Friday, May 30, 2014

Year 4: Week 36 – Department Chair

Why did I decide to take on the extra work and stress of being a department chair?

As teachers, we serve the needs of our students and as department chairs, we serve the needs of teachers in our department. It’s a thankless job, just like being a teacher where people rarely understand and acknowledge the behind the scenes work that help keep a school going.

The best department chairs are the ones that don’t really like being department chairs. Similar to my view on great administrators, great department chairs are people who would rather spend their time teaching but choose to take on extra responsibilities because they have a talent for organization and leadership. Taking on this role is a way to thank other department chairs for doing all this work previously.

It’s not about power, but in a way it is. There’s no denying that part of the extra-responsibility is that fact that you have the power to make decisions and be part of conversations that give you greater influence on the direction of the department and the direction of the school.

I have a talent for coming up with big ideas, selling these ideas to other people and keeping a lot of plates spinning. It’s feels a little crazy because the year I took on being a department chair was the year I took paternity leave and had an infant at home.

It feels overwhelming a lot of the time. There’s a lot that’s had to give. I haven’t had the time to plan my classes as carefully. Tons more discussions, ideas and projects are floating around in my head than ever before. It doesn’t feel like my head is going to explode, it just feels like there’s not always a clear sense of what I need to do next.

I kind of like the insanity. This position forces me to not be lazy. It gives me the chance to make things happen for other people, which is extremely gratifying even if it’s simply finding funds to purchase a cello rack.

Managing adults is not what I signed up for as a teacher. I’m here to manage little kids and that’s tough. But I’ve found that emulating things I like about administrators that I respect really helps. I’ve focused on being decisive, clear and fair, admitting my own errors while holding people accountable for their own mistakes.

I chose to be a department chair because right now my vision for my department and my energy lines up with what the administration and what my departments desires. I don’t think it will be this case forever, but right now it seems to fit.

I don’t know how to handle every situation and there’s been things I was suppose to do that I missed. It’s not perfect but I’m trying. Even though I know that I have a certain amount of power, I constantly remind myself that this power is given to me so that I can better serve others, not my own interests.

So I signed up for another year of this craziness.  There's a lot more to do, but when I think back on everything I'm trying to balance at work, I smile, because, while it's a lot and it's insane, I know that I got this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Parenthood: Week 52 - Birth Story: Part 3 - The Moment

Links to Part 1 & Part 2

Tears filled our eyes, as over the cries of our baby, the doctor told us Ollie was fine.

Waves of relief overcame feelings of worry that built up over the months of the pregnancy and the hours of labor.

But it wasn’t over.

When Veteran climbers talk about climbing Mount Everest they say that getting to the top isn’t the accomplishment, it’s making it back down to base camp after a summit that defines a successful expedition. We had gotten to the top, but we still had a ways to go.

“Do you want to cut the cord?”

I hesitated.

Yes, I wanted to see my boy, but Diana wasn’t done with the surgery. She told me it was ok by releasing my hand.  I walked towards the table that he was laying on glancing back at Diana wishing that I didn’t have to leave her side.

Ollie looked just as red and wrinkled as people said he would, but it didn’t matter. This was our baby and as I took the first pictures of him on my camera, all I wanted to do was share this moment with Diana.

I sat down next to Diana’s side and told her how her son had tons of hair, had all his fingers and toes and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I managed to push the curtain back slightly to reveal Ollie to Diana as the nurses cleaned him and did various tests and treatments on him.

Then a nurse came over to me and placed Ollie in my arms. I brought his head close to Diana so that she could kiss him and then I sat back in the stool next to her. She smiled and said hello to him, but this relief and joy quickly diminished as the discomfort of the procedure continued.

Holding my son in my arms for the first time was difficult because at that moment I couldn’t hold Diana’s hand. I watched helplessly as Diana’s arms trembled uncontrollably as she closed her eyes tight, softly moaning through the pain.

Part of me wanted to have someone take the baby away so I could hold her hand, but I knew that she would want our son’s first moments in this world to be close to one of us

So I held Ollie tight and I whispered to my “Diana, you are going to get through this, because I can't do this without you."

