Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why I choose public school.

I became a teacher as a second career. I began my working life in the field of public relations and marketing but always yearned to try out the career I had promised my great grandmother I would pursue--teaching. While serving as a public relations manager for a major California company, I had the opportunity to volunteer a couple of days each week in a first grade classroom through the nonprofit, Junior Achievement. Within a week or two, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to become a teacher.

Within six months, I quit my job and applied to substitute teach in a number of districts in the area, became a frequent substitute in Monrovia, California and enrolled in a credential program. I loved working in Monrovia and the school where I was a regular kept me busy with long-term assignments that brought me there almost daily. The teachers treated me like one of the gang and for that I will forever be thankful.

During my credential program, I was told I needed a more "permanent" position and I sought out employment at private schools. I was thrilled when I got the call for an interview at a well-established (expensive) private school that had been in business for generations and was quickly hired by the principal who was easily five to ten years my junior.

Soon after I was hired I started to get the feel for private school life. The parents expected an array of "enrichment" activities that took away from my teaching time and didn't really provide the children with anything more than a fun time away from the core subjects. There were no credentialed teachers in the school and I, being in my credential program, made me the most educated person on campus. I quickly came to realize that many of the students, although receiving high marks on their report cards, had genuine learning, developmental and social problems ranging from extremely poor reading comprehension to undiagnosed speech problems in older students to an inability to cope with group conflict due to class sizes that were often less than 12 students.

It was heartbreaking to see students struggle. I saw teachers assure parents their children were on track when it was very clear the child was behind...far behind their public school counterparts based on my own personal experiences in the system. I lasted at the school six months and quit after the teacher next to me, who was just starting her credential program, was fired for refusing to give a student who never turned in his work an A. I knew that this was not an environment for me, nor a place where I could make a change in the lives of the students. The education system at the school was so poor, even my advisor in my credential program suggested that I leave the school and made an exception for me to continue my program as a substitute teacher.

After receiving my credential while working as a long-term sub and then regular classroom teacher, I became a reading intervention teacher. I dove into this new role with passion and vigor. I read all of the research and work tirelessly to provide my students with differentiation instruction that would help them learn the skills they needed to become readers and advocate for those who needed more than I could provide them.

My private school days were behind me but every once in a while they would creep up on me when I would be referred a new student. It was not uncommon for me to be given a private school transfer student who was seriously lagging behind his public school counterparts. In fact, it was more the norm than the exception. I heard from parents how they were told their children were advanced when they were really toward the bottom of the scale. It was heartbreaking for both the student and the family.

I know that many families have great private school experiences but for me, having experienced what I have in regards to private schools, I would not feel comfortable sending my children to anything but a public institution. Private schools lack the oversight of public schools--many of which with little to no set teaching standards. Many private schools do not offer credentialed teachers, meaning those who are teaching children have had little to no training on child development, identifying learning disabilities or alternative ways of teaching in order to best suit a child's optimal way of learning. While I am sure that private school teachers work hard to provide their students with a quality education, many do not have the background knowledge or skills afforded those with a teaching credential or the district support that provides teachers resources like psychologists, speech and occupational therapists, and much, much more.

I'll admit, the public school system isn't perfect. Class sizes are big and teachers are asked to put in long hours and fill out mountains of paperwork. For newer teachers, the system is even more frustrating because the status of their employment is often not concrete from year to year, meaning  many teachers do not know if they will have a job until the school year actually starts. Unfortunately, I fell into this category and for that reason have left teaching so that I can provide my family financial stability year to year.

I miss teaching and admire those who stick it out, year after year. I miss the kids and making a difference. I am proud to see my own kids thriving in the public school system where we live and look forward to many great years of learning and growing along with them and their amazing teachers. This is why I choose public school for my family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The misconceptions about working from home

In addition to being a mom of three boys, I am a writer who works from home. When I tell most people that I work from home, they imagine me working and parenting at the same time. I often get comments along the lines of, "It must be so nice to have your kids with you while you work."

I feel like it's time for someone from the work-at-home crowd to explain how it works. I WORK from home which means I have to do my job, uninterrupted. I have phone calls and meetings. I have deadlines and expectations. As a writer, I have to write...which means it has to be quiet...really quiet.

I like to tell people to take a few moments and think about their typical day in the office. Now think about that day if you had your kids with you. It's not a pretty picture and as you can imagine, you would get very little work done--if any. And for the record, because my home is my office, there are times when the home versus work boundaries are blurred and I have to work when the kids are around. You can take my word for it when I tell you that kids become the same noisy, attention-seeking monkeys when you work while they are home that they become when you decide to make a phone call when they are around.

