Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sixth Grade Begins... for another Plato

I have been taking "first day of school" pics of Ignatius since Kindergarten. This year... I actually forgot! So these are his second day of school pics. He said it's OK, as he is in "junior high" now, so we can just take them on the second day of school. Such an easy-going lad at times, isn't he?

So, here he is, my growing-like-a-weed eleven year old, on his second day of sixth grade (technically, August 22, 2008).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No, JoLynn, they are NOT sixth graders!

What a great morning! Teaching fourth graders is definitely a different experience. I have 28 students in my class. I got a glimpse of all their little personalities today.

I planned way too much, so tomorrow we are SLOWING down. The multiple steps that sixth graders tried to accomplish takes twice as long with fourth graders. A lesson well-learned.

We started the day with an optional faculty prayer time, which was a terrific way to start. Then, we went outside to the children. My partner, Randy, and I definitely win the prize for the longest lines on the playground. We are hoping that they won't accept any more 4th graders, but we shall see.

Ignatius had his first full day of sixth grade. I neglected to get my traditional first day of school photo, so we will have to snap one tomorrow. He loves sixth grade. He is in a class with lots of great, affirming kids. Can't ask for anything more.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Keeping us on our toes

More change. I think God is afraid I will get bored.

I was informed yesterday that I will be moving to a fourth grade position, as enrollment has shifted in the district. I am very happy to be staying at the elementary where I was going to be a Title 1 interventionist. I wasn't really aware that shifts like that happened and there could be upheaval so close to the beginning of the school year.

I feel bad for the person who is leaving the school. He will be teaching first grade elsewhere. I know he is probably feeling unsettled right now, too.

I really am quite calm amidst the chaos. I am grateful for a chance to spread my wings in a lower grade. Fourth grade is absolutely a perfect age of child. My departed friend, Marita, was a fourth grade teacher for a long time, so I have someone to watch over me in my transition.

So... onward to fourth grade! A fun year it shall be. I think I will learn as much as the kids!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


As I was packing my room, I came across a card game called "Security" that I had received for, I believe, my sixth birthday, maybe? I was (and still am) a ginormous fan of Peanuts. The game basically plays a lot like "Uno" or "Crazy Eights." The Security card is your wild card.

As I got older, the game has been close by and has taken on other meanings. I have done quite a few things involving risk in the last 20 years. I have moved far away from my family. I have taken on jobs, gotten degrees, had children. Now, here's another risk... leaving the level of child I have adored teaching for a younger level in a different school.

There are times when I would rather be Linus... curled up with my stuffed animal of choice and pretending that anything is possible as long as that animal is in my hands. An occasional thumb-sucking isn't so bad, either.

As you open the deck, the other cards convey a certain meaning, too. Snoopy, the penultimate "cool dog," is sitting back and fishing in his food bowl. The ever-frustrated Charile Brown is wearing his baseball manager's uniform and is looking, as always, downtrodden. Schroeder is chillin' on the piano. Lucy, mouth wide-open and hand on chest, is angrily arguing. Sally has her hands over her mouth and is trembling. I think I have been every one of these characters in the past several years.

I prefer Snoopy, who does not allow much to ruffle his fur. Schroeder is my second choice, as he chills to music and tunes out other distractions.

So often, however, I find myself being Lucy. Luckily, I have found only a few moments where Charlie Brown or Sally's expressions fit the situation. More often than not, I see those expressions on others.

Now, my "Security" pack will come with me to my new workplace. We will see which character this new venture brings out in me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Six Flags St. Louis

Ignatius, his friend Mark, and I went to Six Flags St. Louis on Saturday. It was sad to see its decline in cleanliness and service. I will try to balance the positive with the negative, if I can. I think, however, we will be going to Six Flags in Gurnee, IL, from this point forward. We usually pick St. Louis as warmer weather can consistently be found there.

Our drive was uneventful. We left in the wee hours of the AM for two soon-to-be sixth graders (7:30) after a delicious McDonalds breakfast. We made it to Six Flags by about 10:30. We waited to get into the parking lot for about a half hour.

When we finally parked, we all had to hit the bathrooms... our first sign of how the day would be. I waited for another 20 minutes in the ladies bathroom. We went to have our bags checked. The person who checked mine didn't even look... just stuck a stick in a couple of times. She was more interested in the woman arguing about her Sharpies being confiscated (that happened to me last year with the little ones on my keyring... a sad day, indeed). The ticket counter was easier. Then to the lockers and off to the rides.
I must say, I felt the benefits of my recent run/walk routines. I had very little trouble at all with the walking. I can't say that for my two comrades, who were both dying trying to walk uphill. We first waited in line for the Screaming Eagle roller coaster... a favorite of mine. That line took about 30 minutes. When we were about to load, the ride closed down because a deer was spotted in a restricted area. The boys were pretty disappointed, but we stayed put, and the ride was back up in about 10 minutes. It was great. Being medicated helped with the uphill climb, which usually turns me into a crazed lunatic. I hate feeling as though I am being pulled up a hill by a thread of twine. I LOVE the downhills, though. It was awesome.

After that, they were famished, so we went to find some food. We stood in line for 45 minutes at the Mooseburger Lodge. The dude that was handing out food was perhaps the slowest fast food worker I have ever witnessed. I mean, I thought maybe we were being Punk'd. It was insane. Everyone else seemed to be working quite hard. When we left, however, the line was winding out the door. I am sure they had much longer than a 45 minute wait.

