Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Date....

Being a single woman of 44 years old, I've been out there in the dating world for a very long time now. As you can imagine, I've been on a multitude of "first dates". Last night I experienced another first date, and it is something I just have to share with you, my friends.

As I posted last week, I met Larry at the wine festival. I didn't really know if I was attracted to Larry. I mean with some men I'm immediately drawn to them from the second we meet...this was not the case with Larry. But I haven't been on a date here in the United States since I quit seeing HIM and it is definitely time I make myself available out there in the universe.

Larry called me during the week, calling me by the wrong name...he used a nickname that I never use because I hate being called by that nickname. I let that go, and agreed to meet him at a restaurant near my house.

For a woman the whole ritual of getting ready for a date is something I've always enjoyed. Not to sound conceited, but I am a pretty cute girl...some would even say I am pretty. So as I put on make-up, did my hair, and chose a sexy, but not too sexy outfit, I was in a pretty good head space...Selfishly I've always gone through this ritual more for myself and how it makes me feel rather than worrying about what the guy will think.

I meet Larry in the restaurant bar. I look at him and I notice that his jeans have been hemmed to the ankle straight legged style and he is wearing flip-flops. OK...this is so superficial, but come on, it is Saturday night, we are at a nice restaurant, and this dude made the choice to show me the most unattractive part of a man's body - his hairy feet and toes. My gay husband would've left right then - I just didn't look down for the rest of the night.

Larry has already been drinking wine, explaining to me that he hasn't been out on a date in 14 years and is a little nervous - he's divorced. Not a big deal, right? However, I can tell he's been sitting there drinking for a while - a big turn off in my book.

I am pretty good at the first date talk. Sharing just enough so the other person gets to know me, but not revealing too much - no one wants to hear about baggage on a first date, right? Larry didn't get that memo. He proceeds to tell me that he is the youngest of 8 children, but that six of his siblings are now dead. I'm not sure if he's looking for sympathy, but then he tells me that his family name will die with him as he is unable to conceive far entirely too much information on a first date!

By now Larry has had four glasses of wine to my 1 1/2. and we've only been sitting there for about an hour. Growing up with an alcoholic father, my brain is screaming, "danger, danger". On top of the drinking, each time Larry orders another drink he snaps his fingers at the bartender in order to get his attention - if I was Susie, the bartender, I would've spit in his wine.

As Larry continues to unload all his family secrets, I'm informed that he comes from a very old family dating back to the Mayflower, is related to Robert E. Lee, among other war heroes, and he grew up in a haunted house built in the 1700's. Oh and of course he has a lot of money. I have found that when people talk about themselves this much on a first date, very little of it is true.

Just when I think I have heard everything, Larry tells me that three of his dead siblings died from alcohol, and one from a drug overdose. He tells me that he comes from a long line of alcoholics, but he didn't get that gene because he doesn't have to drink....he's just ordered his sixth glass of wine. Oh....we haven't even ordered dinner yet! Starving, I ask Larry if we can eat...

After we eat - I had the sea bass, which was amazing - I begin to plan out my exit. I didn't know what time it was, but I was done listening to Larry unload every piece of dirty laundry that he's been keeping in the dark trenches of his mind. He also felt this was the time for us to make plans - like going on vacation together...I almost RAN right then. After what I think is an appropriate 10 minutes after they have cleared our plates, I tell Larry that it is time for me to go.

Larry walks me to my car, I thank him for dinner, give him a peck on the lips. He tells me that he is going back in for another glass of wine. He asks if I want to go out again. I smile and tell him to give me a call, leaving Larry standing in the rain in his ankel jeans and flip-flops....I will be screening my calls for the next week....sorry dude, but if you are looking to get laid anytime soon I would rethink how you approach a first date.

As for me...I'm ready for my next first date!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Best Practice in Teaching

Friday night, I'm in my jammies, and I'm about to watch the season premier of Ghost Whisper...a teacher's wet dream after the first three weeks of school. OK...maybe just this teacher's web dream.

We are now into the first week of "real work". I'll put grades in my grade book this week and I'll start sending home student work in Tuesday Folders....this means I've been grading papers...the one job I avoid as a teacher.

My learning curve at this new school is in overdrive. I'm learning to hold my tongue. I think that is the key to all the life of smiling, nodding, and keeping my mouth shut. I think this is the safest place to be for an elementary school teacher.

In a way is excellent that the administration just stays away. When I think about it, everyone just stays away. There's no connection between anyone in that school not between the teachers on my team, nor with the teachers in special education or ESL. We all share students, but no one shares what they do in their is a little weird and creepy.

But like I said the administration just stays away, they just trust that we are doing the right thing in our classrooms....this could be a very good thing...however, I sorta wish they paid more attention. Because there is so much disconnect between teacher and specialist in that school. Plus the students are pulled so many different directions...I question if this is the "best practice" for teaching.

Many teachers talk of "best practice". While there are many different ways to define this, I find that for the students I teach "best practice" is for students to have as much uninterrupted instructional time in the general education classroom. While every teacher today has students who receive services through special education or ESL, I've found that having those specialists "push-in" the classroom is the best way. That is, I believe students should be completely included in the classroom.