Working from home is no different than working in an office--except for the fact that I wear my pajamas most of the day and never have to worry about someone stealing my lunch out of the fridge. Yes, I save on gas. No, I don't do laundry. Yes, I can watch stuff on my DVR while taking my lunch break. No, I don't wash the floor or make the kids beds while I'm on phone calls, because let's face it, I'll use pretty much any excuse (including working), to get out of those chores anyway.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Words To Live By: Everything to Everyone

You can't be everything to everyone.

In the blogging world, it's easy to get caught up on the frenzy of brand contact and PR agencies. There's a lot of cattiness about who gets invited to which events. For me, I blog about what I love and what I'm passionate about. It's not about the perks. Don't get me wrong...the perks can be great, but if I were to blogging for perks, I would be fashion blogger with fabulous clothes.

When I start to feel little crazy from the competition of it all, I repeat, with great zeal I might add, "You can't be everything to everyone" and I have to tell you it has pulled me out of more than a slump or two because I really believe it.

At the ripe old age of 21 (as if I would reveal my real age), I know that I cannot be a shining star for everyone who knows me. I also know that in whatever I do in life, I always strive to be a perfectionist, but realize that I'm going to fall short from time to time. It's ok to not be the best of the best or perfect 100% of the time.

All I can be is the best for me...and for my family...and my readers. That's it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On Facebook and Legacy

Earlier this week, I found out that a man I went to school with passed away in his sleep. I have known him since we were in first grade and I hadn't seen him since high school. We passively kept in touch via Facebook--liking one another's photos and commenting on posts every once in a while. About a year ago I posted that we were in the midst of a plumbing nightmare and he dropped everything and graciously walked me through the problem via direct messages.

I always really liked this man--even when we were kids. He had a kind heart and fun spirit. I recall him driving our teachers crazy but he was always so likable I often wondered if the teachers were really that mad at the boy with the toothy smile. 

We didn't have classes together in middle school or high school, and didn't run with the same crowd. The last time I remember talking to him, he came in to the high school yearbook classroom and asked us for a favor. We had almost wrapped up the yearbook, and he really wanted a photo of he and his girlfriend published in the yearbook. He loved her so much but since she didn't go to our school, so she wasn't in the book. He had a picture of him hugging her that he was hoping we could slip in somewhere in the book. Normally, we would have said no to such a request, but his words were so heartfelt and sincere, we did it. 

That's the last time I remember talking to him in person but it was an instance that impacted me. His heart was so big and so full that he wanted to embrace his love for this woman in our yearbook. He didn't want the pictures in there to be "noticed"; he just wanted to have a way to memorialize his relationship and feelings at the time.  His request was so sweet, sincere and special--a true reflection of his character.

I found out this man died about a week after the fact, and I've had a few days to digest the information. This is the first person I know of from my graduating class to pass away and it's been kind of hard for me to process. Tonight I went back and read through his Facebook page. I was re-reading his posts, his conversations with others and looking at the photos of his beautiful daughters who will now grow up with out a dad. I wonder how many other people have been reading over his page too--looking for clues that he knew life wasn't forever, affirming the love for his family and showing that warm heart that struck me in the yearbook classroom almost 20 years ago. It's almost surreal to read his words and conversations because they are living on like he is still here.

As I read through his page, I began to reflect on my social media legacy. What would people read on my page if something happened to me? I clicked over to my page to see what was on it and quite frankly, I wasn't impressed. While I don't think I need to necessarily put my entire life into my social media networks, perhaps I should do a little more to show who I am and what makes me tick instead of just publishing pictures and self-depricating anecdotes. Maybe a public medium isn't such a bad place to express my gratitude for others and to note the blessings in my life. An authentic me may just be a little more interesting and a lot more meaningful to the people in my life.

And then I think back to the day in the yearbook room 20 years ago. The man who is no longer with us...all he wanted was his authentic self in the yearbook with a photo showing how in love he was with the girl in the photo. Apparently he knew the importance of being authentic all along.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The trouble with the dog adoption process

Our last photo of Jake.
Last summer, our dog Jake passed away. My husband and I adopted Jake from the Redlands Animal Shelter back before we had kids; he was our first baby and an amazing dog with an old soul. Our neighbors always referred to him as "the gentleman." He was in bad shape when we adopted him--covered in sores from head to toe and so matted that they thought he was a terrier. After a major grooming, we discovered he was a Lhasa Apso who had suffered at least two broken legs that were never tended too.

