I am a teacher.

I am a teacher.

I hope I don’t get shot at school today.

I wonder how many students can hide behind the piano? It is the best barrier in my classroom from AK fire. More will fit if they are kindergartners… kindergartners are so small. I bet I could fit an entire kindergarten class behind the old upright piano. Fifth graders, however. Oh, fifth graders, you are so tall now. There are so many in your class. Which few will get the protection of the piano’s sounding board? What else do I have? A xylophone, a teacher desk, a drum.

“Review lockdown procedures with your students.”

Hide, children.

Hide. Be silent. Pray. Wonder why the adults have put you in this situation. I will protect you with my body, with a fire extinguisher, with… I don’t know what.

What if I had a gun?

I don’t want a gun. I don’t know how to shoot it. I don’t want to learn. I don’t want to know that there is a gun hidden in my desk drawer, next to my attendance book and my lesson plans. I don’t want to take a life.

I am a teacher.

I want to teach my students to sing, to dance, to play instruments.

I don’t want to take a life.

I don’t want to watch my students lose theirs.

I want my students to know that they are safe. Completely safe. I want my students to know that they are loved.

I am a teacher.

I hope we live to see tomorrow.

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that song from Frozen

Sisters,

I have my first-ever student teacher right now. It is my eighth year in Helena, my ninth year as a teacher, and apparently that makes me qualified to help someone else become a teacher. Terrifying, right?

I spent Christmas break making an epic student teacher binder. Seriously, it is a work of art. Custom cover, tabs, and LOTS of pages with cute fonts: standards, class schedules, classroom management pointers, and all sorts of details about how my schools operate.

This project masked the fact that I was feeling completely terrified at the prospect of sharing my classroom. I was dealing with major impostor syndrome.

Imagine my surprise when the first week with Mr. R revealed that I have, in fact, spent the last 8+ years carefully crafting a method of teaching that actually has a thought process behind it! As I explained my classroom routines and my curriculum, I discovered that there is actually a method to my madness and I have real thoughtful reasons for why I do things the way I do. You guys, I might actually know what I’m doing!

This week is Mr. R’s fifth week. In two and a half weeks, he moves on to his secondary placement. He has rapidly taken on more and more teaching responsibilities and is now teaching every class for the entire week. I spent last week hanging around in the back of the classroom while he taught, taking notes and observing. This week, however, I am tasked with getting out of the classroom and leaving him alone to teach.

Sisters, this is SO HARD for me.

What if my students are obnoxious? What if he can’t find a material he needs? What if, what if, what if?!

He’s fine. He’s more than fine, he’s doing so well.

That doesn’t make it easier to let go. I should be relishing this opportunity to get extra planning and prep done. I should be making manipulatives and planning epic lessons for the rest of the school year. I’m doing some of that. Mostly I’m wandering aimlessly, unsure of how to occupy my time without my students.

As I was lamenting my control freak nature to my amazing school secretary, she leaned back in her chair, swung out one arm, and started singing…

You know, that song from Frozen.

Letting it go,

Abby

I’m sure what you meant to say in that email critiquing my repertoire choices was thank you…

Dear sisters,

Today, my music teacher colleague and I ran six back-to-back rehearsals with about 50 kids in each group. We listened to fifth-grade narrators practice over recess. We inhaled our lunches to the sound of Feliz Navidad on xylophones. Then, we ran an all-school rehearsal for over 300 young musicians.

That’s crazy, right? Is this really what I signed up for?

Tomorrow, we’ll unload five bass xylophones over at the middle school auditorium, make sure the stage is set, and wait for the school buses to arrive carrying those 300+ musicians. They’ll pour out into the auditorium as it simultaneously fills with hundreds of parents, eager to catch a glimpse of their little snowflake, who’s all dolled up in their “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes.

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This colleague and I, we already did this once. Last week. Same story, different students. That’s crazy, too, right?

The other 170-odd days of the school year, I am alone in my little classroom on the prairie. The principal crosses my threshold once in a great while, and parents far less frequently. Teachers rarely have more than a minute to spend in my music room, because, as we all well know, those copies aren’t going to make themselves.

How do I reconcile these two sides of what I do? Nearly 200 days of music-making, unseen by outside eyes, just me and my students and my little classroom… and this one day of enormous production, preparation, stress. The learning really lives in the hidden days, but my reputation as a music teacher waits for me on that stage.

