neither of us knows just what that is. We’re both a little numb from the work and from the uncertainty of it all, I think. When will rain come?

Personally, I’m lost in the decision about whether or not to go back to work. I’ve been meaning to resign but I can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself cruising the job postings late at night. And my desperation to find little ways to contribute to the household budget — baby-sitting Blaise, contracting myself as a teacher for MDPL, writing little articles for medical websites …. All of it feels so inadequate.

Working, though, especially as a full-time teacher — that’s more than adequate. That’s almost martyrdom. And E! Where would she be all day? With whom, doing what? I want to be with her. But I want to contribute to the larger world, as well. But will I really be contributing anything at all if we’re all just tons more stressed out while I work? My mom says that if she could do it all over again, she would have found a way to stay home with us, whatever it took. Erg.

While it’s raining, while E is still sleeping, I’ll just sit in the emotions of it all, letting it wash over me, through me, before me.

So much has been happening lately, I can’t keep up with it. This is a rambling post. I’ll try to put some pictures in to break it up. Did I mention that Elinor is full-on walking? Yep. It’s awesome and exhausting.

Iza, my dear kitty, has diabetes. It’s totally treatable and we caught it early (when they start peeing like crazy, something’s bad. Thank goodness she’s so particular about her litter box), but it’s a significant expense. We changed her diet and are monitoring her ketones, but haven’t yet started insulin. It’s like we’re holding our breath to see if things will work themselves out, which sometimes happens, but is rare ….

Elinor and I took a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, with my mom’s family. My grandma turns 80 this year and it’s her and my grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted one big family hurrah. I’m impressed, because we did get the entire family down there — except for Chad. This first year of work at the firm precluded any week-long vacations for him. So El and I walked into the Gulf of Mexico, and El loved it even more than I did. She’s a beach baby, loving the water and the waves. And she had such an amazing time with her cousins, both Peyton and Harper (babies everywhere!) but also Spencer’s awesome step-children, Tyler and Maddie. It was a good week, though I missed Chad like crazy and have vowed never to take another vacation without him. Pictures to come — we forgot our camera (!) and are relying on grandparents and aunts. They’ll supply soon.

And then Chad’s big bad firm did some computer upgrades, shutting down their whole system for Memorial Day weekend, which meant he COULD take a short vacation. To Kenyon it was, then, for my 10th-year reunion. I had debated going due to the timing and expense, but Monica and Rhoda and Marc were going to be there, and I so wanted to see them …. Brittany and Joe, Chad’s sister and basically brother-in-law, drove up from Oxford, Ohio, and joined us for a day and a half, and Jeff drove up from Pittsburgh with Sarah and little Emmett, and we spent a nice afternoon with Juan DePascuale, whom Chad worked with one summer at St. Olaf, and then we drove to cute, perfect Hudson, Ohio, to spend one night with Matt and Monte and their little ones, Finn and Willa, two good friends of Chad’s from his college days. It was a packed vacation, but a good one. Oh yeah — and Kenyon!

El and Em love the dog on Middle path ….

Monica and Rhoda look normal — parenthood makes for goofy posing. Ah, kids.

All of this to say that it’s been an expensive spring. We’re doing OK, but we have a fair amount of debt and it bothers Chad. He’s vowed to work at the firm five years or so just so that we can manage that debt down and have some more freedom, but that’s still a hefty goal. We constantly debate the weight of that goal’s importance, especially compared to Chad’s health and El’s time with Chad. And my time with Chad!

And my first day in Florida, my school district called to say that they were denying my request for one more year of unpaid maternity leave since they were closing my school and had reduced my position. It’s a little weird, and they sure could have told me much earlier, but that means that I either need to resign or find a job in the district by August. This was not in the plan — but that means more money?

MDPL is swinging along, too, with paid opportunities to run some contract work, and I miss teaching a whole bunch.

A friend from college offered me some contract work writing for online sources ….

Let’s take a break on those uncomfortable but imposing chairs in Nu Pi Kappa. And yes, there was a current Kenyon student napping while El ravaged the room.

