Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Small Slice of Success

I awoke at 3:30 this morning when my husband got out of bed to use the bathroom. I had that small moment of panic that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep and would have to face the day and 23 third graders on too little sleep. Fortunately, this was not the case. The next thing I knew, the alarm was going off at 5:00.

I dragged myself downstairs to make a cup of coffee and to complete my morning writing as has been my ritual for the last three weeks.  As I sat down at the kitchen table, I glanced outside the window and caught sight of a crescent moon hanging low in the sky. I had an idea of what I was going to write, but was feeling a bit discouraged and wasn't entirely certain that I had the words or even the desire to tell my story.

Then I thought about the boy in my class, the subject of today's slice. I wondered how many times he felt discouraged, too.

At the beginning of the year, my principal asked each teacher to identify two students to "spotlight." These were kids we were concerned about and would focus efforts on to help them progress to grade level. I had immediately thought of the boy I'll call Diego. He was a sweet, quiet boy with an adorable smile. In class, however, he seldom seemed to pay attention, needed constant reminders to stay focused and on task, and moved at a perpetually slow pace. I have no problem giving kids the time they need to complete tests and activities, but Diego moved so slowly that he fell farther and farther behind.  Added to that, he had a habit of asking to use the restroom every day, swearing it was an emergency that couldn't wait until recess, and then would disappear for 5 to 10 minutes, missing even more class time and falling even farther behind.

I tried everything. I sat him up front. I provided additional prompts to keep him on task. I sat him next to students who could help him. I worked with him in small groups and one-on-one. I held him in at recess to work on tasks he had missed during his trips to the restroom. Nothing really seemed to make much of a difference. This was Diego and there seemed to be no changing that.

Until yesterday. Diego suddenly piped up from the back of the room where he was working on practicing multiplication facts during lunch recess.

"Mrs. Regan?" he said. "Can I stay in at recess?"

I was confused. It was recess.

"I mean the afternoon recess," he explained.

"Oh. Why do you want to stay in at recess?" I asked, expecting him to tell me he wanted to play games on the Chromebook.

"Well, I finished writing my Who Would Win paragraph, and I want to put it in Google Docs."

My jaw just about hit the floor. We have been working on this project for quite some time, and not surprisingly it has taken Diego a while to write his paragraph stating who would win a battle between a panda (the animal he studied) and a cheetah (the animal his partner studied). Earlier in the day I had been closely monitoring his progress and noted that he, in fact, was doing a good job of taking information off his graphic organizer and writing his paragraph, using complete sentences and even transitions. A couple of times I had to ask him what sentences begin with, and with his adorable smile spreading across his face, he would answer, "Capital letters." I praised him for doing a good job before wandering off to work with my other "spotlight" student, who requires even more constant supervision than Diego.

Diego did come back at recess to work on his paragraph. He grabbed his Chromebook, sat down, and on his own, opened a Google Doc and began writing his paragraph. A few short months ago, none of that would have been possible. A few short months ago, he wouldn't have remembered his password let alone how to get to Google Docs. Now here he was, working completely independently on  his own time to complete his assignment.

I imagine Diego felt good yesterday. He had the words he needed to write and the encouragement from his teacher. I imagine he was powered by a sense that he was perfectly capable of doing what had been asked of him.

I know today I will have to prompt Diego to stay focused and on task. That isn't going to change. But I am going to hold on to yesterday's small success as a reminder that Diego has made progress. It may not translate into scores of proficiency on the upcoming SBAC test, but it is progress, nonetheless. I hope he holds on to that moment as well, and as he faces new assignments, remembers that he is capable.

And if Diego can overcome discouragement and keep plugging away, then certainly I can, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Impromptu Slice

I thought I knew how my evening would go, as my evenings are usually just variations on a theme. I would leave work, pick up my son, Jack, and then drive across town to pick up my son, Jared, from track practice. We would then head home, and I would fix dinner while simultaneously trying frantically to meet the 9:00 p.m. deadline for posting.

That's how it was supposed to go anyway. Then I got a text from my husband telling me that Jared hadn't found a ride, so he was going to leave work to take Jared to his track practice at 3:00. Jokingly, I texted back that since it was so late, there really wasn't any reason for him to go back to work.  The only response I got was a "Hmmm. . . ." I figured that meant he thought that was a good idea but was going back to work anyway, so I left work and headed to Jack's school as I had planned. To my surprise, as I pulled into the parking lot, I heard again from my husband. He was home!

Usually, my husband doesn't get home until 6:30 or later. Some nights, after picking up Jared from practice, I'm just rolling in around that time, too. Everyone being home before 5:00 felt like nothing short of a miracle. I decided to take advantage of this rare occasion of everyone being home early and suggested we go out to dinner. Strangely enough, this seemed to raise some suspicions, probably because I am not known to be particularly spontaneous, but everyone played along. After waiting for what seemed a ridiculous amount of time for the hostess to simply appear at Red Robin, we were seated.

In a way, it felt like a celebration. We all sat around the table, talking and laughing, free from the distraction of phones, computer screens, and television sets. Although we talked about our days, the stresses and hassles that might have occurred lost their potency. We felt relaxed and content, feelings that have been in short supply for quite some time.

