Monday, December 7, 2015

I.Am.Struggling.

     So I chose not to work this fall semester. I chose to try to create some time to study for the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) and pass with flying colors and all would be right in the world...I have yet to pass the FORT and at this point I cannot keep all of my eggs in the FORT basket because this basket has way too many holes that I cannot repair without a consistent class to reteach me the skills I feel I am missing.

      I have agreed to graduate December 2015 with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education.  I will graduate without a teaching license but I can now apply to graduate schools. This is where the fun begins...

     I have to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) to apply to a majority of accredited colleges. I have not studied for the exam because my personal life is out of control. I am struggling to keep myself together. Ready for this...
    
     I meet the criteria for, 'defining at risk of homelessness. Category I-Individuals and Families.' I do not earn 30%  (or $1,851.00) of the median income ($61,700.00) for the area I live in, and we live in a hotel or motel and the cost is not paid for by charitable organizations or by Federal, State, or local government programs for low-income individuals;

     How did it happen? I am glad you asked because I am about to tell the tale...I resigned from my job to student teach (2014), I couldn't pass the FORT so I committed the fall semester (2015) to learn enough to pass it. I assumed I would substitute teach in the meantime and wait for the opportunity to apply to graduate school for the spring (2016) and summer semesters. My plan was to accept student loans to help cover our bills and expenses for the first year before I began part time work in the public school sector in the fall (2016).

     I was actually homeless before I met the criteria but I didn't realize it because I lived within a community of poverty. I was okay in the poverty until the elements that keep people in poverty began to effect my children and I. After a heated argument I quickly came to the conclusion that I was in trouble and it was effecting my children even though I didn't want to admit it before the argument.

     It's a hard realization to come to but I know that I am doing the best I can to provide for my family and myself. I am seeing my children adapt to being without a home, and it breaks my heart but I am trying to make the best of it. My oldest child has recently been diagnosed with a learning disability and he has begun to hoard the toys that we have been able to keep with us. My middle child is a first grader has begun to keep clothing and small toys in her coat pockets and food in her backpack. It's heart breaking but I am hoping that their resilience will work in our favor and help them continue to adapt and help motivate us all to work harder than before to make a better life for our family.  As I type this my two youngest are playing on the bed with pillows which they've shaped like a car and are talking about the places we've visited over the past few days.

     There are things I miss but I know that we have a warm place to sleep and we are physically and emotionally safe. As far as basic needs go, we are doing fine and as long as we have a working vehicle we have leg up.

     I was hoping to move out of the area but I don't think its possible for a while. I was working toward graduate school in a neighboring state but it doesn't look like something I can do at the moment. I don't have the pieces together to make that change. I am sad but I know that I need to make the children my priority and I can get as many housing applications out into the universe as I want but they won't amount to much if I can't even pay the rent or provide a previous rental history.

     I have had to come to terms with a few emotional threads, the biggest  and most painful was the fact that their father and I will never be on the same page in supporting our children. He doesn't seem to be able to think ahead or comprehend their needs, or maybe even care that much. I was hoping he would but he doesn't. As I was reading today, and came to the realization that my children and I are homeless, he left for a business trip for the week. Maybe he feels that his contribution of child support is enough? Either way I believe it is his loss and we will continue without his emotional support. (BTW: he is  also homeless, meets criteria.)      
 
     The other emotional thread is that I thought my life would get better when I finished my undergrad degree.  I thought I would be ready to teach and the world would be available to me, it is just a new kind of hustle. It is a new type of struggle and another level of determination I have to find and another type of struggle I need to try to convince my children to adapt to. I don't have a teaching license and I won't be able to apply for that until I am able to pass the FORT, I am not ready.  I need to take a class to learn about reading development and assessment so it becomes automatic. There is a community college I may be able to take a class from but I won't know until I get the other needs met first.

     The last and final thread is that I am my own support system.  I have some good friends and family but their situations aren't any better at the moment.  I have siblings but most are barley getting by and asking them to go beyond their personal limitations isn't fair of me.  I had an emotional day today, I was very upset and telling the clerk at the housing office that I was homeless with three children created a lump in my throat that will probably stay with me for a long time.  Trying to ask my children's father for help and not getting a response solidified that lump, and having a nice long cry helped me resolve those feelings of failure and dread I feel for my children.  I feel like I use to be a sensitive person and now I feel a little more fire hardened and less fearful because the worst case scenario has happened and it wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. I mean it's bad but it could have always been worse.

     So we will continue to meet our basic needs, keep our vehicle in working condition, work on childcare for my youngest, and getting my older children to school in a timely manner. School is the most consistent part of their lives and the district they attend is doing a wonderful job in meeting my oldest child's' needs for his individual education plan.  I just need to keep my courage and update them on our living situation and ask for educational support for my children at this time.

      What I will look forward to is cooking a meal for my children in a kitchen that I can stock and have them spend time in a bed made specifically for them.  I look forward to each of my children putting their supplies away and knowing that they can find them right where they stored them.  Christmas is going to be a small affair this year and it is fine.  Having a safe and warm place to be together is worth more than anything money can buy.

