Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just a Teacher

I was at a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and I was talking to a gentleman that was a banker. He was from the old neighborhood, Maryvale. He said he was thinking about changing his career. He wanted to help others!

Wow! He wants to go back to the old neighborhood, work with the community, become a math teacher!

Then he said,"Yea, I want to help others. I am going to become an investment banker."

Investment banking helps others?

And then "the question" came. The question I really don't like to answer. "What do you do?"

I put a broad smile on my face and I answered with enthusiasm, "Me? I am a teacher!" And it felt like the entire room went silent and everyone looked at me as if I had just said, "Me? . . . . . I transport nuclear waste. . . . . I was in your neighborhood . . . . and I lost something from my truck."

And the gentleman looked at me along with everyone else in the room and said, "Oh, you're just a teacher."

I hate answering "that question". It is not because I am ashamed of what I do. I am very proud of what I do. Many times too proud. But, whenever I answer, "I am a teacher," I have to listen to every bad teacher story there is in the room. Whenever someone tells me, "I am a banker, CEO, or tow truck driver," I don't tell them about the bad bankers, CEOs, or tow truck drivers I have come across, and I have come across many.

I know there are bad teachers, really I do know, but there are many more good teachers than there are bad teachers. I truly don't believe that bad teachers go into teaching thinking, "I am just going to do what I need to do to get by because I don't care about children. I am only here because I get summers off"

I once had someone say to me, "Why would you be stressed? You're just a teacher. You only work 8 to 3, 175 days a year." Man, you're lucky I am crippled because if I wasn't, I would stand up right now and knock you out. "You're right. Why should I be stressed?" In thirty one years of teaching I have only worked 8 to 3 on the weekends or during my summer jobs. During the school year I work at least 10 hours a day, and that doesn't include all the work I do in the evening at home.

Just a teacher . . . Teachers:

  • leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark
  • work at home grading, planning, etc. (this does not include their mom or dad duties)
  • work for free doing parent-teacher conferences, meet the teacher nights, math nights, literacy nights, read-to-me nights, school carnivals, community clean-ups, science fairs, curriculum nights, book parades, and pep rallies just to name a few
  • can collect field trip money, t-shirt money, homework, make-up work, notes from home, and have it counted, checked off, organized and put away in the first five minutes of the day
  • can eat a seven course meal in seven minutes
  • take a thirty minute lunch everyday (if that much)
  • never get to go to lunch
  • eat their lunch with children
  • eat their breakfast with children
  • spend thousands of dollars every year for their class and can only deduct $250 a year
  • deserve Oscars for keeping the attention of children 7 hours a day
  • never sit down
  • are always exposed to germs
  • are substitute mothers
  • know more about some students than they want
  • wish they could take many of their students home
  • have to prove that they are highly qualified every year
  • know their jobs are the first to be cut in a budget crisis
  • are expected to have ALL students at grade level
  • teach before school, during school, and after school
  • are accountants
  • are janitors
  • are counselors
  • are plumbers
  • are organizers
  • are behavior management specialists
  • are mechanics
  • have to wait forever to go to the bathroom
I AM just a teacher. I wouldn't be anything else. Go ahead, tell me your bad teacher stories, but just be ready for me to respond.

Paco's Perspective

I AM just a chihuahua. If you ever need anyone to lick the inside of your ears, just give me a call.

The Flip Side

I AM just a . . . . . . . what am I? A mutt?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


There is stupid and then there is shtupid. The dictionary definition for stupid is lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind. A synonym for stupid listed in the dictionary is half-witted. I must admit I have done many stupid things in my life. And then there is shtupid. Shtupid is a word my brother-in-law, Steve, uses all the time. If you would ask Steve what shtupid means, he would tell you that it is beyond stupid. Shtupid is the epitome of stupid. As opposed to half-witted, shtupid is no-witted. This week I did something SHTUPID.

I would like to blame my shtupidity on my handicap because I have a tendency to do shtupid things because I am unable to do physical things. For example, I don't have a lot of strength in my hands, so it is difficult for me to unscrew lids, open soda cans, or squeeze clips together, therefore I use my teeth to do things, and I really shouldn't. God gave me some really strong teeth because He must have known I would need them to open things.

Here comes Shtupid! I had a huge pile of papers I needed to grade clipped together with one of those big black metal clips with the silver metal prongs to open and close it. Because it was a huge pile of papers, the clip was widely spread open which in turn made the metal prongs closer together. . . . . . . My "sistah", Janet, had gone out to the trashcan which for most is a short trip, but for Janet a trip to the trashcan can be like a trip to Canada. She has to stop and pick weeds, talk to the horses, clip flowers, buck hay, etc. etc. . . . . . . . . . Meanwhile back at Shtupid, I wanted to grade the papers, but I couldn't squeeze the prongs together with my hand, and I knew Janet had just left for Canada, so I proceeded to do what I always do and that is use my teeth. I stuck the prongs in my mouth, and used my teeth to squeeze the prongs together to release the papers out of the black metal clip. When the papers were released the clip closed all the way which in turn made the distance between the prongs much wider.

