Monday, August 30, 2010

Mrs. Kevin Gas

Last week, while I was off the grid, two things happened. It was my birthday week, and it was also the first week of school. So far, the first weeks of work have been chaotic but fun, and my birthday week was an extravaganza, as usual. However, something arrived in my mailbox that was concerning.

It was a birthday card. From my grandma. Addressed to Mrs. Kevin Gas.

Now, I love my grandma and this is not a criticism of her, since I know she is very traditional about mailing cards and addressing them using married names. I will say, though, that it really irks me when I get mail (wedding save the dates, bills, and apparently birthday cards) that are addressed to me as Mrs. Kevin Gas. It makes me feel like I am now property of Kevin, and have lost both my first AND my last name.

I'm traditional in the fact that I took Kev's last name, even though I am an elementary school teacher. Luckily, the kids have been awesome about not making jokes this year, since it's now the second school year I've had it, and I've settled in. Personally, I like the idea of my someday kids having the same last name as we do, but I understand that there are lots of different opinions about whether or not to take the last name.

It's my first name where I draw the line. I'm not "Mrs. Kevin." I'm NICOLE, or Colie, or a host of other nicknames. When I see my name written as Mrs. Kevin Gas it makes me feel like Kevin's property, instead of myself, which is a person with her own career, interests, and passions that just HAPPENS to have fallen in love with an amazing man and gotten married. It irks me to the point that I asked the priest and bishop who married us not one, not two, not three, but FOUR times to make sure he announced us as "Mr. and Mrs. Kevin and Nicole Gas" when he was leading up to the big first kiss moment at the end of mass.

It's weird enough when my mechanic calls me Mrs. Gas, or when telemarketers ask for Nicole Gas. I don't need to lose my first name too. So there

Friday, August 27, 2010

Laminating and Other Tasks

So, as I mentioned in previous posts (and my lack thereof), the school year has started this week. I'm going to try to get into a regular MWF posting schedule starting next week, because I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere with my classroom. My kids are, so far, squirmy and cute. I have a new team member who I love. I sort of feel like I know what I'm doing. Life is good.

In fact, I've redone the way my entire classroom is laid out. While this originally involved a lot of hauling around heavy bookshelves and tables, it now involves lots of laminating. Laminating posters that came with new curriculum. Laminating name plates. Laminating pocket chart stuff. While I love the smell of lamination in the morning, I have run into a slight conundrum, and I need your help to figure it out.

My school laptop has only kindergarten songs on the itunes. Dr. Jean, Jolly Phonics songs, and a whole host of other silly tunes (hello, vintage Raffi) that I keep around because I love a good excuse to choreograph dance moves for a pack of five year olds. However, said laptop is connected to the school's internet, which means that teachers have the same firewall as students. While this really isn't a big deal, I'm annoyed for one reason. This year, because of budget cuts that have led to a ridiculously small bandwith, we aren't allowed to go to any radio station's websites. This includes, where my favorite morning show (Eric & Kathy- no Chicago people I'm NOT a soccer mom, I just like it better than that obnoxious Drex and his lotion hour) has podcasts.

In the past, after the kids left, I'd crank a podcast, and get work done around my room for an hour. Now, if I want a podcast, I'm going to have to put it on my computer at home (which means lugging a heavy bag daily on the train) or bring my iPod to school (which makes me look ridiculously anti social if people stop by my room after school). Kev and I also haven't purchased a CD in a very long time, so I can't just bring CDs to work to put on my iTunes.

Help. What's a girl to do?

I'm currently avoiding cutting out the big pile of laminating in my room in silence by writing this post. I feel my productivity will be down until this problem is solved. Yikes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Name Your Child

***NOTE: I am not pregnant, and am not trying. Nor am I a parent. Nor am I trying to offend you if you have a baby whose name is one I'm ranting about currently. Just some thoughts.

Dear Parents Naming their Children,

As a grade-schooler of the 90s, I had lots of classmates named Jessica, Ashley, Lauren, Anne. Lots of Johns, Colins, Ryans, and Toms. One of my best friends' names was Erika spelled with a K because she's German. This was considered a minor scandal at the time.

At the beginning of a school year, the first information I have about my lil' peanuts is a list of their names. Your child's name will be on the list. My class lists for my students and their classmates, however, get a little more confusing. Kayleigh pronounced KY-lee, not KAY-LEE as I originally guessed. Noah, a girl. Wrigley and Addison, siblings whose parents are not Cubs fans. Joycelyn. Tlaloc. Usually, when I get my list, I spend the first ten minutes of reading it (after I count how many five year olds I will have in my room) trying to figure out how many boys and how many girls I have.

Names are starting to get confusing, people. A co-worker of mine announced the arrival of her new baby niece today. Blayksleigh. Yikes. The spelling is confusing, but I bet it is fun to write in cursive. Which leads me to speculate, why all the counter intuitive spelling? Please think carefully when writing on your child's birth certificate.

Now, you may point out, my married name is Gas. Granted, Kev and I won't have a whole ton of options when we name our someday children if we don't want to pay for extensive therapy for them later. (Jack? Mo? My brothers have supplied us with endless possibilities of names that DON'T work) But, at the same time, I don't understand why you guys seem to feel the need to spell your kids' names strangely. I actually think Blayksleigh isn't a bad name, but I would spell it Blakesly. Or Blakesley. Or something like that. Why set your kid up for endless correcting on the first day of school? Why torment your child's teachers (me among them) with endless re-writing of locker tags, name tags, desk name tags? I mean, honestly, do you all realize how many times a teacher has to write students' names on things?

I'm just saying, a name with a "cute" spelling might be fun for you, as the parent, to doodle in the margins of your notes when you are pretending to pay attention at a company meeting. But for your child, who has to learn to spell the beast, and correct everyone the rest of his or her life it may not be as cute. Just give it some thought. I mean, I'm the one who has to teach your five year old how to write it legibly and correctly. Thanks for your consideration.

Your child's kindergarten teacher

Wednesday, August 4, 2010's August

It's funny, because as a teacher, as soon as August comes around, my perspective shifts naturally. I dust off my alarm clock and start waking up early. I buy new planners, and start new lists. I also start new habits.

Because I'm a teacher, August is the start of my new year, and the resolutions that soon follow. New kids, new chances to grow, new yearly goals. This is the first year in my four years of teaching that I'm staying in the same position as last year: kindergarten in the morning, and first and second grade ELL groups in teh afternoon. I am, quite frankly, ecstatic about this. I poured a lot of my time and energy into making the transition from teaching second grade to teaching kindergarten a smooth one, and much of my remaining brainpower went into the two night classes each week I attended for my masters.

While I made a lot of career progress last year, areas of my personal life suffered. I tried to make up for my long hours teaching and student-ing by filling my calendar with an insane amount of social events. Kev and I spent last school year in a whilrwind of paper writing, househunting, intramural playing and beer downing. Was it fun? Absolutely. Was it healthy? Definitely not. My rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis didn't slow me down. I took my meds when I could, didn't worry about it when I couldn't.

A big RA flare up was the result, combined with a very stressful series of financial discussions in May. As a result, I realized that I physically can't sustain the breakneck pace that I worked at all last year. So, I made some changes. I spend my summer taking four summer graduate classes, so that I only have to be in class one night a week when the school year starts. I've started making lists and emailing staff, to try and get a head start on the school year. I'm playing the Game On! healthy habit building "game" with Kev and another couple, girls against boys, as well as online with a group of women I've never met in real life. Because of this, I'm getting more sleep, drinking less, eating healthier, and exercising more.

In short, it's August, and I'm bracing myself for the start of a new school year.