Back to School, Educator Discounts, Respecting our Educators, Teacher Salaries, Uncategorized

Where Are the Educator Discounts?

My husband and I just finished our first week back to school for the 2017/18 school year, and we are exhausted!  I slept for twelve hours last night.  I am back in 1st grade for the third year in a row, and Al is now working in an ESE classroom, which is a huge challenge, and takes a lot of patience.  Each year seems to take more energy and more money.

When I started teaching, I was in love with the profession.  I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up.  I remember being 5 or 6, and playing school with my friends.  My mother taught me to read before going to kindergarten.  By the time I got to college, I was having second thoughts, and delayed making my decision, but I finally made the decision to go that direction.  Through all of the positions I’ve had, I have loved my students and the challenges presented to me each day.  But it’s harder now. Financially, it’s killing us.

What can be done to help those of us who are struggling financially?  We have all heard the testimonies of teachers who spend their own money to resource their classrooms. Some of us know about how high the health insurance premiums for educators are, and the health risks of being an educator.  My own district right now is at an impasse over our contracts from last year, denying us a raise of any value.  What happens with this is that when our insurance premiums go up (they do every year), our take home pay goes down because the minimal raises we receive don’t cover the cost (we worked all of last year with no raise so far).  I made less money last year than the year before, and will most likely make less this year than last. Currently, I make what I made twenty years ago, and was able to support a family of five.  Now that it’s just the two of us (and an aging dog), it isn’t enough because everything is more expensive.  It isn’t a unique situation.  It happens all over the United States.  A lot of teachers have extra jobs just to pay the bills.  Professionals having to tend bar, wait tables, or work at a big box store to make ends meet should not be happening.

One solution that would help this is for teachers to receive educator discounts, much like the military or senior citizens.  And before anyone comes at me for being anti-military, stop right there.  I’m not saying that the military doesn’t deserve it.  They do….but so do we.  Some places, such as book stores, have an educator discount, but sometimes there are stipulations that it has to be spent on educational items.  Sometimes during Teacher Appreciation Week, restaurants might offer a discount to teachers.  Why should there be any restrictions on how we receive the discounts?  There are no restrictions on military or senior citizens.  Many times, I’ve been asked by a cashier if I’m “military” for a discount.  I tell them I’m not, but I ask about an educator discount.  They look at me with a blank stare, and tell me there isn’t one, but then agree with me that there should be.

Without teachers, there is nothing.  There is no military, no law enforcement, no medical or legal profession.  Why don’t we deserve discounts on retail, restaurants, insurance, utilities, auto financing, and home mortgages?  We deserve it!  Teachers are the hardest working people I know.  We should not have to have second jobs to just stay afloat. There should be educator discounts across the board, for anything we spend, much like the military. I promise it will not break any company to do this, and will most likely help their business if they show respect to our profession.  We earn it.  We deserve it.  We NEED it.

I am going to be asking businesses and companies to start offering educator discounts. I am inviting other educators and individuals to join me in this.  Let’s start showing respect for this profession, and those who dedicate their lives to it.

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Anger, Civil Rights, Fear, Peaceful Protests, Protests, Racism, Respect, Uncategorized

Fear and Sadness…….

Well, after the weekend’s events in Virginia, I really wanted to write about something positive, happy, and less upsetting……but my heart and mind keep going back to the news.

Angry alt-right protesters marched…..chanted…..and violence/terrorism ensued.  It breaks my heart, and makes me so incredibly angry and sad.  Those protesters, carrying Nazi swastikas, and chanting their hateful messages spit on the graves of every U.S. soldier that fought and died in WWI and WWII…..and every American who ever served this country, or currently serves this country, defending our freedoms.  My grandfathers, my father, my father in-law, my uncles, my cousins, my son…..

At this point, it isn’t about Democrat and Republican, or who you voted for.  I have friends who voted unlike me.  They had their reasons, and we didn’t agree, but that’s the beauty of America……even if we don’t like the outcome.  Even when we were in Europe earlier this summer, an American friend was shaking his head, wondering why his family in New York voted the way they did.  Right now……it doesn’t matter.  Right now…..it’s time to put a stop to the hate.  SPEAK UP!  Take a stand against bigotry.  We absolutely can NOT let this continue!