If you have totaled this up, you realize that the hours were rapidly being eaten away. We went to the train which was just leaving. Next train was in 25 minutes, so we thought we would try the Ferris wheel. It is 180 feet high. Normally, this terrifies me, but I decided to face this phobia. Again, medication was my friend. I was pretty OK in line, which is where I typically freak out. I was NOT OK being stuck at the top, and really had to work through that issue. Since the wheel is huge, you get stopped at or near the top about 2-3 times for the changing of riders. Yeah, God's little practical joke, eh? Believe it or not, we could have ridden the train twice in the amount of time this ride took.
We then decided, as it was a little after 2, to go to Hurricane Harbor waterpark within Six Flags. This used to me my favorite spot to be. However, I was sad, and a little horrified, to see the decline of its cleanliness. The park was packed. The wave pool was jammed with people and rafts and other floating things I don't want to describe. There was a line for the dressing area and the impossible task of finding a seat. The planets finally aligned and the boys were off to play. I went in the wave pool for about 5 minutes, then wandered to the lazy river. That was kind of nice, yet really icky at the place where you have to get in and out. Lots of sand and dirt. I decided to rest my eyes before the drive back. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a crying three year old whose mom kept saying, "No, you can't go in the water. You have a fever and you probably shouldn't even be here." That was the time I realized that I was, indeed, in hell.
We left around 5. I was going to get my regular funnel cake, but even that line was crazy long. Yes, I left with neither cotton candy nor funnel cake...sad, indeed. I bought a lottery ticket at the nearby MotoMart in case God was giving me signs today. Alas, we did not win. The boys were happy to stop at Denny's in Litchfield, where, for the first time all day, there was not a lot of waiting.
We arrived home, too pooped to party, around 9:30. I think we will go up to Gurnee, IL, in the future. The last time we were there it was a LOT cleaner and the workers were a LOT more efficient. We are happy to have gone, though, as well as glad to be back. Ignatius is feeling pretty punky today, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't get walloped by whatever was lurking in that water. {cue Jaws theme song}

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Go JoLynn, It's Your Birthday!

Yes, it's my birthday. The first day of my fortieth year of life. My last year in my thirties. This decade has been a crazy one. I have had four separate positions in teaching, given birth, gotten a Master's and National Board certification, had foot surgery, wrote some grants, presented some teaching info., met a fantastic set of friends and was blessed by the births of their children, sold two houses, bought two houses, became a great aunt, went to Disney World, prayed through the diagnosis of cancer in my mother, my niece, and my good friends, sprained the tendons in my foot, been diagnosed with depression, lost a dear friend, and almost worked myself to death. Busy, busy. Thank God I also prayed, right?

As far as this day is concerned, it was a pretty good one. I started off getting up early to get in to my "old" school so I could finish packing. Five hours of packing (third day of it), and I am finally finished. I threw away a ton. Packrats out there, did you know that 8 years after you took a class, you have really no need to keep the notes? I threw away (with much trepidation) my student teaching binder and notes. I feel so liberated!

Wait, wait! I really started off last night at 11:00 when I received the cutest e-card from my friend Jen. She used the music for the Austin Powers theme song, which, for a long time, was my ring tone on my cell. It cracked me up.

Anyway, I met some good friends at Ruby Tuesdays for lunch. Gotta love the salad bar. Karen gifted me, not only with lunch, but also with one of her cards which I absolutely LOVED when I saw it on her blog (check it out). I was delighted to be its recipient... not to mention some other crafty goodies that she bestowed upon me.

I came home and found a very pretty flower cake had been delivered to my house. It was from my mother. I tried to take photos that would do it justice.
The family went to Noodles & Co. for dinner. Then, my friend Kim brought over strawberry cake and vanilla ice cream. Yum! In all, not a bad way to spend my birthday.
I also received phone calls from many well wishers, including my mother, my insurance agent, my sister, and my brother. Those, and e-mails of good wishes, made my day even nicer.
What did Scott get me? He will tell you: the Nikon with which I took my pictures. I am A-OK with that answer. Works for me. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tyler Perry

I have to admit... I rented Diary of a Mad Black Woman because of all of the snippets that showed Tyler Perry as Medea. He is hysterical. Also, my friend and colleague, Sherri, used to say the students did not want to see "angry black woman," which always made me laugh but made them cower.

Now that I have watched two of Perry's films (I viewed Medea's Family Reunion this weekend), I realize what a huge purpose he is taking on. He is trying to transform black culture through the media of film. His films have the obvious themes of praising God, loving family, and BEING family. It is obvious through several strong male characters that he is looking to push African American youth to a higher standard than many of them have for themselves. He is looking to break the cycle of single mothers having to raise children due to absentee fathers. He compels viewers to strengthen their family ties, but has a venue of interesting "caricatures" to whom, I am certain, any family can relate one or two relatives.

Don't get me wrong. I am as far from a racist as you can get. I have been working with lower income African American youth and trying to figure a way to foster a sense of pride and self-worth in them as students. I have tried many techniques, but being a white female, sometimes I just can't reach far enough. I am refreshed and thrilled to see Tyler Perry make such intentional films. There is a message in his films for all people, regardless of background or race. He is showing the world that being black is not about ghettos and gangs and foul language. The mainstream media wishes to portray this, but Perry seems to be bucking this trend.

If you would like to know more about Tyler Perry, take a peek at his website. There are movie previews you can watch and personal messages from him. His latest film is called The Family that Preys. He is fantastic.