In a swirl of activity, a nurse took Ollie away and whisked me into the recovery room where I had sat alone less than an hour ago. I was happy, relieved and exhausted. Instead of feeling alone in the silence, I felt peace.

The first time that I saw and held my son it didn’t mean that much to me. It was seeing Diana being wheeled into the recovery room in a cocoon of blankets holding our son that was the happiest moment of my life.

The birth of our son was not just about a baby being born. It was about Diana and I creating something amazing and sharing with each other this blessing of a beautiful soul that would bring meaning into our lives. It wasn’t until I saw them together that I felt the power of this blessing.

Ollie was born a week ago and I think back at his birth in awe of my wife and thankful for the health of my family. When my grandmother died the sky looked a slightly different color knowing that her soul had left us. Now that Ollie has entered the world, the sky is a more beautiful shade of blue than I could have ever imagined.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Year 4: Week 35 – Checking Out

There’s this humorous idea that comes up at my school that describes a way to keep kids from checking out before the school year. The plan is to tell them the school year will last a month longer than planned and then just surprise them on the actual last day of school and tell them to go home.

 While this idea is preposterous, it just might work.

There’s many different factor that make it difficult to have productive lessons as the school year comes to an end. The weather is a huge factor this year. In Chicago, we had one of the roughest winters in the history of recorded weather. It got so bad that we literally cancelled school because it was toocold.

Then there’s the arc of the school year, which influences expectations and the way that teachers, parents and students approach the different times of the year.

It’s almost like going on a run. If you know that it’s only going to be a three mile run, that third mile can be much more taxing, then if you are planning to do a five mile run.

There’s plenty of schools that have a year round schedule and by setting these expectations. I’m sure that the dynamic and energy of school at certain points in the years, is quite different than the schooled for others schools like my own which are based on an agricultural calendar.

It’s not just the kids, teachers check out as well. Sometimes it’s because the looming deadline to complete grades takes over our brains while we are still trying to teach. More often than not, it’s a similar issue to what we get from the kids. We see this end in sight and we pace ourselves accordingly.

Teachers adjust to this with the way they plan curriculum. For example I always save my rap project for the end of 5th grade. Many other teachers like myself try to plan concerts towards the end of the year to help keep momentum going. It’s not unusual for teachers to lean on these kinds of lessons to get them through the final weeks.

When I was growing up, I remember watching a lot of movies towards the end of the year. While this is kind of a cop-out, I totally understand doing this. I’ve done similar things myself. Earlier this week in 8th grade band we watched episodes of Animaniacs.

We want our kids to leave for the summer on a good note. That doesn’t mean we lower our standards or waste the end of the year, but it does mean that we are deliberate in responding what kids bring to us when they come to class, even if that’s them checking out. Yes, go ahead and watch a film, but don’t do it because you are lazy, do it because there’s something to learn, and connections to be made.

The end of the school year is challenging for everyone in the school community but it also should be a time of joy and accomplishment. We will all get there eventually.  I know it’s hard to stay in the game, but it’s worth it. You don’t want to wrap up a year regretting that you didn’t do the best you could for your kids up until the very end of the year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The River by Bruce Springsteen

If “Thunder Road” is the dream, then “The River” is the reality.

All of the hope, the trust and the optimism of “Thunder Road,” is tested in “The River.” It asks the question, what keeps us going when our dreams seems more like distant memories than our destiny?

“The River,” is a stunningly beautiful and almost uncomfortably emotionally raw masterpiece. It starts with a harmonica just like “Thunder Road,” but instead of being a comforting invitation, it’s a mournful cry. Springsteen’s voice comes forth in a clear and pure way. The lack of melodrama and the straightforward way that he sings expresses a feeling of being distant that mirror the struggles of our protagonist.

The story is simple. He is raised in a town where there is not a lot of hope and not a lot of expectation that you will do anything beyond what “your daddy done.” Even with this environment, he would take Mary out of the valley into green field down to the river. You can almost imagine that drive as the ending of “Thunder Road,” feeling the glory of the open road.