It was a glorious way to end the day:  together and focused on each other.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

For All the Times

For all the runs to Starbucks for early morning lattes

For all the nights you put toothpaste on my toothbrush

For all the days you stayed home with sick kids, so I didn't have to scramble to write sub plans

For all the hours of manual labor that bring my designs to life

For always loving our boys, teaching them how to become good men

For all the times you haven't gotten mad when I yelled, "Brakes!" while you're driving

For loving my mom as if she were your own, taking her to doctor appointments and changing her bandages, all the while acting as if it were no big deal

For taking out the garbage and doing dishes

For making it possible for me to sit at this computer and write

For forgiving me my moments of stupidity

For  always believing I'm smart, sexy, and funny - and almost making me believe it, too

For letting me be who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly

For all the times you hold me when words aren't enough to take away the pain

For offering assurances when my anxiety rages out of control

For opening my car door and for holding my hand

For all the times you've held on even when you wanted to let go

For all these times and so much more

Thank you

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday, Back So Soon?

Once again Monday has arrived much too soon. Upon hearing the radio come to life at 5:03, I responded like the reasonable human being I am - I hit the snooze button and sank down deeper into the blankets, like a child hiding from the monsters waiting to emerge from the closet. Resistance was futile, of course. Monday was already here and demanding to be reckoned with.

It is going to be one of those there's-not-enough-coffee-in-the-world kind of days. The week stretches out before me like an endless tunnel with just the faintest glimmer of light at the end. I am tired. I am spent. I need a break.

Spring Break, however, is still two weeks away. Ten more days of getting up early. Ten more days of taking my younger son to school before dashing off to school myself, all the while reviewing a mental to-do list and kicking myself for not getting work done the night before. Ten more days of reining in 23 students who have gotten a whiff of impending vacation.

Ten days can be an eternity.

But, as I said, resistance is futile. There is nothing to do but move forward and plow through, making the most of the days in front of me. I pray there will be moments of laughter and learning and inspiration to keep me going.

And coffee. Lots of coffee.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"I'm Hungry"

Knock, Knock.

No, this isn't the start of a really bad joke. Or maybe it is. I was in my bedroom, frantically writing lesson plans for the week (nothing like procrastination!), when my son knocked on the door. He has started knocking (a good thing) because he's terrified that he will catch his mother in a state of undress. 

"Come in," I called out. 

"Where's Dad?" he mumbled, stepping into my room.

"He's at the store," I answered, imagining that would probably be the end of our conversation.

"Shouldn't he be making French toast? I'm hungry," my teenage son replied.

"Are you serious?" 

I'm still stupefied by his response. Apparently, it has become our job to make sure that there is food ready for him when he emerges from his cave of a room. Poor kid. It must be rough living in a house with such poor service.

I tried to explain that in order for us to make him breakfast, we have to actually have food with which to make it.

"But he's been gone forever," he told me.

"He's buying groceries for the week," I explained. And really, his dad had not been gone forever. It was more like 30 minutes.

"Why?" my child moaned.

"Why? Because we need food." Somehow that seemed quite obvious to me, but then I'm not a teenager stumbling out of bed at 9:00 in the morning.

Heading back toward the door, apparently unsatisfied with the answers I was giving him, my son threw back over his shoulder, "I'm going to the store to get some food."

"Jared! That's what your father is doing. What is the matter with you?" 

"I'm just hungry, I guess." And slightly irrational, I wanted to add.  But that probably wouldn't have been entirely fair, as I have been known to get a bit irrational myself when I need food.

My son closed the bedroom door and slunk off to who knows where. I'd like to believe it was to his room to clean it or to the computer to complete his homework, but I am not that delusional.  

Ah, teenagers! Thinking about our exchange, all I can do is shake my head and laugh. And write about it, of course!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy (In No Particular Order)

Winter has apparently decided to make one last ditch effort to assert itself. The sky is gray, the air has turned colder, and big, fat drops occasionally burst free of the clouds and mercilessly dive-bomb those below. Since weather like this can put me in a melancholy mood, I am resisting temptation and making a list of things that make me happy.

-chips and salsa with a good margarita (on the rocks, with salt)
-reading a good book on the shores of Lake Tahoe
-doing anything on the shores of Lake Tahoe
-watching the waves crash along the California coast
-playing Sorry with my boys
-wandering the aisles of Green Acres Nursery, marveling at all the beautiful plants
-listening to Keith Urban
-the fact that I once actually touched Keith Urban's hand
-freshly painted walls
-a purring cat on my lap
-weekend getaways with friends
-a good book, any time, anywhere
-hiking along beautiful trails
-unexpected kisses
-fresh flowers
-blue skies and warm sunshine
-good food
-fond memories
-holiday gatherings
-candlelight and sparkling glasses of wine
-long drives along twisty, mountain roads
-Disneyland (it is the Happiest Place on Earth, after all)
-holding hands
-a good night's sleep (I'm guessing on that one)
-Spring Break (still two weeks away!)
-furniture shopping
-quiet evenings with those I love

So, go ahead, Winter, stick around a little longer. It won't bother me. Even on the darkest days, happiness is all around, just waiting to be found.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Sophie's gone.

An endless loop playing in my head
over and over and over.

Sophie's gone.

So many thoughts,
so many feelings,
so many tears.

But today this is all I can write.

Sophie's gone.