My head is aswirl with options for our lives. I’ve begun babysitting Blaise, Erin’s awesome 2-year-old, once a week, and I’ve dedicated all of those earnings to paying for our two mega-vacations. But I could go back to work. I could contract with MDPL. I could write for some online sources. We could make some more money, meet those debt goals earlier, and maybe have some freedom sooner, together. But in the meantime, that means finding and paying for childcare for El, which is a whole ‘nother headache.

Who am I, and how important are these cash flows compared to being here for Elinor and making sure that Chad’s quality of life meets some basic standards?

Going back to Kenyon didn’t help clarify any of this. Education came up everywhere, and I do feel so committed to those causes and to that mission. The Amanda from Kenyon days is different from the Amanda now, too, and living with both of them was strange. I feel so much more ME now than I did then, but my life is strangely larger and more sprawling now, too, way less focused and way less constrained.

El was ready for long conversations in Peirce as she waited for high-quality local foodstuffs.

I don’t know what to do. My crunchy Mama podcast that I love (Mama Natural Show 43) just reported on study that found that stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) have significantly higher levels of depression than other moms, most likely due to isolation, aimlessness, and a lack of feeling any accomplishments. I don’t think isolation is a big issue for me (thank God for my family and some good friends), but I suffer from aimlessness like you wouldn’t believe (she’s sleeping?! What to do first? clean? yoga? eat? sleep? make stuff? MDPL? aieee!), and that lack of accomplishing anything (another load of laundry left, another load of dishes, and El’s crying yet again …. rinse, repeat) drives me mad.

But I love being with El.

All of this just to get some of the things in me head, outta there and somewhere else. I will figure it out. We will figure it out.

I wrote this note on 3/21:

“I must get this finished before she turns a year! I have eight days left!”

Whoops. She’s already one. I could tell you much more about that, but I really did want to finish the tale of pregnancy and birth. Ahem:

As the bump grew and strangers began to look at me differently, I began to try to get life into order for this huge change. I wonder if those new and different stares — softened eyes, a willingness to slow down, smiles you never would have received before, people holding the door open way more often, and a look that I now realize is special to parents as they remember that whole process — are also meant to spur you forward, to make you prepare.

I had no idea how much things would change.

But I knew they would change. And so the preparations began. The most obvious was at school, where walking up and down the stairs became a concerted effort, instead of the quick run and joy it had been prior. I made every effort to keep walking those stairs (58 of them up to the third floor) as much as possible, and probably due to the size of that school, and partially due to prenatal yoga, I remained in pretty decent shape overall. But my back would hurt and the constant hunger made things difficult. I didn’t have to pee all of the time, but way more often than before. I don’t know how I would have managed had I still been teaching normal, 90-minute classes. Yikes. It was hard enough as a normal person, but as a pregnant woman …. Props to those who do it.

But I began to plan for my replacement. I wrote a mini-book of instructions about all of the tasks that I did for the school, and never felt better about my role in that school than the day I finished it. Well, I felt useful, at least, though my role was as schizophrenic as they came, since I was doing all sorts of random things, from monitoring Accelerated Reader to running reports from standardized tests to meeting with teachers to running professional development to teaching two electives.

School has always been a draining experience, but it had also been energizing. As Gorb grew and began taking over my consciousness more and more, the energizing aspect of it lessened and lessened. I slacked a lot, going home soon after the bell rang to just sit and eat and sit and eat and sleep, every night. I was a complete slacker, to be honest. I kind of felt guilty, but kind of not.

The rumbles of the district were being heard throughout our school, as well. I was pretty sure that the coming year would bring some serious changes to our school, yet again, and, to be honest, I was so happy that I had a valid excuse to leave and not think about things for awhile. Chad and I made the decision for me to take the next year as maternity leave, since he would be starting at the big bad law firm and we could afford it. To be honest, I was relieved that I had an excuse as good as Gorb to stay out of the political squabbling and job hunts that I thought would come to my school. Ah, education.