Mary got pregnant, he got a union card, and they got married. There’s no romance in this wedding. There’s “no flowers, no wedding dress.” Even with all of the pressure of the baby, and the less than idea wedding they can still escape to the river.

Things get worse. He can’t find work. The “things that seemed so important,” just vanish. There’s depression in these words as what he used to love no longer holds our interests because reality is just too much. He copes by saying he doesn’t remember what used to mean so much to him, like his music, his friends, while Mary acts like she doesn’t care. They have surrendered to life. He has given up on his memories and Mary, acting like she doesn’t care, devalues everything they used to hold dear.

At this low point in the song, the music picks up momentum and he dives deep into a memory at the river. In these couple lines Springsteen’s romanticism is beautifully displayed “and pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take.” It’s at this point that we begin to understand what’s so special about the river.

This memory doesn’t bring comfort, it torments. Springsteen's voice rises in anguish and he sings "haunts me" expressing how painful it is to be reminded of how good things used to be.  His voice almost cracks as his voice descends  from that melodic peak.   It makes you understand why he would rather forget than live a life that’s only a shadow of what came before. A dream that is a lie is not as bad as a memory that you simply can’t forget.

The memory that haunts him draws him back to the river, but the river is dry. Everything is different. Like his life, the river has changed and will never be exactly the same again.

There’s something about this song in the music that expresses perseverance. Yes, he is haunted by his past but it’s still there. It exists and what once haunted him may one day bring hope.

Sometimes even when we've given up on our dream, our dreams haven't given up on us.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Parenthood: Week 51 – Birth Story: Part 2 - The Silence

Click here for part 1

"Hold my hand."

As I sat down next to Diana, I grabbed her trembling hand and put my other hand on her shoulder as I tried to help her control her body’s reaction to the anesthesia she was receiving.

On one side of the curtain hanging over Diana's chest a team of doctors were performing a Caesarean section and on the other side of the curtain I sat with Diana, her arms out to her sides looking over to me with her eyes fixed on my own.

There was a sense of relief as I took her hand in mine. For the previous eighteen hours I had been at her side helping her through labor.  But then as she was prepped for the Caesarean procedure we were separated. Diana went off with a team of nurses while one of the nurses escorted me to the recovery room and helped me put on a set of scrubs.

After I was done, she told me with a kind smile that they would come get me when they were ready in about five minutes. Those were the loneliest five minutes of my life. After being in a delivery room with constant sounds of monitors and nurses coming in and out, the silence cooled my heart and all I wanted to do was to be back with Diana.

As I was escorted into the surgery room, I was told where to sit and not to look over the curtain. I looked at Diana and hoped that she could see my smile through my eyes, as my mouth and nose were covered with a surgical mask.

While Diana wasn't supposed to be feeling pain, she was clearly uncomfortable. The uncontrollable trembling combined with feelings of pressure, difficulties breathing and the sounds of the doctors were created a stressful, tense and scary experience.

I told her that it would be over soon, that she was doing an amazing job and that I was so proud of her.

In her eyes there was the same spirit I saw in her when I first met her ten years ago. In her eyes I saw the love that we committed to each other on our wedding day. And in her eyes I saw a strength that I had never seen before, that assured me that we would get through this together.

Then we heard Ollie cry.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Year 4: Week 34 – Stress Post-Baby

This past week, we had our big spring concert. Every year, this is one of my department’s biggest events. There are tons of moving parts and lots of things that have to be coordinated.  The week before was my 5th grade medieval presentation. This is the culminating event in the 5th grade year. The presentation has music as part of the show with students playing different instruments and some challenging logistics.

These two weeks are hard every year. If all I had was the 5th grade thing and the concert, my plate would be full. Here’s the thing, since I became department chair I’ve been given a whole new set of responsibilities. So last week, because of 5th grade preparations, three interviews for the position I’m  helping fill, I only taught of three of my classes. For all my other classes, including ones leading up to the spring concert, I had to get a substitute.

In seemed insane and unthinkable that I would miss this much class right before a concert. The kicker is that some of the interviews were scheduled with very little notice to prepare for a substitute, so I was definitely scrambling almost every day that week to write lesson plans for the sub.  And, I was very ill for most of the week as well.