This way of thinking is not the practice at my new school. Instructional time is constantly interrupted by various numbers of students going to band, strings, or chorus. The rule is that I am supposed to stop teaching when students are pulled for these classes. How does one do this and teach everything that is in the curriculum?

I fear that my students who receive special education and ESL services are losing out. Are they really learning how to read and comprehend? Are they really learning math concepts or being forced to memorize a bunch of rules that mean nothing to them?

Instead of complaining or fighting a battle I will surely lose, I'm rethinking my approach to teaching. I am desperately trying to find ways to integrate reading and problem solving in everything I do with my students...this would mean when I teach content subjects like social studies and science.

I am not saying that my "best practice" is the only way, and I'm not saying that the special education and ESL teachers are not doing their job. However, there is little communication and these teachers do not really seem interested in talking about how to combine our efforts. I understand this because for many teachers this "practice" takes more work and effort and a new way of thinking when it comes to educating children...again a battle I will not I do what I can when I can, and not rock the boat or ruffle the sensitive feathers of my co-workers.

Maybe that is my lesson in all this....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Isn't FHA Supposed to be A Good Thing?

I wish I knew how to say, "Are you freaking kidding me?" in Spanish. I wonder if the effect is the same after the translation?

So I didn't get the house that I mentioned in my last post. The bank took another offer. This is the sixth offer I've made on a house! What is the deal here? I made a really good offer, $17,000 over asking price, asked for $5,000 in closing...a good offer...even the LISTING agent said it looked like I had the best offer. But no...apparently they were just...joking.

The listing agent said it was because I was going to go for an FHA loan. First time home buyer thing, you know? She said the seller wasn't sure the property would qualify. My first question is why have five of the nine homes sold in the same condo complex been sold to first time home buyers through FHA??? Why didn't my real estate agent ask that right away?

The seller is a banks look at the bottom line, that is why I bid so much over the asking price. I thought that was the smart thing to do (I've learned somethings in placing six previous offers). I did exactly what they asked me to do, even rushing around Saturday night signing an extra form for the seller AND getting pre-qualified through their bank....then they turn around and say NO to me?

It just pisses me off this is just wrong. I've sent my agent on a mission to find out why? What is their deal? I hope I get to talk to the bank guy who said no. My agent is afraid to be confrontational...he just accepts things....I let him know tonight that I didn't like that...not sure I will have this guy as my agent much longer. He doesn't have to be a pushy asshole, but I want him to go in and ask questions, fight with a smile for me...without me telling him what to do.

Every other offer I've been like, "OK...universe you know'll lead me to the right direction." This time I am truly pissed off. Not at the universe, but at the bank people, the listing agent, and my agent. None of them realize how personal buying a home is...especially when you plan to live there. To them it is just another name on a paper they've said, "no" to...the listing agent made a sale and the bank sold the property. My agent, well he has other clients, I guess. I think that is what pisses me off the most....these people are not seeing me as human...I'm just this faceless name on a paper in front of's just wrong!! I think I deserve to be treated like a human being even in a business transaction.

As far as the universe goes...I know you are leading me in the right direction...things are peaceful right now..thank you for that...but can you give me a clue...what am I missing here?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vino Tinto....

Went to the Vintage Virginia fall Wine Festival yesterday. You may remember me posting about the spring version of this festival...that was only last May, but it seems like a lifetime ago.

Yesterday was a perfect pre-fall day...75 degrees and sunny...I went with friends and we took a picnic and drank a lot of wine on the grass....just lovely.

A man named Larry hung out with us for a while, asking me for my email when we left. This morning I get an email asking if I want to go out next Saturday...OMG a date on a Saturday night!! I'm not sure I'm attracted to Larry, but a free dinner and sure beats take out and Law and Order every woman likes to be seen as a woman now and then.

I received two lovely emails from people I had met in Spain. Ester, is teacher who lives in Madrid. I thought Ester was a really cool lady and I am glad she reached out to say hello. I asked her if she wanted our students to be pen-pals...Was that a lame thing to ask her? I mean, school is in session, people, and those 5th graders are supposed to be able to write letters.

The other email was from "J"...remember... I wrote about him when I came back from Spain. He just makes me smile...he has this amazing way of using the English is not always correct, but it is quite beautiful. I bet he is a really great writer in Spanish....I wonder if he's heard of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ? I think I need a pen-pal, don't you?

Keep your fingers crossed that this time next week I will be "under contract" as we say in the real estate business. Just a little condo...but mine...and tax deductable.

I met Andres Friday night for a beer and some conversation. I gotta tell you it is hard to speak Spanish during happy hour. There was a lot of "Como? Como?", but I just rambled on in my rickety Spanish and Andres smiles, corrects me, making me repeat things over and over again to get the pronouncation just right...

It seems like I'm having a life....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alguna Vez...Conmigo....

I just love watching football on Sunday! And the title of this posting means nothing...just my new favorite words to stay in Spanish!