Yesh, Shtupid's mouth was forced open as wide as it could possibly get, and the prongs were stuck. I couldn't open my mouth any wider, and I couldn't squeeze the prongs together with my hands to get the clip out of my mouth. . . . . . . Janet is still in Canada . . . . . . .Meanwhile back at Shtupid, I am at that laughing, but crying stage. I am thinking this is incredibly funny, but it is starting to become inconvenient. I can't squeeze the prongs together. I don't want to yank the prongs out of my mouth and break my teeth because my teeth are one of my better features. But drool is building up in my mouth, and I am getting a cramp in my jaw!

I don't know how I did it, but I eventually forced the prongs out of my mouth just as Janet returned from her trip to Canada. Now I am trying to tell her the story, but I am laughing so hard that I am crying and I can't tell the whole story. Janet is laughing because I am laughing. When I finally get the story out between giggles, Janet is laughing so hard she has to cross her legs to keep from peeing, and she asks between tearful guffaws, "What would have happened,if you were here all by yourself and you couldn't get the clip out of your mouth?"

"I guess I would have had to call 911," I replied.

"What would you have said?" she giggled.

"Ha ma hame is Shuhid ann a ha a ki stu in ma outh!"

Paco's Perspective

There is stupid and then there is . . . . .Flip

The Flip Side

Did somebody call me?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays

"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights." - MAYA ANGELOU

In the past sixty-seven days it has rained nineteen in Phoenix, Arizona. For those living in Seattle that is only one third of the rain that falls there, but that is a lot of rain for Phoenix. Phoenicians are not used to rain. They can't drive in it because they usually never have to drive in it. The sun aids in the production of vitamin D. I believe that Phoenicians have overdosed on vitamin D, so when it is cloudy and rainy Phoenicians get very grumpy because they can feel their bones crumbling on the spot.

If you want to see grumpy, enter a teachers' lounge in Phoenix on a rainy day schedule. Schools that have oodles of rain and snow have huge gyms where students can have recess, but not in Phoenix. Teachers have to cram their lunch down even faster than usual on rainy days. Teachers don't really "do lunch". They can't "do lunch" because they don't have time. Teachers are major multi-taskers. They are counting field trip money, grading papers, running copies, having team meetings, and cramming a peanut butter and jelly sandwich down their throat during their thirty minute lunch break. On rainy days their lunch is cut to fifteen minutes, so they have a tendency to get stressed. We all know stress makes the grump-o-meter needle significantly rise.

I must confess that I like rainy day schedule, but I also like Mondays. I love my job, and I especially love spending time with students. I even enjoy spending my lunch time with them. I would rather hang out with them than confine myself in a small space with whiners. People have a right to do whatever they wish during there lunch time, and if whining is their activity of choice that is okay with me. I have a tendency to let others' negativity drag me down, so I can't be around it. I can't be around complainers because then I will become one. Rainy days and Mondays never get me down.

I have never experienced lost luggage. I have been treated like luggage. If you want an interesting experience, trying flying disabled. I have only flown two times and I have found it to be challenging. First, I am unable to take my electric chair with me unless I buy a separate container to transport the batteries from my chair. Second, a regular size chair doesn't fit down the aisles, so I have to be transferred from my chair to a skinny aisle chair. Then I have to be transferred from the skinny aisle chair to a airline seat. The transferring is done by men that have never transferred a disabled person, but think they know how to do it. They do not want any help from my companions or any advice from me (the person who has been handicapped all my life and knows the best way to transfer ME). Before even getting on the plane I am informed that if anything happens (crash), I will be the last person assisted off the airplane.

One of the two times that I flew was not a direct flight, so I had to transfer planes. My plane was late getting in, and the people that were transferring me from airplane seat to aisle chair to wheelchair to aisle chair to airplane seat were stoned out of their minds, and decided that we needed to hurry so there was no transferring to a regular wheelchair. An aisle chair has no front wheels so I had to travel across the airport tipped backwards in a skinny chair that was way too tiny for my big butt. It was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: tipped backwards, on a teeny tiny seat with a stoned wild-eyed driver dodging passengers making their way to their planes. After that ride I could have cared less that I would be the last one removed from the plane in case of an emergency. I haven't had to handle lost luggage. I have only been luggage.

As a child growing up my family had one of those silver aluminium trees that had a light that shined on it that had a rotating plastic disk in front of the light which made the silver tree change colors. My brother, sisters and I thought that was the most wonderful tree in the world. I didn't experience the Christmas tree lights fiasco, until I went to friend's house to help her and her husband decorate their tree. I never heard so much arguing in all my life, and that was just putting the tree in the stand. When the lights came out it was like World War III. I didn't know that lights had to be put on a certain way, and I didn't know two people could have such differing views of how the lights should be placed on the tree. I think many of families have fallen apart due to tangle Christmas tree lights. I believe before anyone two people get married they should have to put up a Christmas tree together. I think my parents were very smart to have the silver tree with the rotating lights. Maybe they had that tree because prechildren they had one of those "Christmas tree lights" fights.