The weird thing, that this should have been the perfect storm for my head to explode in stress, but it didn’t feel this way. Part of this had to do was the fact that this was the fourth year I had done the 5th grade event and the spring concert. I knew how these events would run and what needed to be done. That helped a lot, but the other thing that kept my stress down was the perspective I got from this time last year.

Last spring this time Diana was full term. She had the potential to have Ollie at any time. So when I was doing the 5th grade presentation and the spring concert, it was on my mind that I could receive a phone call at any time and I would need to drop whatever I was doing and leave even in the middle of the spring concert.

This was the feeling of fear and uncertainty, not knowing the timing of when Ollie was going to come and it made everything I did at work, that much more stressful. As hard as I tried to focus, I couldn’t help but worry about Diana all of the time. All of that time leading up to Ollie coming into the world and the birth itself was probably the most stressful time in my entire life.

Maybe that’s why, all of the insanity of the last two weeks, didn’t really stress me out. By comparison, nothing that has happened recently or during this past school year at work, even comes close to the experience of Ollie being born when it comes to stress (this was incredibly joyous involved in this event, but the stress was pretty immense).

Becoming a parent does changes your perspective on everything about your life.  Ollie being born, showed me that my wife and I could work through anything life throws at us.  Difficult things with Ollie continue to remind us of this fact.  I love my work and it continues to challenge me but it's just a job.  My family is my life and if anything in my life is worth stressing out about, it's them. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sherry Darling by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen has tackled some of the most profound issues and events in the American experience. He has written and performed songs about 9/11, the Vietnam War, unemployment, unions, teenage pregnancy, the failure of the American dream, racism, sexism, fatherhood, patriotism and religion.

“Sherry Darling,” from 1980's The River addresses another important part of what it means to be American: the mother-in-law.

The River is where Springsteen really hit his stride. While it’s not as epic as Born To Run, it takes the depth of Darkness On The Edge of Town an injects it with an unashamed optimism. While there are very deep and somber songs on this album like the unforgettable title track, in many ways, no Springsteen album rocks quite as joyfully as The River.

Springsteen wanted to capture the 1960s sub-genre “fraternity rock.” We’re talking about a song like “Wooly Bully,” and “Louie Louie.” These garage band songs were recorded in what sounded like a party. This type of song you can immediately sing along to partially because the lyrics are ambiguous but mostly because of the spirit and the energy of the song.

The ridiculous thing about Springsteen is that he couldn’t simply do a fraternity rock song without putting his own spin on it.  The way he did this was by making it into a hysterical rant of a song, complaining about his girl’s mom.

“Sherry Darling,” isn’t a direct complaint to the mother. The words are directed towards the girl. However it comes across more like the protagonist is with a bunch of his friends bragging to them what he’s going to tell his girl. There’s a sense of bravado, which gives you the idea that this may be more talk than anything else.

The first verse and chorus are hilarious. He complains about the mom’s feet, the fact that this mom won’t shut up and if she doesn’t he will kick her out of the car. The last part of chorus turns it around to being romantic, “I got you and baby you’ve got me.” It speaks to a dream of a relationship that is untouched by outside forces. There’s this idea that if the world would leave two people alone they could be happy, but relationships are never just about two people.

In the second verse, other girls distract him but then he swings his attention back to Sherry. The song continues to be romantic “let the brokenhearted love again,” while reminding us each chorus about his issues with the mother-in-law.

“Sherry Darling,” is a fantasy. It’s like thinking about how great it would be to tell off your boss. You’re never going to do it, but sometimes it’s fun to think about it and laugh about it with friends. Springsteen pairs this feeling with the jubilation of an idealized teenage love. He’s got beer, an open road and his girl, what more do you need in life?

It’s put across in an immature and brash way, but it’s a beautiful thought. We don’t need our moms, our jobs, all these other people, we got all we need in each other. This feeling of optimism, the confidence in the power of love is expressed emphatically in this song. We get beaten down, because forces all around us just seem to get in the way, it’s nice to be reminded sometimes you don’t really need much to be happy.  Even though you may have a mother-in-law with big feet, if you’ve got the one you love, you can laugh and sing about it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Parenthood: Week 50 – Birth Story: Part 1 - The Decision

I'm not sure why we cried.