     Wish us luck, say a little prayer and if you know me, I haven't given up. Just a little skinned up but ready to get back out there.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Student Teaching Post Apocalypse

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have had a lot of starting and stopping along the way. I am waist deep in relearning how to assess and teach reading. I can read, love it, been a big fan since I was 6 and do not see myself slowing down anytime soon. I have had to have a nice long talk with my brain and ask it to free up some memory and dump a whole file cabinet of literacy that is no longer supporting our network of learning. 

I believe I have had a number of educators who loved me and taught me how to read and write that was less than stellar. I have the will, I have the desire to learn and I love to gain new information, apply, assess, and look at alternatives and adaptions of the material or higher and lower learners. I have gone through a large part of my life on a foundation that wasn't sound. I am rebuilding and I know that if I put it on the internet, it will manifest into a part of who I want to become as an educator. I have questions, I am looking for examples and explanations that allow me to relearn strategies and material that will not only benefit me but my future high risk students as well. 

This has been hard for me to admit because I love education and I am really good at it. I understand why it took me so long to find my niche in higher education. I am online and not necessarily working on this site but pop up from time to time to make sure my timeline is documented and in some written form that I haven't placed in a box where even I can't remember it.

Now for that walk down memory lane...

It was a dark and cloudy night I drove from Casper Medical Center to Wright Property with an overnight bag and a heavy heart. One of my siblings had suffered a series of seizures and diagnosis was very vague. I missed my first two days of student teaching at a new school with a small but articulate population of students and teachers. I knew my priority is where it should have been but I continued to worry about my entrance into a new classroom and my role as a student teacher. 

My first day on the job was eventful, children were curious and vocal. I was unsure of my role and expectations that I would need to meet and how much I had left in my tank to try to exceed them. As the weeks and months grew, I realized that student teaching was more about the experience and the grueling task of transitioning from student to responsible adult while maintaining a higher level of human expectation of everyone around you. I love it. I love the students and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to return to the district as a substitute teacher as I build my foundations of reading and begin to move into another stage of life and parenthood as my own children begin their educational careers in public school. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

UW Oshkosh Clinical Semester Part I

Hello readers of this defunct free blog! Sorry for losing track of the semester but a lot has changed. My goals and ideals have shifted. I am still alive, probably more than I have ever been in a long time and didn't have the opportunity or energy to write about it. I've found it, I have taken a deep breath and I am enjoying the moment.

So I am in the final week of my placement and I have learned a gang of stuff that I  need to write about or I will lose the momentum. I need momentum and I realized after 34 years on earth that it depends on me. 

Yes, I know. Very, "After School Special," but it is true. Hard lesson for me to learn and even harder to take full responsibility for. I was lacking follow-through because my accountability of myself and my work ethic have been idle for so long that I forgot what it felt like to be challenged and work hard to get to this place. I want to tell you it's euphoric but the reality of daily life cut the feeling a little short. 

I have had so much support and love and understanding from so many people in the field that I didn't hang my head for long when things weren't as easy as they had been. I was humbled. I am still humbled and I have taken the initiative to want to learn more and want to be constructive and intentional in my career and I can't help but love the change, and embrace the challenges and i was never prepared for the change in ME as a person to happen so quickly.

I drove home the last week of my science lesson knowing that I was where I wanted to be. My first indication was that I found myself rethinking the next days lesson through and finding ways to adapt my approach to the activities to meet individual student needs. I also realized that I loved the idea of changing something minuscule to allow a student freedom or the opportunity to have that light-bulb moment. 

Following my last and final week of class I have been going back to the books and looking at approaches and pre-planning criteria and outcomes. Lots and lots of planning outcomes to meet or exceed high and lower level learners. I am in love and comfortable.

I feel confident, I know when I enter a classroom I am more confident. I know that I can share my ability to learn and to teach in ways I didn't know existed as a paraprofessional or even a program coordinator. I've bridged the support and professional divide and I am humbled to know that my twelve years of experience have been in preparation for me to teach.

I have heard people say that children are out most valuable asset to the world. I wasn't fully aware of that responsibility until now. I realize that the role of a certified teacher is asking someone to give even more of themselves by sharing their world and present the rest of the universe in the most trustworthy and transparent way so a student can feel that confident of their place within it.

I could have never imagined myself reaching this goal. The most wonderful feeling about it, and something that was shared very early in the cohort is that its totally attainable. I am looking at curriculum and instruction programming cohorts in local universities, I want this, not only for myself but for my students and my children. I want to help others find a way to reach students that are proven to work and can help build confidence in a student. 

Luckily for me I was placed with someone who knows how to do that. I have found myself with a teacher who has the knowledge, experience, and drive to want to have each student own their ability to learn. The amount of information and structure and student desire to excel is beyond amazing. I love the idea of such a seasoned teacher open to allow student teachers and clinicians to learn from her and take away everything she has to share. I believe I am where I need to be. Lucky me.