The show must go on,

Abby

Is it silly to cry over a squirrel?

Dear sisters,

We were out for our Saturday morning family walk around the Capitol complex when Takk was distracted by something. We tried to keep walking, brushing it off as his usual weirdness, but then realized that he was in fact looking at a little furry critter.

It turns out that it was a young squirrel, not a tiny baby, but not fully grown, that had fallen from a tree onto the sidewalk. We hoped that the squirrel was just startled by the fall and by Takk’s antics and would climb back up if we left it alone. We continued walking, planning to check in when we got back to that spot.

Honestly, I spent the next mile making plans for my new life with a pet squirrel. As you do.

Phil’s vet tech skills and the wonderful vets at the clinic would fix the little squirrel up. Obviously, Fry would cuddle the little squirrel, and it could snuggle up in all my scarves, and Takk would try to play with it. I was completely prepared to be the crazy squirrel lady.

As we reached the spot again on our walk, we couldn’t see the little squirrel and assumed that all had worked out for the best. But as I crossed the street to be sure, I found that it was there on the sidewalk, still breathing, but not well. We made a few attempts to reach a local Fish, Wildlife, and Parks rehab center, but weren’t successful. Of course, the odds of them making a trip for a little squirrel were slim.

As a magpie hopped over and pecked at the little squirrel’s tail, we knew that the kindest option would be taking it to the vet to be euthanized. We found a box in my car and gently slid the squirrel into it. It squeaked in pain and fear as I tried to ease it all the way in. Both back legs appeared to be broken. Another squirrel chattered at us from a nearby tree.

I closed the box and walked towards the car… and started crying. I wish I could have explained to the other squirrel where we were taking this one, probably her baby. I wish I could have told the little squirrel not to be scared.

We took the squirrel to the vet clinic where Phil works, and the doctor working today took a look and agreed that it was best to put it to sleep.

My heart hurts. I know it’s just a little squirrel. I know that this is how nature works. But for a minute, I had a dream of a perfect world where every little furry creature gets to live a wonderful, happy life… and maybe we all get to, too.

Rest in peace, little squirrel. You were loved, ever so briefly, and hopefully made your exit quickly and without much pain. I guess that’s all we can really ask for.

Wishing life was fair,

Abby

 

life on call

Sisters,

As you know, Phil is a veterinary technician. This career is another bullet point on his amazing and varied resume of metal fabricator, hog farm employee, summer camp maintenance guy, nonprofit assistant director, hardware store manager, community mental health mentor, special education paraprofessional, Lowe’s sales associate, baseball concessions hawker, and Indian Education tutor. He has attempted (and excelled at) so many different things. But veterinary care? The man is especially brilliant.

We have long known that Phil knows things. He just does. He knows things about things. Maybe that’s why he’s so good at so many jobs. But above all, Phil knows dogs. He is my dog whisperer. Seriously, he’s magical. He must be part dog. Or maybe he was a dog in a past life. It makes me a little jealous, because our dogs at home always love him, not more, but just a little differently than they love me. It’s this special deeper bond.

Maggie destroyed some of the first things I moved into Phil’s house before we got married. She was my dearest dog, my therapist, my best friend… but she was Phil’s best friend first and loved him as such.

 

wp-1475382624125.pngPhil and Takk are bros. We used to have this big chair and ottoman, and Takk would climb up there when Phil was sitting in the chair. We called it Chair Club for Men. Nothing makes my Buddy Buddy happier than hanging out with his pal Phil.

Fry is my dog. She really is. She is my baby. We cuddle in bed at night, especially when I’m a sucker and let her under the covers. And still, she has this different love and respect for Phil. In some bizarre scenario where she was forced to make a choice, I can’t help but think that she would choose Phil. She’d follow him to the ends of the earth.

Last spring, we visited Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. It is our happy place and this was our second visit. While Phil’s mom and I visited all sorts of animal areas- cats, bunnies, puppies- Phil stayed in Dogtown. One day, he was invited to work with Eeyore. The caregivers informed Phil that Eeyore wasn’t going to like him: Eeyore was terrified of beards, glasses, and hats. Phil was the trifecta, so you can guess how Eeyore responded.