Diana and I were always open to the idea of Ollie coming to us through a Caesarean section. Both of us were born via c-section and we understood that childbirth like life sometimes went in directions that you could not control.

It had been a long and exhausting day for both of us. I had already witnessed amazing bravery and strength in my wife. First, there were the contractions that Diana worked through and later there was the epidural.

Hunched over the side of the bed, squeezing a pillow, Diana sat trying to keep her body still as the doctors inserted the epidural into Diana's back. I sat in front of her on a chair with her feet on my thighs. I looked up at her trying my best to encourage her and maintain eye contact. As Diana struggled to keep still through the contractions, she made a silly face at me and stuck out her tongue. It took all I had in me to not laugh at the moment. I knew that if I started giggling, so would she and then keeping still would have been impossible.

Hours past. The pain came, the epidural had to be adjusted and then the pain subsided. The goofiness I saw in Diana slowly disappeared.

Sixteen hours into labor, the question of Caesarean section came up. We could keep trying but there was a risk of infection to Diana and Ollie as a fever continued to rise within Diana.  Then there was the issue of Ollie's heartbeat.

From the first moment we heard Ollie's heartbeat we knew it was strong, but every time a strong contraction came, his heartbeat dropped a little bit too much. We were told about these issues and that our doctor was on our way to discuss options with us.

Then Diana and I did what we did best: talked to each other and came to a decision. Our priority had always been Ollie's health throughout this whole process. Yes, we could give Diana more time to progress but at what risk? So we made the decision to go with a C-section.

As we sat there waiting for the Doctor to come, I heard Diana start to cry and then I looked over to her, held her close and cried as well. We weren't mourning the fact that we had to get a c-section or that we had somehow failed by choosing this road. We were simply overwhelmed. For so long we had been so strong for each other and we just needed a moment to let it all out.

After the tears subsided, we became truly happy for the first time since we had come to the hospital. The end was in sight. This whole process was coming to an end sooner than later.

When our doctor played devils advocated arguing against doing a c-section , we cut her off. While we appreciated her approach, we made our decision.

I started packing up our belongings in anticipation.  Diana found a new rush of energy and joy as we finalized on Ollie's name. They handled me a bag with a set of scrubs and then wheeled Diana away to be prepped.

Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I felt like I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous, tired and scared. Only a little while ago, I was so sure of things, but now alone, away from Diana, I felt lost.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Year 4: Week 33 - Working While Sick

You should NOT come to school to teach if you are sick.

If you want to take care of your students the most important thing that you need to do is take care of yourself. A school is a crowded place. As a teacher you can easily spread whatever is ailing you to a lot of other students and cause a lot of kids to be sick. It is irresponsible to yourself and your students to come in and teach when you are sick.

I believe in the sentiment of this statement but this week I totally went against what I preach.

I came down with a cold last weekend. I didn’t have a fever but I had every other possible symptom you could imagine. By Monday morning I was still feeling pretty awful, I had little to no voice and I felt like all I wanted to do was sleep. But I went to work anyways.

Many teachers come to work sick, not because they are irresponsible but because they are being perhaps too responsible. My 5th graders had their culminating medieval presentation on Thursday. We were going to rehearse for it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nobody else could really fill in and run the music part of the rehearsal so that’s why I decided to come in, even though I was sick.

So there I was standing on stage facing almost sixty fifth graders, feeling horrendous, attempting to start a rehearsal. Before I started one of the 5th grade teachers had mentioned that I was sick and asked the kids to work hard to help me out. I wasn’t quite sure what this would mean to the kids.

I attempted to talk and only got a raspy couple words out. I sounded so bad especially with my voice amplified by a microphone that I just had to laugh. It was comical how sick I sounded.

I had this talk ready about how the students needed to adjust their behavior when working in a large group. I also was going to teach them a new signal to tell them to be quiet. I had so little voice that I just decided to skip the expectation talk and get straight to work.