The truth is, the atmosphere in America right now is ugly, sad, and scary.  It seems that unrest, racism, and hatred comes in phases in our country.  I have a tendency to put on my Pollyanna personality, and try to see the good in everything, but right now, I’m angry! My parents (especially my father) were a little too close for comfort to it during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.  Actually, our country was built on violence and racism, but I believe that the Declaration of Independence and Amendments still support that “all men are created equal,” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and we need to respect that, and stand on that.  Our current administration seems to condone the hate.  I’m not a fan of his, and I don’t hide it, yet some people were more upset that President Obama wanted everyone to have healthcare……”It’s un-American,” as one of my friends stated.  Un-American?!?!  No, it wasn’t.  What is un-American is supporting white supremacy, and threatening the lives of those who are standing up for their rights or those of others.

I still believe that the majority of Americans are good people, and do not condone hate or violence.  Some will say that if you voted for the current president, then you condone the behavior of these individuals.  I disagree.  I may not agree with their decision to vote for him, and I can’t stand him, but that is/was their right, and they had their reasons, which was also their right. What upsets me the most about this is that the behavior of those idiots (yes, idiots…assholes…..jerks…..traitors…..terrorists) yesterday is condoned, while peaceful protests, such as someone “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, or peacefully marching in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade, or a women’s rights march, or a gay pride parade, are condemned, ridiculed, abused, or called “un-American.”

It all comes down to what I’ve written about before…..respect.  Those who marched yesterday disrespected the American public.  They disrespected our Constitution.  They disrespected every single individual who fought and/or died for the freedoms we enjoy today.  This is not Nazi-Germany (remember….they were the ENEMY….America fought and won that war!).  This is not the 1800’s or early 1900’s America where men hid behind their white hoods terrorizing African Americans.  I was raised in Kansas, once known as “Bleeding Kansas” because of the racial unrest in the 1800’s.  My father was raised in South Alabama.  My parents served a church in Southern Arkansas in the 1960’s, and I’m married to a bi-racial man, living in the South……I know a bit about racial issues.  As time goes on, you would think we could see the sins/mistakes of our past, and not repeat them.  Unfortunately, what I saw yesterday made me sick and ashamed.

I love my country.  I am as patriotic as they come.  I cry when I hear the National Anthem.  I love our diversity.  I love the freedoms we share in America….but I do NOT love hatred, bigotry, or anyone attempting to deny the rights of anyone else because of their race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc.  As much as I miss my parents and grandparents, I am glad they are not here to see what is happening in our country today. It’s just too sad….and too scary.

 

Be Kind, Coping, Don't Judge, Invisible Illness, Support, Uncategorized

Invisible Battles

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about….be kind!”  I’ve seen this quote many times, and can still remember the first time I saw it.  It was on another teacher’s desk.  I read it, and it stayed with me.  We all have battles that no one sees.  They may be emotional, personal, physical, or mental.

I saw a couple grumbling about a healthy looking young man parking in a handicapped parking spot, but he had the proper tag allowing him to do so.  I guess his handicap wasn’t apparent.  Maybe he was perfectly healthy, and driving his elderly grandfather’s car, but maybe he wasn’t.

Not all conditions or illnesses are apparent.  Arthritis, lupus, cancer, diabetes, tumors, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, OCD,  hard of hearing….all of these conditions may or may not be apparent, but each one impacts the person’s life each and every day, whether we see it or not.  As someone who has had some scary health problems that haven’t always been visible, I’ve been told to “Get over it,” “You’re not sick,” or my favorite….(from one of my least favorite people)…”Liven up!”  Feeling pain from arthritis in my back, knees, hands, and now my feet has been excruciating at times, and I’ve been dealing with that for most of my life. Having social anxiety is also very difficult (I think we used to just be considered “shy”), but I just have to deal with it.