This weekend you could feel that the seasons are starting to change...fall is coming. I like fall in Virginia. The air is just crisp enough to have to wear a jacket. The leaves will magically change into the most beautifully vibrant colors. School has started and life is consumed by getting to know the lovely little darlings that have graced you with their presence. Football season begins...and Sundays are filled with watching very large men take a ball down a grass field while they bash into each other...muy perfecto!

The first week of school was good. I am definitely not in the ghetto anymore. These are nice kids...way more innocent than my classes at my other school. They are a year younger, but even the 6th graders look innocent in this place. Things are way different from my old school. I've had to make changes, but change is good for every soul.

My approach to the way I teach has changed a bit...well how I structure things anyway. This was difficult for fit what I think a good classroom is into this school's structure and schedule. Of course I fought it for a minute...then I took a step back and re-thought my would the new Gracie handle things? Once I relaxed into their schedule and went with the flow, ideas just started popping into my brains...I can be a kick ass teacher and make it all fit into their world...

Just a bit more of the nerdy teacher stuff here. This school "flexible groups" for math and language arts. I have the "lower" classes for both math and language arts. The thing that is kinda cool is that the class sizes are pretty small. Math is a bit bigger (20 kids) because I combined with the special ed teacher. My group for language arts is unbelievably small - only 12-15 kids! Do you realize how totally cool that is? I can do so much....lit circles, a lot of guided reading, real writing conferences....I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I know I did a lot of complaining...but I'm so glad that I just frigging relaxed with it all...because there are nice people at this school...and I would like to stay a while.

I've met with my language partner, Andres, twice now. Yesterday we met downtown and spoke in English and Spanish for about three hours. Andres is a graduate student from Columbia. It would be very 'romance novel' for me to describe Andres as a tall, beautifully sculpted Latino man who looks deeply into my soul with smoldering eyes. As cool as that fantasy is, my Andres is a skinny awkward kid/man studying to be an electrical engineer. He is very patient with my butchering his home language, and he's starting to get some of my jokes and word usage,,,So far so good...The hot language partner of my fantasies will continue to thrive in my imagination.

However, I WILL be ready for Spain...Keeping my eye on the for the two summer months. You know what is funny? I really want to buy my own place...but I am seeing home ownership my ticket to summer there something wrong with know being motivated by travel??

Speaking of home ownership....I lost out on the perfect place this week. My agent couldn't show me the property on Wednesday night when it became available. We looked on Thursday went to place an offer to HUD and someone had bid Wednesday night and the offer was accepted Thursday. I know, I guess it really wasn't the perfect house. Sheesh...

My agent is not very pro-active at finding me places. He should know what I like by now, we've put offers in on five different places. My little go-getter sits back and waits for me find the places...I may have to fire him if I am really seriously wanting to buy something. new year has begun...I think I've mentioned that a teacher's year begins in gusto mucho...gracias!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New School Growing Pains

Have you ever been the "new kid in school"? I have many times in my life. From kindergarten to 12th grade I went to thirteen different being the new kid is something I learned how to do a long time ago...or so I thought. This week I was the "new" teacher at school. While a learning experience in an abundance of ways, being a "new" teacher in a school is a lot like having a scarlet "TN tatooed onto ones forehead.

Right off, let me just say that there are many people who have been very nice, helpful, and have made me feel right at home. However, the learning curve one goes through when starting at a new school is like walking into an alien spaceship or a foreigh country. All of a sudden everything I have known about being a teacher is not understood by those around me. I is like I am speaking another language and have no dictionary to refer to.

Everything I mentioned about doing in my classroom was answered with a, "we don't do that here." or "I'm sorry, I don't know you as a teacher so I am not sure you can teach these students." Talk about getting slapped into insecurity zone from the get go.

Of course being me, I took everything VERY personal and cried most of the week. I HATED where I was at for the last 3 years, but in those moments I so wanted to be back least they knew I do good things with my students...

Again, being me, with the emotion that was seeping out of my skin like sweat off of a fat guy, I shut down completely. This was exactly what I DIDN'T want to do...but there it with a HUGE wall around me that the largest sledgehammer couldn't break through. I came off exactly as I was...unapproachable, emotional, and really unhappy about deciding to teach at this school.

I did rally back Thursday night and went in Friday with a happy face agreeing with whatever they said...outwardly agreeing anyway. I am hoping this attitude will last. I know frustration will rear its ugly head...then what?

Frustrated...that is the key word here. One example is that I am working with a BRAND NEW special ed teacher for math - in a co-teaching situation, which is great....I love co-teaching. So today this woman tells me she has doubts that this will work...that special educations students will not learn with general education students. She hasn't even met the students! How does she know what they can or cannot do? I smiled and said that I am going in with the attitude that we will be a successful team and produce successful students and am hopeing she can see things the same way...she said she would try...WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN? How can a person walk into a school with the attitude that students are not going to succeed?

You know, all I really want to do is teach and make students successful. I want to be shown a little respect and treated like I am a credible teacher. I want my own place to buy and to move. Iwant to make enough money so I can travel next summer for the entire 2 months. It is not a lot to ask. I am not even asking for some guy to be my boyfriend, or for HIM to like me again, or for people to hang out why does it feel like I am constantly swimming upstream to fight a battle that I am not sure I am even going to win? These ARE attainable goals...aren't they?