I couldn’t really lead them in our normal vocal warm-up so I gestures for them to do it without me and they did. Throughout the process they listened to the few words I said and they did a great job.

The 8th graders I taught earlier in the day were supportive in a similar way (except for all of the jokes about mono).  I’m not sure if the kids were behaving so well because they were sympathetic or for some other reasons, but it was really nice.

I felt sick the rest of the week and still came in.  It was a really hard week and while I don't regret it, I definitely wouldn't want to do it again.  I'll need to document my work better so that someone could fill in if I can't make the 5th grade presentation next year.  If I'm doing my job right, then I'm working in a way that someone could fill in.

I'm still in disbelief how awesome my students were when I was sick.  For your sake, I'll try to follow my own advice better and take better care of myself. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Parenthood: Week 49.5 – The Wedding: Part 3 --> The Ceremony

Sitting in the back of the church surrounded by families with little children, I just had to laugh at the situation. Even though all of the kids were pretty quiet and well-behaved we all knew that once the ceremony started it would be anyone’s guess which kid would yell out loud first and need to be removed by one of his or her parents.

Ollie screaming or making a funny sound in the middle of a quiet wedding ceremony isn’t misbehavior. He has no idea what we expect him to do and why we need him to act a certain way. He gets some cues to be quiet, but he really doesn’t understand that there are times to be quiet and times when he can be loud.

Ollie is a pretty mild-mannered baby, so we didn’t expect a lot of issues, but something about a quiet church made him get lively, giggly and more active. It’s absurd to think that Ollie and the other kids around us could stay quiet all the way through a wedding ceremony. The efforts to keep these kids quiet only made the whole situation seem that much more humorous.

Yes, babies screamed during the ceremony. At one point, one very quiet part of the wedding, Ollie blew a very loud raspberry (farting sound) and my niece screamed incredibly loudly at another quiet part of the ceremony.

All we could do is laugh this off, because getting mad and frustrated was not going to help the situation. It’s kind of like putting drums in front of a whole class of third graders and getting angry that they are playing their instruments while you are trying to talk to them. You know what’s going to happen, so why get angry about it?

We got through it and I hope that my cousin and her husband didn’t mind the screaming coming from the back of the church. Ollie didn’t mean to interrupt, he just felt a need to express himself.

I have so much more respect for the parents who brought kids to our wedding. People flew in with kids, stayed in hotels, dealt with dinners way past their kid’s normal dinner time and like us had to deal with kids going to bed far past their bedtime. I did not hear one complaint. Now I know how incredibly difficult it is to do a wedding weekend with children, I am so thankful that these parents put in the extra effort.

The morning we left to go back to Chicago there was a brunch gathering in the hotel. It was one more time that people could get together and chat. My aunt, my cousin’s mom came up to us as we were leaving and thanked us for making it and bringing Ollie. She said that she understood how hard it was to travel with a baby. I brushed it off as not being a big deal.  She responded with a knowing smile kindly acknowledging my lie. Then she said, “Ollie being here made everybody more happy. Everything was better because you brought him.”

Sometimes as a parent you don’t realize the effect that your actions have on the people around you. The fact that Ollie was at the wedding and crawled around the reception floor during dinner pulling up on random people’s chairs brought smiles to people. Ollie and Amelia chasing each other around on the dance floor during dinner provided some incredibly cute entertainment other people were waiting for their dinner.  There's something about the presence of a new generation that gives meaning to the absense of older generations who are no longer with us. 

We put ourselves through a lot to get Ollie to this wedding and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. At the end of it all, I loved Ollie and Diana even more than I did before we went on this adventure.

Family is worth it. Ollie will not remember being at my cousin’s wedding but my family will remember Ollie being there. Years from now that connection will bond my family to Ollie and one day I’ll tell him about how his spirit made a wedding that much more beautiful and how he shared in a beautiful day when two amazing people joined their lives together in marriage.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Parenthood: Week 49 – The Wedding: Part 2 --> Beyond Bed Time

Sleep is one of our priorities as parents for Ollie, for us and especially for Buffy. Our family is much happier and more functional when we are all well rested. We continued to make this a priority in our recent wedding trip to Dallas.
The first thing we did when we got to the hotel was get Ollie to bed. It was about and hour and a half past his bedtime but we knew this was going to happen. There’s this idea that the later you put a baby to bed, the later he will sleep in. That is definitely NOT the case with Ollie.