It’s not for us to decide how someone deals with these conditions.  It’s important to offer support and understanding to anyone who may be struggling.  We don’t walk in their shoes, and don’t get the right to condemn or criticize them for the way they’re coping and managing, or criticize them for where they park.  Each day is different, and there are highs and lows.  I’ve known people who seem perfectly happy and healthy reveal that they suffer from clinical depression or bi-polar.  They’re just really good at concealing it in public, or are under the care of a physician who has found the right treatment for them.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some serious physical health issues.  A year ago, I also went through something very serious.  Ten years ago, I went through some other health issues.  None of these are/were obvious by looking at me.  I’m also very good about pretending that I’m okay, and making jokes about my conditions.  But sometimes it really is scary.  Sometimes we just need understanding and not judgement.  Sometimes we need a hug.  Sometimes I just really want my mother.  I’m fortunate that I have supportive people in my life, and not ones who judge or criticize me or how I deal with pain or illness.

So if that perfectly healthy looking young man parks in a handicapped parking space, don’t judge.  He may be epileptic, or have a bad back, or maybe had recent surgery. Remember, everyone is fighting a battle that we may not see…..be kind.

Helicopter Parenting, Overprotective Parents, Raising Self Reliant Children, Teaching Responsibility, Uncategorized

Helicopter Moms From Hell

Helicopter parents…..they’re everywhere.  I see it in stores, with my students, my neighbors, etc.  I understand the need to keep our children safe.  It is a scary world. However, I think things are getting out of hand, and we are raising wimps. When I was growing up, it was nothing to be home alone during the day, even if I had to stay home from school if I didn’t feel well.  Those days are no more.  Parents would be turned in for child neglect today.  During the summer, I was out on my bike, or with my friends, or at the swimming pool…..until it was time to come home for dinner.  And yet, my parents were strict, and a bit overprotective compared to my friends’ parents.  I learned communication skills, problem solving skills, and had to take responsibility for my actions.

But today’s parents frustrate me.  Last night, I was watching a youth basketball game that my husband was refereeing.  One mother was driving me insane.  She was one of those loud moms…..you know the type.  She only cheered for her child.  She coached him from the stands.  In fact, during time outs, before her child went to the huddle with the rest of the team, he came to her on the opposite side of the gym, to be coached by her before joining his teammates and coach.  That was disrespectful to his coach and teammates. She was pushy and controlling. Another parent did something that my son told me never to do as a parent.  Her son got hurt, taking a fall on the court.  Now, we are talking about an 11 or 12 year old.  He was not little.  As soon as he fell, his mother and two other women went running onto the court to check on him.  I remember my son telling me when he was about 7 or 8, that it didn’t matter if his arm, leg, or head was falling off….I was NOT to come onto the court, or the football, baseball, or soccer field.  He assured me that he was not a baby, and I was not to embarrass him that way.  There were many times I sat on the sidelines, biting my nails, as my child was sprawled out on the ground, being attended to by his coaches.  I waited for the coach to motion to me if I was needed (I never was).  It was excruciating at times, but I knew I could not be one of “those” moms, babying my child.  I will never forget the time he took a baseball to the face!  If I had run onto the court as that lady had done, my son would STILL be mad at me, and he’s now 25.  By the way, this lady’s son was fine.  He was able to get up and finish the game.

I’m really hoping the pendulum starts swinging back the other direction on this issue.  If not completely, at least a little, so we can let our kids learn for themselves, learn from their mistakes, figure things out, develop better problem solving and social skills.  Doing everything for our kids and hovering is only going to make their lives more difficult in the long run.  Colleges and universities are already seeing the results of helicopter parenting, and it hasn’t been positive.  Parents telling teachers how to teach, coaches how to coach, protecting their child from every bug bite and skinned knee are not helping their child.  Spend time with your child, but teach them to figure things out on their own, and develop life long skills for exploration, communication, problem solving, etc.  As someone who has raised three children, trust me.  It will be ok.  Kids will make mistakes, but so did we.  The world will keep turning, life will go on if you aren’t hovering over every detail in your child’s life.  I know we need to be hands on, and proactive, but that is different than being a helicopter parent.

And by the way, my son turned out ok…..he’s serving our country in the Navy now.  My worry for him is much bigger now than when he was playing sports as a child, and I still can’t run out and protect him with every little problem.  I’m glad he survived those bumps and bruises and cuts and scrapes (and the baseball to the face).  I’m quite proud of his bravery and dedication to his country….so I guess I did something right.