Yeah, he obviously didn’t mind Phil at all. Because dog whisperer. #justphilthings

Phil tells me time and time again of dogs at the vet clinic who are supposedly scared of men. Phil can almost always handle them without trouble. He has become the go-to employee for handling challenging dogs. A big highly strung dog that used to take a team to accomplish a nail trim? Phil can trim those nails by himself now.

Phil has recently been added to the weekend on call schedule at the clinic, which means he is responsible for Saturday morning appointments, lunchtime and evening medical treatments on Saturday and Sunday, and may be called in at any time during off hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for medical emergencies.

I am wrapping up this post at 10:30 on Saturday night. Phil was called in an hour or so ago. Just got the text that another call is coming in, so he’ll be there for awhile. I must confess, this on call schedule thing is new for me. It’s weird. It’s an adjustment. Phil has always been the living embodiment of “early to bed, early to rise,” so it’s odd for him to stay up late just in case (a little superstition from one of the doctors… if you can make it to ten o’clock, you’re in the clear).

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Tonight, as Phil left, he apologized for going. This bothered me. Yup, him being on call is weird. It’ll take a bit for me to adjust. I’ll never be a big fan of him leaving in the middle of the night. I’ll always worry about him being rested enough. In all fairness though, I’m not sure he’ll ever be a fan of leaving in the middle of the night either. But he is good at his job, and I never want him to apologize for that. So these sleepy dogs and I will make the best of it.

We’ll leave the light on for you,

Abby

Another Blog Post from a Teacher on Summer Break

Hey sisters,

So, we’re all teachers on summer break, to some extent at least, right?

R&R&R: Growing in intensity from June to August.

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I could write a post where I do the math, working out how many hours I work during the year and whether that balances out time off during the summer.

I could write a post about the fact that I don’t actually get paid during the summer, that the district withholds a portion of my salary and then returns it to me in the summer. I could explain that I got a lump repayment in June and won’t see a paycheck again until a month after school starts.

I could tell you that I’m still working this summer, that I’ve already taught at a two-week music camp and will soon be teaching at a two-week theatre camp, while also enrolled in two grad classes.

I’m not going to write that post. I mean, here’s one, if that’s what you’re looking for.

But instead, I’ll just say this. Do I get summers off?

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And you know, what? It’s pretty great. Today, I slept until 8:00 and then went out for coffee. I’m binge watching Law and Order.

And if you’re jealous, maybe you should be a teacher.

😎😎😎 #maybe #maybenot #letsjustsaytheydo

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Livin’ the dream,

Abby

 

The Evolution of Dog Nicknames

Hey sisters,

First of all, both for our sake and the sake of the three people who may visit this site regularly, I feel the need to share our “no judgies” policy. In creating this blog, we were very clear that we are all leading fulfilling and busy lives, and while we enjoy blogging, it is one of those things that will get pushed to the back burner in favor of other priorities. So, I’m back after awhile… but no judgies, k? And with that out of the way…

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Our dog Maggie was named Maggie at the shelter.

Takk, however, was named Scuba Steve. We took this as a clear invitation to take him home, if only to change his name to something more respectable. So we went with Takk, the name of our favorite Sigur Ros album and the Icelandic word for ‘thank you.’

Yesterday, as I let Takk in from the backyard, I casually said, “hey Steve.”

Which got me thinking about the weird evolution of dog nicknames.

Maggie, for example, became Maggie May, then Maggie Moo, and eventually Mo Mo.

Other notable names for the world’s sweetest brown dog were Magdalynn, Magdalonious, and Snufflepupagus.

Scuba Steve, since coming home with us in 2009, has gone by (this is an incomplete list):

  • Takk
  • Takk Takk
  • Takk-a-doodle
  • Doodle
  • Doodlebug
  • Buddy
  • Buddy Buddy
  • Handsome
  • Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Turd Ferguson (it’s a funny name)
  • Dingus

Fry’s nickname Frybot became Fryboat after she developed a habit of setting sail in her dog bed at night: it would start the evening right next to our bed, but by morning it would be several feet away. We called the bed her Fry Boat but the name migrated to her and stuck.

The name I really can’t explain is Bickets. I call Fry “Bickets” all the time now. I think it started as a reference to scratching her furry bum and calling it “itchy bickets.” That’s the best explanation I can come up with.

Do you think the Oxford English Dictionary has the etymology for bickets?

Just don’t call me late for dinner,

Abby