The next day we prioritized Ollie getting naps during the day because we knew it would be another late night as we were going to the rehearsal dinner. Yes, we wanted to explore the city and hang out with my family, but we decided to make sure sleep happened so the time Ollie was awake, he’d be in a better mood.

We took turns hanging out in the hotel room while Ollie napped. You can’t leave a baby in a hotel room alone while they nap so me, Diana and my mom took turns. With iPhones it wasn’t so bad and after a certain amount of time in a dark hotel room, I decided to take a nap as well.

With two good naps, we were ready to get Ollie going for the rehearsal dinner. Now we are used to dinner at 5 and Ollie’s bedtime around 7. When we got the rehearsal dinner, while it didn’t feel like dinnertime to us, Ollie let us know it was 5.

While cocktails were being served we fed Ollie and when dinner was actually served around Ollie’s bedtime, Diana and I took turns carrying him around. At times he seemed exhausted and other times he seemed fine. Then we started trying to make a decision when to leave the dinner.

It’s a tough call to make. We know that at some point he may melt down and every minute longer we kept him up may negatively affect his sleep even more. We decided to leave right after the main course, and we headed back to our hotel.

The day of the wedding was a similar situation with naps during the day taking precedent and dealing with keeping Ollie up late.

Taking a trip is completely different with a baby. It’s tough to be at a wedding weekend and not be able to commit your focus solely on the events. Yes, we had a lot of help from my parents and my brother and my sister-in-law, but Ollie was always on our minds.

That’s life now. There’s always going to be Ollie on my mind. Each experience that we do with Ollie for the first time reminds us how different life is now that Ollie is with us. Different sometimes means more challenging but that doesn’t mean its worse.

We may not have made it to dessert, but the parts we did make, we did with our little boy.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Year 4: Week 32 - Dress Code

Does it really matter how teachers dress?

Everyday I wear a pair of jeans, a dress shirt and a pair of running shoes. Sometimes I wear a vest when there's a sing-along or a dress jacket when I need to attend a more formal meeting.

Here's my logic: I need to wear something slightly more formal so that students see me as an older professional. I wear jeans because I teach elementary school students and I often sit on the floor. And the running shoes, are a throwback to a previous teaching job . . .

Before I came to this school I was a one to one special education assistant teacher. One of the students I worked with was a "flight-risk." This meant that this student had a history of trying to run out of the building. The principal recommended that I wear running shoes just in case he tried to run away again. I did end up chasing him down twice. After some time, I just got used to wearing running shoes. It's better for my feet and it makes me feel more prepared for any situation that may arise.

At the first school I taught, we were asked to dress in business casual four days a week and then on Fridays you could wear jeans and a polo shirt. Most days I wore khakis, a dress shirt, a tie and matching causal shoes. I didn't really mind dressing this way but it did make for a lot of ironing. Also, the tie would start to feel heavy after long days. The school where I started wearing running shoes was less formal and jeans were pretty common. There were some outlines for how teachers should dress but it was pretty open ended.

There are teachers at current my school that wear t-shirts and some teachers come to school everyday in a dress suit. Other people wear ties every day and some teachers wear thermal long sleeve shirts underneath plaid shirts.

Some people are surprised by the lack of formality at my school but this freedom allows teachers to more authentically present who they are and create an atmosphere that better suits the teacher's individual style.

A school's motivation to have their faculty dress more formally reflects a school’s values. Does a school value individuality? Does an administrator want all of the teachers to discipline students the exactly same way? Does a group of teachers feel that professional dress helps teachers feel more comfortable when they enter a school?

These are important questions ask. Appearances are not the most important part of what teachers do but they communicate a lot of information. How we dress reflects our professional and the way we view ourselves.

It’s worth questioning your administration for their reasons behind their professional dress guidelines and it’s worth reflecting the choices you make every morning when you get dressed for school.