Art, Don't Judge, Respect, Tattoos, Uncategorized

Tattoo or Taboo?

Tattoos…..once reserved for military (I think of the Navy), and motorcycle gangs, have become quite the norm today.  A lot people consider them trashy or crude, or unnecessary.  It’s actually hard to find someone without a tattoo today. I’ve seen trashy and poorly thought out tattoos, but I’ve also met rude, classless people who have no tattoos.

I am not pro or anti tattoos.  If someone wants to have one, that is entirely their choice.  I wouldn’t want anyone to get one from peer pressure.  I also wouldn’t want anyone to get one just to have one, without giving much thought to what they’re putting on their body.  After all, it is permanent.  I don’t think anyone under the age of 25 should have one, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as honoring a family member, or commemorating a special date.  What we value at 18 is not necessarily what we value at 25.  Therefore, I’ve told my children that I would prefer they wait….if they still want the same thing at 25 that they did at 18, then go for it. Also, a tattoo or piercing should never keep you from having the job you desire, so location is also something to consider.

I haven’t always felt this way.  I used to think they were inappropriate, and you shouldn’t scar your body this way.  However, as I have gotten older, and have faced some personal tragedies in my life, I don’t have such strong feelings about something that shouldn’t make a difference in my life.  Someone else’s tattoo, and the way they choose to express themselves isn’t my business, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.  I don’t take issue with someone who is practicing self expression.  If someone wants a tattoo, and wants to express themselves in an artistic way, that is their choice.  I have seen some beautiful tattoos on women who have had mastectomies.  I have seen others cover other types of scars that may be a reminder to them of a painful time.  To cover their scars with beautiful artwork is coping in a positive way, a statement of survival, and it is their choice.  To some, the choice to have a tattoo is a very personal one, and the message they choose to display may mean something very deep, or be very emotional for them.

Some tattoo art is also beautiful (and some is quite hideous!).  Artists of different styles and methods should respect another artist’s work.  I can’t imagine that it’s an easy art to master!  It would take years of practice, patience, and talent.  I would think the skin as a canvas would be much different to work on than a mural on a wall!

Self expression, creativity, and honoring what we love in a display on our bodies is not something to criticize or condemn.  Respect the message.  Respect the artist’s work.  Respect the individual with the display of self expression on their body.  Respect.

Coping, Just Breathe, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

The Unexpected

Unexpected occurrences can leave us feeling happy, excited, frustrated, scared, sad, mad, or maybe even lonely.  There aren’t a lot of true surprises in life anymore.  One of the real surprises in life is when you find out what gender your newborn child will be.  I never wanted to know because I wanted to be surprised.  I’m still glad I waited on that one. Things happen that we don’t expect, though.  Life doesn’t always happen the way we want or expect. That’s okay. They say it’s all about the journey, right?

The last few years, I’ve had some unexpected things happen.  I went back to teaching after a brief hiatus from the profession…..I had a really bad experience with dishonest people in a private school.  I published my first book about the crazy things my students have said and done.  I married my best friend, and found happiness I never thought was meant for me.  I’ve had one financial set back after another, which has left me afraid and questioning why greed and dishonesty seem to pay.  I’ve had a couple of serious health issues that were just the luck of the draw, and not caused by heredity or anything I did wrong. With each situation, I’ve kept focusing on the positive, trying to stay upbeat, and it isn’t always easy.  Surprises. Unexpected events.  Life.

Like I said, it’s all about the journey.  As I’m typing this, my sweet husband is on his way home from spending a few days in New York with his family.  His flight was delayed due to weather, which is causing him to miss his connecting flight, making it a long stressful day for him, not knowing what to expect, or what time he’ll get home.  It happens when you fly, but still unexpected and frustrating.

Being prepared for the unexpected is almost impossible, no matter how much we tell ourselves the opposite.  We are taught to be kind and respectful (most of us), but sometimes that isn’t enough to get along with everyone.  We are taught to be responsible with money (most of us), but things happen to put a kink in our finances, and can put us in desperate situations.  We are taught to take care of our bodies by eating right and exercising, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control.

