Scottish Potter

I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  I’ve read the entire series about 12 times, possibly more.  A few slices ago I wrote about visiting Scotland and seeing St. Andrews.  I felt such a pull to Scotland I probably could have made my entire month of slices about things I did and saw (even though I was only there for a week).

Today, it’s all about Edinburgh.  This city is a major source of inspiration for a lot of HP things.  I needed to see them all.  Starting with a visit to The Elephant House Café the day I arrived.  This is the café where JK Rowling allegedly wrote the first book.  It is hailed as “the birthplace of Harry Potter” and when you go into the bathroom, the walls are covered in thank you notes and HP quotes.

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It’s amazing to see the impact and the line is out the door every single day.  It truly is a magical (pun intended) place!

You can also walk Victoria Street, the inspiration for Diagon Alley, complete with a joke shop.  There are plaques everywhere announcing how each place serves as a model for a location in the books. There is also the Museum of Context store which is supposedly what Olivander’s is modeled after.  It is really amazing.

But by far, the most exciting thing…and HP fans might agree….THERE IS REALLY A TROLLEY THAT IS PUSHED AROUND ON THE TRAINS!  When we took the train to St. Andrew’s, there was a employee, who happened to be a woman, who pushed a drink and food cart through the car.  I was not permitted by my friends to ask her to ask is if we wanted “anything from the trolley dears”, the way the witch does on the Hogwarts Express, but you can be sure I was thinking it!!

img_0238 This is it!  The cart!  On the Hogwarts Express (or so I pretended).

It was so special to be in such a magical (pun intended) place and realizing that I could definitely understand how JK was so inspired.

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How Did “Influencer” Become a Job?

A few years ago we had a career dress-up day at school.  Kids were asked to dress for the career they wanted to have as an adult.  Several students showed up to school in flannel t-shirts with their hair sprayed blue.  I didn’t understand what this career was….grunge boy band? Were the 90s back?  Turns out they were dressed as some famous “YouTuber” which is when I found out that “YouTuber” was a job you could have.  I had no idea that people got paid to put videos of themselves playing video games on YouTube.  But apparently this is a job you can have and if you have it you make far more money than I do each year.

More and more I head the term “influencer” and most recently it comes up when reading about the college admissions scandal because one of the daughters involved was “social media influencer” and I had zero clue what this was.  Turns out that if you have a lot of people following you on social media apps you can get paid thousands of dollars to endorse products.  I guess you influence people’s taste….because if a random person I don’t know is endorsing a skin care product I am definitely going to buy it (I sincerely home the intended sarcasm came through there).

THEN. I found out that there are educational influencers too!  I already knew about Teachers Pay Teachers and whatnot, but I did not know that if you post pictures of your perfectly color-coordinated, Pinterest-worthy classroom you can also get paid by the creators of these color-coordinated products.

The concept of influencer makes me laugh, because I try to influence people every day, sometimes to no avail.  I try to influence my kids’ decision-making process (i.e make good choices about where to sit, what you want to read, not shaving your pencil with a pair of scissors, etc.) and no one is offering me any money.  And if you walk into my classroom it is a mess- there are kid-created charts hanging precariously, piles of books and notebooks. Baskets of books without any rhyme or reason to their color scheme.  Plastic bags with math games that are beginning to fall apart.  I don’t have a teacher desk because I don’t see a need for one. Not a blessed thing is color coordinated.  Edges of plastic bins are cracked because it’s March.  97% of the pencils in the classroom don’t have erasers and there aren’t borders around my bulletin boards….there isn’t even (gasp) a colored paper background.  It’s just corkboard with kid work and thumbtacks (that also don’t match).  No one is going to offer me money for my polka-dot or chevron themed room.  Which is not to say that I dislike polka-dots or chevron…I love them both, but I just want my classroom space to say that kids live here and sometimes we forget to clean up.

So if anyone from the Ziploc company or the makers of plastic tubs or the creators of Ticonderoga pencils wants to pay me to take pictures of the myriad plastic bags and Tupperware containers or freshly sharpened pencils in my classroom, please let me know.  I’d love to be influential if it means my students and I can be us.

 

**And seriously, no offense to anyone who has the nice, neat, perfect classroom.  I applaud you and your organizational skills and attention to detail.  That’s just not my style. **

National Puppy Day

I’m fairly certain that these National ___________ Days were made up by Facebook, but I will take any excuse to post cute pictures of my pup.

In honor of National Puppy Day, I thought back to my little goofball Murphy and how I think my life would be so different were he not in it.  He has been such a little love since the day we brought him home…..in a snow storm…in November.

My mom and I drove together to Kentucky to pick up this sweet little bundle of spots.  It was the weekend before Thanksgiving, and as we drove through West Virginia, we got a major flat tire.

So flat was said tire that we had to call the state police and a tow truck to assist in getting us somewhere to change it- because I-78 in WV is not where you want to have a flat.  It’s an incredibly busy highway.

We arrived safely, new tire and all and picked up the boy.  As we drove back, again through West Virginia, there happened to be a freak snow squall.  Poor Murphy had just been taken from his mom and littermates and now these cruel strangers were making him pee in the snow.  He was only 8 weeks old at the time.

Harrowing journey aside, I’m eternally grateful for the joy he brings me today and every single day.  Life, in my opinion, is better with a dog. img_0795

 

Inherited Bucket List

My father was a golf fan.  He always wanted to go to St. Andrew’s and play the course there.  It was one of those bucket list items that he always talked about.  While he made it overseas to Ireland twice, he never got to Scotland to play before he died.

In a weird twist of fate, a friend of mine recently moved to Scotland for a graduate program.  Her boyfriend, who is Scottish, and she live in Aberdeen.  I had not left the country since the lovely Ireland trip I sliced about earlier, so I decided that over the holidays when I had a break from work and grad school, I would go to visit.  I was due for a great vacation- the last time I went to Europe I brought traveler’s checks and rolls of film.