Even more difficult was stepping back from MDPL, the nonprofit writing center that I had helped to create. It had been my dream since college, and then somehow a reality, with weekend workshops and summer camps and a board of really cool people. I spent every spare second I had working on it, to be honest, and knew I was pretty central to its functioning. But we all knew I would have to step back for awhile, and so we had a board retreat, complete with facilitator Leslie and lots of food. Leslie made me physically step back from most activities, in order to force the rest of the board to step up and to force me to not take things on. That was hard. It was a relief to see those cool board members step up, but it was so hard to let go of something so central to me and my identity and my passions. There were several times where I felt that tingling, burning sensation behind my eyes, the one that means tears are coming but I don’t want the tears to come.

It was hard.

There was a shower, planned by lovely Erin and held at Juanita’s house. Gorb got tons of gifts, tons of friends and family were there, and it was good to be surrounded by women who were happy that Gorb was coming and that I would be Gorb’s mother. The best part, beyond the wonderful casual atmosphere that Erin had made possible, was a dish of beads she found. Everyone chose a bead for me and Gorb, and then wrote what that bead could mean to us in a little booklet for me. The idea was to use the beads as a focus point during labor, like a rosary. I still get the booklet out and read it now and then. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me.

Chad and I — well, really Chad and his dad — painted the nursery a bright green. We felt so bold picking such a bold color, named something like Geranium Leaves or some other term — but my, it was bright. It felt like living in Kermit the Frog’s head, to be honest. But then we moved in Chad’s sister’s old set of furniture, refinished and painted by Chad’s dad a soft white. And we moved in the white crib. And we just knew Gorb would like it.

This is getting to be too much.

As Dad dozed and Elinor ate kale with cottage cheese, I opened the paper. One of my students was shot in a drive-by shooting Monday — De’Quan. I started crying at the table, Elinor curious as she paused in her eating.

I don’t even know what to say. He was a good kid with a good family and a high-strung temperament. He would ask me to bring in a book like _The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles_ one day, and then storm out of the classroom another day. The only time I probably¬† should have been actually scared for my physical welfare while teaching was one day when De’Quan was frustrated with the world and tried to storm out of class, yet again. I blocked the door and he hit the door to the side of me, kind of blinded by rage. Yet I knew he didn’t want to hurt me; we had a good relationship. He was a deep thinker, that kid, and hypocrisy pissed him off, as it should piss off all 14-year-olds. He was sensitive, too, which is difficult for boys at that age.

He had such a good smile. He was so kind, so often.

The reality of what life is going to look like for my students hits home when things like this happen. I would have thought that De’Quan would calm down, mature, and do well — and it sounds like he had, obtaining his GED and transferring schools by choice. But an apparently random shooting from a green Honda as it drove past him ended all of that.

I am so pissed and so sad. It makes me cry.

I forgot my password to WorPress. That means something.

I should be writing more. I’m fully aware of that. But things have been busy, and Elinor just doesn’t seem to sleep as much during the day, and every moment Chad is home I would rather spend with him …. Ugggh.

Used to be that I would dread the 45 minutes it takes to put Elinor to sleep at night. I would think about the TV I could be watching with mu husband. I would think about the writing I could be doing. I would think about the dishes that need to be done. I would stare off into the dark and count the rocks of the glider, willing Elinor to fall asleep.

Every day I would pray that I would get some time to myself, bargaining with God (if she sleeps, I will make sure we get to church this week; if she sleeps, I will do the dishes with pleasure, not dread ….). I would do everything possible to make sure that she slept.

And it was miserable, and I complained more than necessary to Chad and others.

But something switched. I am pretty sure it was when Chad and I had to decide whether or not to extend my maternity leave or not. I had been itching for some more adult contact, and perhaps working was the best way. Chad wasn’t sure if he liked his job or not, so I began making plans for child care, thinking about options. I even researched what teaching jobs were currently available, and then was so frustrated with the thought of my manic teaching schedule again, that I began researching NON-teaching jobs. A 9-to-5 job would be so much nicer, and so many seem to pay more than teaching, anyway.