So I am unable to prove my mettle because I have only had to handle one out Maya Angelou's three challenges. I would hope that I would handle lost luggage and tangled lights the same way I handle everything else. I would accept the challenges with a positive attitude and high expectations that the luggage would be found and the lights would become untangled. If the luggage couldn't be found, that means shopping! If the lights can't be untangled, there are prelit trees that can be bought. There is no problem that can't be solved with a positive attitude and shopping!

Paco's Perspective

I have learned that you can tell a lot about a dog by the way he/she handles these three things: a new dog in town, sharing toys, and sharing the love.

The Flip Side

I have learned that you can learn a lot about a dog by the way he/she handles these three things: um . . . . um . . . . . . um . . . . can I go outside now?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Marilyn Moment

When making a list of interesting summer jobs, ask a teacher. Unfortunately, teachers must supplement their income, and the best way to do it is to have a job during the summer. I am at the point on the teacher pay scale that I can survive the summer without getting a job during the summer(barely), but it wasn't always that way. I have had my fair share of summer jobs. Luckily, I was able to keep the same job each summer over a long period of time. I have had three summer jobs: I have worked for Phoenix Parks and Recreation, I have worked for a company teaching English to Japanese college students, and I have sold vans.

I have worked since the age of sixteen. My first summer job was working for Phoenix Parks and Recreation. I wasn't a park ranger. I was a Sorry player. I mean the game of Sorry. I worked at the summer recreation programs where I played Sorry and Monopoly all day with kids. For eight summers I was paid to play games with kids. I love to play games, but to this day I can't stand to look at a game of Sorry. My private hell would be being locked in a room with nothing to do, but play Sorry. We also showed movies every Friday. Every summer I had to watch The Blob starring a very young Steve McQueen. Thirty years later I can still recite lines from the movie, "But, Steve what about the little dog?"

I spent about eight summers teaching English to Japanese college students. I worked for a company called Pacific American Institute. Not only did I teach English to the students I also found homes for the students to stay in for the duration of their visit. They came to Arizona for three weeks in August! AUGUST! The worst time of the year to experience weather in Phoenix, Arizona is August. I wish I knew then what I know now about teaching English Language Learners.

The children in Japan are expected to learn English. They take English classes starting in middle school. But they have no experience using it until they come to the United States. The English they learn and the English Americans use are two different things. America is a land of idiomatic phrases and slang that changes yearly. American slang is a difficult "language" to learn and teach.

Things one needs to know when teaching English to Japanese students are: they confuse l and r sounds, and don't ask a question in the negative. It didn't matter how much I worked with the students on the l and r sounds they still asked to have lice (rice) for dinner and they loved to go boring (bowling). Never ask someone from Japan, "Don't you know how to swim?" because they will answer yes which will be confused for ,"Yes, I do know how to swim," but what they really mean is, "Yes, I don't know how to swim." This can be problem in a city filled with swimming pools.

I was a car salesman. Actually, I was a van salesman. I sold van conversions for handicapped individuals. I was sure this was the job that I was going to make my first million on during the summer. I thought I was going to make so much at this summer job that I could teach for free. WRONG! I am a lousy salesman. Salesmen are bullshitters, well, actually, liars. I can bullshit with the best of them, but I can't lie. I would tell the customers everything I wasn't "suppose" to tell them. I sold vans for three summers and I think I sold three vans in three summers which is not a good sales record. I never got salesman of the month, but I did have a Marilyn Monroe moment.

I sold most vans over the phone. There aren't many van conversion companies in the United States, so most sales are done long distances. This involves taking pictures of the process and sending it to the customer. I was big on dressing professionally which was somewhat dumb because no on ever saw me except the conversion guys in the back. Every day I wore dresses with heels. I don't know how women can handle standing in heels all day because my feet killed me sitting in heels all day.

One day I had to go in the back to check on the progress of a van. I was wearing my usual dress with a full skirt and heels. The back garage did not have air conditioning. It had coolers that blew moist air into the building. Unknown to me there was a spot in the garage where the air hit the ground and blew up, an updraft. Of course I rolled myself right on top of that updraft, and my dress blew up over my head! Remember that Marilyn Monroe photo, red dress, heating grate, her holding the dress down so very sexily? That wasn't me. I had a fuchsia dress completely covering my head exposing everything I own to the workers in the garage. I very ungracefully and with zero sex appeal removed the dress from my head and scanned the garage like a audience member at a ping pong match to see if anyone had seen what had just happened. Happily, I noticed there was no one around me. As I tried to professionally exit the garage without anyone seeing my fuchsia face which matched my fuchsia dress perfectly, one of the guys came up to me and said, "That updraft is a bitch isn't it?"

Paco's Perspective

Now your summer job is to take me to Montana to see Osa. Is it summer yet?

The Flip Side

Where is Montana and who is Osa?