Dealing with unexpected events can be hard, especially if you feel alone.  We can pray, sing, breathe, meditate, scream, throw things, go for a walk, work out, read, write, cry, etc. Having someone to help you through helps too….a friend or spouse to provide a hug and a shoulder to lean on….a support group….a counselor.  Whatever helps someone cope is okay, as long as it isn’t drugs or alcohol.  Don’t go down that road to cope with your struggles.  That might make things worse.  There isn’t one solution for every unexpected event for every person.  As I’ve said before, our differences make this world a beautiful place, so dealing with personal setbacks, or surprises, isn’t one size fits all.  Patience is essential in every situation.

Surprises.  Unexpected events.  The journey of life.  Hold on.  Breathe.  Be patient.

Back to School, Respecting our Educators, Teacher Salaries, Uncategorized

Back to School…..and the Poor House!

Well, it’s that time of year again…..back to school!  I’ve seen the displays in the stores since right after the 4th of July, which I believe is way too early.  When I was younger, school didn’t start until late August, or sometimes (depending on where I was living), after Labor Day.

Getting school supplies was always a high point when I was a child.  I would take them home and organize them, and my mother would write my name on everything, in her beautiful handwriting.  I remember taking my own children to get their school supplies, and letting them pick out their notebooks, folders, pencils, lunchboxes, backpacks, etc. Excitement was in the air!

As an educator, I still have to buy school supplies.  I usually wait for the tax free holiday to save some extra money.  You see, I teach in a title school, and most of my students can’t afford supplies.  I buy extra, and try to stock up during the back to school sales, to get through the whole year…..extra boxes of crayons, glue, paper, scissors, pencils, erasers, highlighters, dry erase markers, folders, 3-ring binders, tissues……and so on.  That doesn’t include the trips to the teacher supply store, buying new charts and classroom decorations.  Elementary school teachers need to make their classrooms appealing, inviting, fun, and colorful.  It needs to be a happy, friendly environment for our students. I could easily spend $500 on this.  Then throughout the year, I have to replace these items, and buy more supplies.  I can spend over $1000 every year just on my classroom.

Here’s the problem….in case you aren’t aware, teachers don’t make a lot of money. Currently, my district has yet to settle on our contracts for the year we just finished, and now we are going into another year, working on a contract that is two years old.  This is quite normal, so I’m not criticizing just my district.  It’s the whole establishment.  With increasing insurance premiums, some of us make less money each year without our cost of living raises.  I’ve been in this profession for 27 years, and currently make what I made 20 years ago.

Times are hard. I saw a teacher on the news this week who took to the streets with a sign (much like homeless people do), requesting funds for her classroom.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, but why should we have to swallow our pride, and stand out in the 100 degree heat to have enough money for our classrooms?  We are college educated professionals.  It shouldn’t be this way.

My district pays us in June for the whole summer.  We won’t receive another paycheck until September 15th.  If there are any unexpected expenses throughout the summer, it can set you back, and leave you short of funds.  In my case, I have had health issues the last two summers, resulting in medical bills not covered by our insurance.  Where will we find money to pay for our living expenses?  House payment?  Car loans?  Medical bills?  Utilities?  Oh, and then there’s those school supplies that everyone expects us to buy…..  We don’t have it.

I once had a school board president tell me that teachers are not the “sharpest tools in the shed” because if we were, we would have chosen a career that paid better.  He inherited his position as president of a manufacturing company, and I was apparently sharp enough to teach his son, but he didn’t have any respect for me or the profession! This was one of the most disrespectful comments I have ever heard when it comes to educators, and from a board president, no less.

I won’t go into detail of how packed our days are at school.  That would take entirely too long.  My day starts at 4 AM, and it’s an exhausting day!  Let’s just say if we were paid what we are worth (education, experience, professionalism), none of us would be struggling financially, or begging for supplies or financial assistance.  And maybe we/I wouldn’t have health problems if I weren’t worried constantly about finances.  Yes, we get our summers off, but a lot of us are working 2 or 3 other jobs during this time to make ends meet.  And, with health problems, it makes it hard to work another full time job in the summer.

Something needs to give when it comes to teacher salary.  The powers that be need to start respecting the profession, and those who have dedicated so much of themselves to educating our future.  My bank account can’t afford this, and neither can my health.