But the more I researched, the more I freaked out. The thought of dropping her off somewhere just hurt. The time spent nursing her to sleep now felt precious, not a chore. The naps were not as essential as they had seemed before, especially if I could just stay up late to catch up on things and then sleep in with her. Every moment just seemed to be a gift, and I hoped that we were providing Elinor with a gift, too.

So when Chad felt a little more comfortable with his work, and I was secure that options might still be available if I needed them, I extended the maternity leave.

And I accepted that my job is with Elinor, now, and the time for myself will come. I might not be exercising or writing or even getting my MDPL work done these days, but I am so lucky to be at home with the little Mook.

It’s good.

Five things I learned while teaching that have prepped me (a little!) for mothering.

5. Always be prepared.

You know, I was never an organized person in the traditional sense. To be honest, I still am not an organized person in the traditional sense. I am cluttered, with my piling system, and it drives Chad crazy. But I do know where most things are. Teaching made me a little more organized, but in a different way, as well — more like a chess player. I have to plan things out, step after step in my head, and contemplate various outcomes with students. “If this lesson fails, what will the children do then?” “If they don’t learn it this way, what should we do next?” “How do I know if they learned it well enough?”

And now, with Elinor, I have to plan for those conceivable outcomes, as well. “If she doesn’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, we’ll go vacuum. If she wakes up before 10, we’ll go to the store.” The diaper bag is packed. I dress and shower while she’s sleeping. I juggle her on the floor with my yoga poses when I remember to do so. Whenever we go out, I account for diapers, food, toys, change of clothes (in case diapering isn’t enough, you know?), and changes in weather ….

4. Sickness is not allowed.

In teaching, I would often soldier on when sick because I didn’t want the kids to lose out on learning. Really, they rarely learn things when a substitute is around. If you’re lucky enough to know or get a good substitute, awesome, but there are few guarantees for a newish teacher like myself. So, more likely than not, it was more important to just deal with the cold rather than to take a day off. Of course, this is how my cough turned to bronchitis, turned to pneumonia, triggered asthma, so it’s not the healthiest take on life — but it is a reality.

And this is even more true as a mother. I got food poisoning this weekend. Vomiting something awful, putting Elinor on the floor as I rushed to the bathroom to kneel at the altar of porcelain. It was good that Chad was around this weekend, because poor Elinor would have been as miserable as I was if he hadn’t. And I have no idea how I would have taken care of her when I could barely move or keep my head up, much less drink water or eat.

I do have to say that breastfeeding is a crazy-ass thing, because Elinor seems to be getting enough milk and seems to be relatively healthy, despite my descent into non-eating.

3. Prepping for a substitute is an involved and difficult process.

This goes along with “Sickness is not allowed.” More often than not, even if I was feeling crappy and WANTED to stay home, the prepping for a substitute is so involved and thorough that it would dissuade me not to do so. Perhaps part of that is because I retained the vague idea that my kids might actually learn while I was gone, but … maybe not. Anyway, once you have updated attendance rosters, seating charts, helping kids, and lesson plans for every class (with back-ups), you are usually more exhausted than you were before, and it would be almost easier to just GO to school. It would have been easier if my rosters and seating charts didn’t change all the time, or if I didn’t mess with lesson plans so much, but that’s part of teaching.

And then with babies — it’s totally worth it to prep for a babysitter, but it’s still pretty involved. Diapers, food, toys, cleaning the freaking house a little, etc. And taking Elinor to another person’s house is even more involved — bringing a highchair, thinking about a pak n’ play, diapers diapers diapers, bibs and washcloths and food, oh my! It’s still very much worth it, but it takes a lot of thinking and planning. Reference “Always be prepared.”

2. Dignity only goes so far.

My students loved when I made a fool of myself, or embarrassed myself, even if it was obviously on purpose. The day I read them the story about when I peed my pants during volleyball try-outs, they laughed SO hard — and they learned a little in the lesson that followed. And whenever I messed up, which was often, things went much better if I just owned up, apologized, and dealt with it, instead of being stubborn and trying to make things work that wouldn’t work.