We planned to spend the week in Edinburgh, where lots of holiday happenings were taking place, including a big celebration for Hogmanay (New Years).  I knew nothing about the geography of Scotland, but when planning our itinerary, I asked if St. Andrew’s was anywhere near Edinburgh.

As it turns out, it is a relatively quick train trip away. And on Sundays, the old course is open to the public to walk along.  So a plan formed.

I took a prayer card from my dad’s funeral and brought it to Scotland to bury on the course.  I’m not entirely sure this is legal, so please don’t report me to the Scottish authorities….

I chose the 3rd hole because my dad was born on February 3. It overlooks both the new course and the clubhouse/hotel, so he can see all the goings-on.  Also because I started crying like a baby the moment we got to the course and this was about as far as I could make it.

This was a dream come true moment for me, because it meant so much to my dad.  I desperately wish he could have been there with me, but I am so beyond grateful that I even had a chance to do this for him.

Putting Myself in your Shoes

Today after school I had the opportunity to interview 5 potential candidates for a year-long student teaching program.  The person would spent the entire year with me next year, beginning in August as an “intern” and then doing full teaching in the spring.

I would have LOVED the chance to do this as an undergrad!

But as I sat there with these college juniors, I imagined myself in their shoes.  They have little experience with interviews.  They have limited teaching experience save for field placements and summer camp jobs.  All of their answers were based on book learning and what professors have told them.

How flipping scared they must have been! I couldn’t help but feel for them….even as I listened to their factory-installed answers, because that’s all they know right now.  They have not yet lived this teacher life.

Theorists and Pintrest boards may help you now…but they won’t tell you:

*Who’s favorite food is wings.

*Who wants to move to Arizona when he’s grown because he hates snow.

*Who doesn’t have time to complete homework because evenings mean counseling sessions to deal with the aftermath of a messy divorce.

*Who loves anything unicorn related and won’t write a single thing that doesn’t include a unicorn character.

*Who finds comfort from sharing statistics like the number of movies Tom Hanks has starred in (80) and the number of chapters in a Frog and Toad book (5).

*Who acts silly and funny to cover up struggles with reading.

Those things aren’t covered in your classes.  They aren’t found in books. You can’t buy them from Teachers Pay Teachers.  This kind of learning comes from your students.  From the community that you build in your classroom every day.

Putting myself in their shoes I felt their fear, but I also felt their excitement…for all there is to learn each day from these tiny humans.  What an education they are really about to receive.

 

I Didn’t Get to the Gym Today

I didn’t get to the gym today.  Because I couldn’t make myself get off the couch.  Because, depression.

After years of shying away from talking about any kind of mental health, I feel like now everyone has anxiety and/or depression.  I have both.  I’ve had them for years, and I didn’t get any help when I was younger, because we didn’t talk about such things.

But every time my parents left the house I said a silent prayer that they didn’t get into a car accident and I couldn’t go to sleep until they got home. If my mom asked me to go somewhere with her and I said no, I would worry that something bad would happen to her. I took home all my framed photos every time I went home for a break in college, because what if the dorm caught on fire?  I unplug everything in my house when I leave for more than a day. When I send an email at work or at home my stomach flips as soon as I hit send….even if it’s just a reply to someone else’s email. I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep because there are so many bad things happening in the world.

Most days I can’t get out of bed right away.  I physically cannot gather the strength to move. Right now it’s still light out and I want to get in my bed so badly.  But that would mean I have to move from the couch.  If my laptop wasn’t within reach I’m not sure I’d be writing this…except that the anxiety of not slicing today after sticking with this for 19 days would eventually win out.  Because even though I have anxiety and depression, I am also a perfectionist.

I’ve been on Lexapro for years and it helps….for the most part.  I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to find a therapist that a) I feel comfortable talking to and b) takes my insurance.  So I read self-help books and try to help myself.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  It depends on the day, and sometimes it just hits without warning.

The thing that people don’t realize, or don’t understand is that no one who has anxiety or depression wants to feel like this.  I wanted to go to Zumba today….but I could not get off the couch.

I’ve been staring at this post for a while now, trying to decide whether to delete the whole thing and start over with a happier slice about the first day of spring.  But this is where I am today.  Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of ramblings by a crazy person 🙂

 

Monkey in my Chair

This year my class has been dealt a really difficult blow.  One of my second graders was diagnosed with cancer over the winter holidays.   It was heartbreaking to share this news with my class and we’ve been trying to figure out how to show our support and love to this student ever since.  My kids get very concerned when she’s absent for chemo treatments and were worried that she wouldn’t be able to get books from the book fair and she’d miss a field trip.

The children’s hospital where this student is receiving treatment offers this program for classrooms with similar situations- the Monkey in my Chair.  This stuffed animal comes to school, sits in the student’s chair, and records the daily events in a little notebook to keep her up to date.  Meet Chip:
img_0797Right away my students decided that Chip needed a “Love Your Melon” hat like our friend wears to cover the hair loss from chemo.  Luckily, I have a few spares.

We also decided that Chip needs an official t-shirt, because my entire class has one that we wear on chemo days  (or any day, really) to show support.

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It is bittersweet sharing these photos with our classmate, because while they bring joy and keep her informed, we would so much rather her be there every day.  My little squad of second graders is amazing at making sure that Chip is included in everything and that we document all his work to share.

 

This is uncharted territory in my teaching career- never have I experienced a student with cancer.  My heart breaks for this sweet student and her family, as they have a long road ahead of them…but it is a little comforting to know that we are bringing smiles and laughs and maybe some welcomed distractions with the antics of Chip, the Monkey in My Chair.