We adopted Jake knowing that he was an "older" dog whose paper work said he was 6+ years. In doggy adoption language, I'm guessing he was more like 8 or ten years old. It is often difficult for shelters to find homes for older dogs and figured they were a bit "generous" on his age.

In the last year of his life, Jake went down hill fast. He could no longer jump up on the couch so that he could watch for us out the front window. He developed severed doggy dementia and slept most days and nights. It was heartbreaking to put him down; we made and canceled the appointment more times than I can count. We kept holding on for hope that he would improve. He was our companion for ten year. TEN years! When we put him down, the vet was so wonderful and really helped us through the worst moments a pet owner has to endure. He reassured us that if we had not adopted Jake that day, it was pretty unlikely that anyone would have because of his age and the fact that we had him for ten years shows that we are wonderful pet owners.

It's been hard getting over the passing of my beloved pooch, but now that it has been about nine months, I think I may be ready to adopt another dog. I know I can't fill Jake's void, but I do feel that the next dog has some big paws to fill. This time we have three little boys to think about. We know we want another dog like Jake that sheds very little or not at all. I know that with small children, a puppy is not our speed and that we want a dog that is at least 2 years old and has already been housebroken. And of course, the dog has to love kids. These are things that can be tough to find at a shelter and thus we are turning to rescue groups for our search--like those found on

Because we adopted our last dog from the shelter, we simply paid the fee and bailed him out. The rescue group route is a whole new ball game for us. I am completely blown away by the processes adopters have to go through. As a life-long dog owner, I feel like I have a lot to offer a dog and that adoption agencies should be beating down MY door! Instead, there's a lengthy application process, home visits, contracts, etc. It's enough to make a gal crazy. I know these folks are passionate about what they do, which I respect and appreciate. Without their hard work, thousands of dogs would be destroyed each year. I also respect the fees they charge and will happily pay up, as I know they have many expenses in rescuing animals.

I do feel, however, it would be great if there was a way for me to fill out a little application online somewhere and tell my doggy story and let the shelters and rescue groups read it and let me know what they have. I'm not being lazy--perhaps just practical. If the rescue groups are so set on finding homes for their dogs, please consider making it a little easier and a little less crazy. Take into consideration who a family is and realize we don't have hours on end to fill out adoption applications. Oh, and when it comes to my kids, they are wonderful with animals. I am mystified by the rescue organizations who refuse to ever adopt out to families with children. How do they ever expect parents to raise the next generation of animal adoption advocates if they won't allow families to adopt?!

I am committed to only adopting animals and would never purchase a puppy, but for heaven's sake, it sure would be nice if there was an easier way to go about it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

They don't make them how they used to!

Remember when washing machines lasted for 10 or 20 years?  They were tanks!  Not anymore.   In 2007 we got a Frigidaire washer and dryer at Universal Appliance.  They are both absolute lemons.  The dryer had a strange groove in the tub that ATE our clothes. I called the people I bought it from to fix it. They charged me an arm and a leg...and didn't fix it.  It ruined more clothes than I can count.  Shortly thereafter, the washing machine stopped spinning. In all, we've sunk about $500 into these machines.

What makes me even more mad is these "disposable appliances fill our landfills each year.  Sad.  What's a family to do? When did it become ok for American brands to crank out such crumby products?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oh, how I love Pinterst

I love Pinterest. LOVE Pinterest. Really, really LOVE Pinterest. Am I clear on this? Here's why I think it has literally changed my life.
  • I am the queen of browsing the web and thinking, "That's cool. I'll bookmark it and come back to it later." Then, when "later" comes around I can either not find the bookmark in my mess of bookmarks or forget I bookmarked it all together. Essentially, Pinterest has made it so I never have to bookmark anything every again!
  • 2012 is my year of self improvement. I know, lame, right? Well, it really is and I'm off to a running start...but that's a whole other post. As I push through 2012, one of my personal challenges is to up the way I dress. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say I've ever been "fashion-challenged." I love clothing and trends. Pinterest, however, exposes me to beautifully coordinated outfits and clothing items I may not have ever considered.
  • I also adore decorating my home and Pinterest allows me to not only see what other people are posting when it comes to decor and organization, but I have a place to organize my design dreams.
Pinterest is awesome. If you aren't already on Pinterest, follow me today!