This has been a little more difficult to do with Elinor, but still …. Especially when feeding her solids, I have just had to get messy with her, and try to give up when it wasn’t the right time. I’m not good at giving up, though. This also applies to poop and pee, of course. I went to my friend Erin’s house last week and was appalled when I wasn’t sure if the dried goop on my wrist was banana or poop. Just par for the course, I guess.

1. Humor makes everything better.

Nuff said.

Chad always wants me to read the newspaper, since we pay a pittance every month to receive it. This is a wholly respectable wish, and so Elinor and I did so this morning.

Elinor was intrigued by the Post’s reporting about a DPS school board candidate who blasted the mayor for meeting with former President G. W. Bush about education and NCLB, all during a fraught and highly politicized election season.

But she was truly disturbed by the Denver Post’s continued use of the term “school reform” when talking about organizations whose agenda is primarily to turn neighborhood schools into charters, willy-nilly.

Or is that just me talking?

Facebook, of all places, let me know that another one of my former students is dead. She was only a junior in high school, and she overdosed, and the student who messaged me on Facebook said that the other people at the party didn’t do a thing to help her. That could easily be high school outrage rearing its head at an opportune moment, but knowing the people this girl hung out with, it could be the truth.

Oh, Jessica. You were so full of life, and anger, and attitude. And yet a burst of enthusiasm and girlish laughter sometimes bubbled up. I wasn’t worried about you in the way that I worried about Omar, the one who took his own life. I wasn’t worried about you in the way that I worry about so many others, the ones who fight obvious abuse or learning disabilities or neglect. Yes, you fought other girls outside the school, and yes, you wore red with so much pride to broadcast your affiliations, but there was that girl deep-down, the girl who liked to read and write, the girl who was whip-smart, the girl who brooked no hypocrisy, the girl who wrote poetry to emulate her favorite rappers, the girl who navigated that ocean of middle school so well most of the time. Even when you didn’t want to, you would pay attention and watch me as I tried to teach you. We shook hands most days. You would smile, which didn’t happen as often as it should have.

Should I have worried more? Should I have done more? Someone should have.

More than a little melancholic and perhaps melodramatic tonight with this news. But, really — of all times to be melodramatic, the loss of a vital 16-year-old is worthy.

And yet I am angry. I am angry at you, Jessica, for being at the party, for taking whatever you took, for leaving your smarts behind. I am angry at you for wearing red with pride. I am angry with you for neglecting your homework and for hanging out with those kids.

But I don’t want to be angry with you. I want to direct my anger at your family, and your friends, and your school and your teachers, and whatever circumstances directed you down this path. I am sure we are all culpable.

I don’t know what those circumstances were, and I don’t know who those others are. I knew you.

I think I have so much more to say about opportunities (taken and lost), but for now I thought I’d give everyone the lowdown before I lose the details to my sieve-like memory.

Play-by-play, our 45 hours from home:

Chad drove us to the airport Saturday morning. I was terrified; when he left us at the security gate, I kept looking back for him. I had our stroller, the carseat, a stuffed backpack, the ergo baby carrier, and the diaper bag. Elinor was somewhere in the midst of it all. I had worried about taking the stroller, but it helped so much. Chad and I saw a belabored momma in the elevator on our way to ticketing. She was carrying her stroller, had two roller bags, and a one-year-old in an umbrella stroller. I will say now and forever — hip hip hooray for Bob strollers that work with your carseat!

We got through security so fast that we had much time to spend at the gate. People were so friendly; babies are magical. I met a woman who is friends with the woman in Maui who created the ergo baby carrier — wow.

On the plane, it was great. We were in the second-to-last row, and there was one empty seat in our row. The occupied seat contained a very nice woman who fell in love with Elinor. The flight itself was great; we nursed during take-off and landing, Elinor bounced a-plenty, we traversed the cabin for 30 minutes, and Elinor slept on my lap in the ergo.

We landed, a car was waiting to take us to our hotel, and the driver was a wacky guy from Queens married to a personal trainer. Janice was already at the hotel — the Intercontinental Times Square — and it was pretty swank and all the staff were amazing.

We went to the corner and ordered from this place called the Shake Shack. Awesome hamburgers and a great concrete with poached figs — yummy.

Our view:

The next morning the hullabaloo began.

Janice and Elinor came with me to Rockefeller Square, where NBC had set up a huge tent over the ice skating rink. We found where I was supposed to be, so Janice and Elinor left to visit the Rockefeller Center Observation Deck. I entered the tent and sat in the front row as Brian Williams (Janice was excited about him; I didn’t know who he was!) facilitated a Teacher Town Hall. Teachers were onstage with Brian commenting about all sorts of things, and teachers in the audience could stand in line to comment, while anyone could tweet into their live feed, as well. I guess last year’s Town Hall was v. public vs. charter, full of enmity, and v. anti-teacher, even. This one was very clean and kind, almost hygienic. Most of the comments and arguments were v. common to anyone who has taught more than a year or two. But it was nice to be heard, without a doubt. Melinda Gates was there (not 100 feet from me!) and I kept thinking about what Diane Ravitch would say about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I have to say that I think that specific foundation is honorable, but I don’t think I trust all other philanthropic organizations, and I DEPLORE how schools will throw themselves at a foundation’s feet for their money. I guess I deplore the fact that schools have to do that, even more.

Did I say anything? Nope.

Afterward, I had no idea where I was supposed to go. I found Janice and Elinor, and we nursed right there by the Lego store. Ahhhh. Then I was clueless and just wanted to hold my baby.

Luckily Rhena, one of the real film stars, spotted me, and then we saw Ninive, the producer and former CEO of 826Valencia. We went on a weird mad dash around Rockefeller Center and that tent, and I met Jonathan and Erik and Jamie, the other real film stars. A woman from Microsoft interviewed us; she’ll be using those clips to try and promote _American Teacher_. I guess that Microsoft (or Lauren from Microsoft) saw the film just as Ninive and Dave Eggers, the co-producers, heard that no one wanted to distribute it (who wants to watch documentaries about teachers who can’t pay their bills?). Lauren thought Microsoft could help, and they have committed to funding numerous small and community screenings throughout the country. Aieee!

While we were standing there, Janice and Elinor and I hung out with Dave Eggers.

That’s him on the side. I took this picture before Janice realized that this Dave guy was Dave EGGERS.

Elinor slept as we all chatted.

Then we went BELOW Rockefeller Center to a nice restaurant for a private pre-screening party. I HATE those things. I was so glad that Janice and Elinor could come, though, because having a baby and a friend around relieves you from having to talk to people you don’t know. BUT I did meet the director, Vanessa Roth, and Emily, Associate Producer extraordinaire, and Gretchen, a wonderful former teacher and now teacher advocate, and Rhena’s mother, a legislator from New Jersey. They were all awesome, and they all recognized me. They all know me already from my video diary, but I had no idea who they were …. It was very awkward and it didn’t help that I was feeling awkward, too, and that I would rather have been hanging out with Janice and Elinor half the time. When I talked to people, I wanted to talk shop, too — about education. And many of them were up for that, but many of them were so much more involved in the film than I was that it was … awkward.

Finally we all filtered back into the tent for the World Premiere screening of _American Teacher_. I was in the front row next to Gretchen and Emily. Al Roker and Jenna Bush Hager introduced the film, and then the president of NBC spoke, and then the presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers spoke, and then Al Roker interviewed Vanessa, Dave, and Ninive, and then our seats rotated and we watched the movie.

I hadn’t seen it yet. This was part of my weirdness about this whole process; the four main stars of the film have been involved with the film all the way, from the book to the prior screenings at film festivals, etc., and they know each other and know everyone else. They’ve all seen it numerous times, and so have their families …. I wasn’t even sure if I would agree with the film. Of course I agree that teachers should be paid more, but I happen to know that the book, _Teachers Have It Easy_, applauds Denver’s ProComp system, a par-for-performance initiative. ProComp *is* ground-breaking, but even a teacher like me, who twice received bonuses for raising my students’ scores and always received excellent evaluations, cannot build my salary up to what it would have been on the old system. And DPS keeps reneging on which parts build your salary base and which are just bonuses; the bonuses help a little but don’t help in the long run.

That and the fact that education has become such a polarizing entity, and that I feel very strongly about that particularly divisive issue of neighborhood versus charter schools. What if my stuff was in a film that I personally couldn’t endorse? And the fact that my part in it seemed to be last-minute and not as important as the other teachers …. I felt like a skeptical phoney.

So I was hesitant.

But the film was good. It was even-handed and factual regarding teachers and the way our society does not respect them, since our society only seems to respect things by showering money upon them. The other teachers ARE amazing and went through some significant life changes, on film. And the film itself was utterly sympathetic to all of its teachers, which was most important to me.

It was hard watching me onscreen, though, especially since that me was from so long ago. 2007! I was so young, period, and I was so young in teaching, as well. And that was a ROUGH year. Just weeks after I finished the video diary, I got pneumonia. Ugggh.

After the screening there was some downtime. Ninive’s emails had indicated that not everyone would be on the panel following the film, and since I hadn’t heard otherwise, I assumed I wouldn’t be up there. I was in pain and part of me felt like I could hear Elinor crying, so I ducked out of the tent and went to nurse my babe (who had just begun to fuss). I was exhausted and so was Janice (as well as Elinor!), and so we made an executive decision to run away to the hotel before the after-party. It was a good choice; we all needed some downtime.

Then we headed to the after-party, at a very nice hotel restaurant and bar. Ira Glass had been on the invite list but hadn’t shown up, but we talked to Ninive, Jonathan and his girlfriend Barbara, and spoke with Dave and Jamie a little, and Elinor slept for quite awhile. She woke up and was fussy, so we decided to leave; we didn’t know many people and God knows that I suck in situations like that. But as we were saying goodbye to the people we knew, Ninive became an enthusiastic teacher: she stood in front of the room and gave a short speech of thanks and congratulations to all of us, and she made me stand up in front of them all, and we took pictures of all the film stars, and I don’t have any pictures of that. I am hoping that the emails I read asking for shared files come to fruition.

But I felt like a little star at that point. Part of me liked it and part of me didn’t; I still felt a little fraudulent.

Home to our view:

We ordered room service. I hadn’t really eaten since breakfast, besides a few little appetizers at all the functions. Elinor has hyped up and starving, too, and she and I ended up nursing for probably more than an hour. She finally went down around midnight.

Janice and I were getting up at four in order to be ready for our car at 5:30, for our flights at 8 and 8:30.

We sat with a former Teacher of the Year from Nebraska in the car; she warned me that the “fame” that comes with things like this can be hard to take. I can imagine that being Teacher of the Year would be difficult, indeed. My solace was that I was in the film almost by a fluke (of meeting Ninive at the 826 conference that year), not by merit.

“But you were in there by merit,” she said. “You were willing to share your life with us.” Hmmmm.

Then the great separation; Janice headed to another terminal. Elinor and I breezed through security — I now have a SYSTEM with my baby — and waited for awhile at the gate. Elinor bounced and played, and we befriended another Nebraskan, Claudia, who was very helpful. Then onto the plane ….

This time we weren’t as lucky. We had a middle seat, the plane was booked solid, and the man on the aisle was a BIG guy. He had to use the seatrest. A mom with a nursing baby is not a small entity, I now know, and Elinor was tired, teething, getting over her cold still, and uncomfortable while we tried to nurse. It was miserable. As soon as the seatbelt light went off, we were up and walking back and forth through the cabin. I walked with Elinor for an hour and a half, straight. She fell asleep and woke up and fell asleep …. Mark helped me calculate that I walked more than two miles, in a plane, in the air. Weird.

Elinor cried as we landed. But we were home, and my system worked for getting us off that plane. Mark was waiting for us, and we came home, and Elinor nursed, and now she is asleep.

I should probably be asleep, too.