Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What School Really Looks Like This Year

When a student fails a class, they get put into course recovery where they have to essentially retake the class and pass it in order to get the credit. Students aren't held back here. Even students who fail all four of their core classes are promoted to the next grade and put into course recovery for all four classes. That's the four failed classes on top of their regular classes for that year.

This year I have seven periods of students in course recovery. Almost all of the kids who did school-from-home for the first semester failed one or more classes. It's painfully obvious that the majority of kids learning from home, were not successful. I don't think anyone would argue that point as the data overwhelmingly shows that kids are more successful with in-person learning. 

Beyond the difficulties with at-home learning (kids who aren't motivated and/or aren't held accountable by parents, kids who don't have reliable internet access, kids who just have a hard time grasping the material when it's taught online, etc.) there's the mental health issue. The unprecedented increase in mental health problems, addiction, and suicidal ideation coupled with limited mental health services in many areas due to Covid-19 is undeniably exacerbated by the isolation that comes with at-home learning.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, saying that all kids should be in school, in person, every day. I think there is no one perfect solution to the problem of school during a pandemic. There is no ideal answer. There is nothing that is universally in everyone's best interests, and there's certainly not any one solution that will make everyone happy.

Let me tell you what it looks like in my school. I'm in Florida. In this state, the governor told schools that if they want funding, they have to open up for in-person learning in August. Period. So we did. And I get why this was a blessing for many families. Parents of young children need someone to watch their kids while they work. No school ---> no work ---> no paycheck ---> no money for food or rent ---> homelessness. For many, the thought of financial ruin trumped concerns over safety. Also, parents who worried about their student's mental health at home and parents who were concerned their child wouldn't do well online could send them back to school in person. It's nice that parents in this state had a choice between in-person and at-home learning. They could make the decision that was best (or was the least awful) for their family.

Unfortunately, that left teachers and support staff without any choice. We had to go back to school in person. We had to spend our days in a classroom with 6-7 periods of different students every day. During the first semester, a few teachers were able to apply for a medical exemption that enabled them to teach from home to the students who were learning from home. But when the second semester rolled around and nearly every student was back to school in person, all teachers were ordered back to campus as well. I've honestly lost track of how many teachers from my school have quit since the beginning of this school year. I can think of nine offhand as I write this. Those are nine positions that needed to be/still need to be filled. Now imagine every school in my state having similar staffing problems, and we're all trying to hire teachers from an ever-dwindling pool of candidates.

On top of that, there are the teachers who get sick and are out because of it. There are the teachers who are exposed to someone with Covid and have to stay home to quarantine for several days. And, of course, there are the teachers who need surgery, have dentist appointments, need to stay home with a sick child, have car troubles . . . I've spent the last couple years complaining about a substitute shortage. Ha! Little did I know what we were in for this year. 

According to the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, there were a staggering 11, 571 unfilled absences from August through November. And I know firsthand that it's only gotten worse. Today, for example, at my school there were 12 teachers out. We only had 3 subs so 9 classes were uncovered. Yesterday was the same. This past Friday there were 16 teachers out, 9 of their classes uncovered. Thursday there were 11 uncovered classes. So every day, the secretary has to scramble to get someone to watch every class, every period. Office clerks, librarians, paras, administrators, and other personnel get shuffled into classrooms. I've seen the bookkeeper and secretary cover classes. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see a lunch lady or a custodian watching a classroom full of kids at this point. 

This year, I've had to cover another teacher's classes in addition to my own seven classes almost every single day. And let me tell you, it is sucking the life out of me! There is very little social distancing when you're combining two classes. Trying to help my 8th graders with their course recovery work in language arts, math, science, and history while explaining ancient Chinese philosophers to a bunch of sixth graders is not fun. Watching sixth graders whose assignment is to play a review game while trying to get 8th graders to focus on a test at the same time is not fun. Telling students a thousand times a day to "pull up your mask!" is not fun. Going to work this year is not fun.

When a bunch of Covid cases hit one school, they close the school for two weeks. They deep clean the building while students learn from home in an effort to stop the spread of Covid before it gets out of control. When this recently happened at a high school in my district, I saw someone on Facebook have a fit about it. She ranted that it was her kid's right to attend school. She was livid they'd briefly closed the school to try to keep people safe. And I shook my head at the absolute self-centered, entitled attitudes of some people. 

These teachers are friggin' rock stars! On top of the ridiculous amount of work they already have, this year they've been juggling teaching the kids who are seated in front of them as well as teaching the kids who are online at home. At the same time! We are all stretched so thin this year, and we're doing our best to make sure your kids are successful, all while trying to ensure everyone follows the guidelines so we can all stay safe and healthy. And when I see some selfish rant from a parent, I've gotta tell ya, I get a pretty impressive urge to throat-punch that parent. 

Whatever the school situation is in your state and your district, for the love of God, show your child's educators some grace. Remember, there is no perfect solution. What makes one person happy will inevitably make others angry and vice versa. We're all trying to navigate these uncharted waters and make the best decisions we can. For most of us in the education system, it has been a tough year no matter how you slice it. So whether you agree with what your state and district are doing or not, please understand that the teachers and support staff are all doing our best with what we have. And we're doing it for your kid. So - Just. Be. Nice.


Friday, December 18, 2020

The Official Stocking Stuffer of 2020

“This post brought to you by Air Wick, all thoughts & opinions are my own”

For Thanksgiving a few years ago, all six kids and I loaded up my minivan and Savannah's car and we headed over the (Ohio) river and through the woods Indiana windmill farms to grandmother's house (or rather a hotel near grandmother's house because really, we are a big noisy bunch and when I moved out many years ago, my parents locked the door behind me and hired a bouncer to keep me out.) But really, there were a bunch of us and everyone thought it might be better if we stayed in a hotel. At the time, my ex worked for a hotel and was able to get us rooms. A lot of rooms. Savannah had a room, Austin and Codi had a room, Jackson and Clayton had a room, Lexi and Brooklyn had a room, and I had a room.

Whenever we go home to Chicago, we have a list of places we absolutely must visit. This list is mainly restaurants. Lou Malnati's, Rosati's, Portillo's, and Jarosch top everyone's list. But one place that's only on my kids' lists is White Castle. I personally think the only reason to eat at White Castle is because you're 21, partied a bit too much, it's 3:00am, and it's the only place open. Ahem. But my kids love those little sliders.


When your kids get not one, but two cases of burgers filled with grilled onions, something diabolical happens to their digestive systems.

So after that little pit stop, we arrive at the hotel. Savannah tosses her suitcase in her room and takes off to meet friends. As we unpack the car and settle in, one by one, the kids start announcing the inevitable. "I have to poop."

(Side note: did you know that I mention "poop" in 80 blog posts? EIGHTY! I actually searched. This is what happens when you have kids. Poop happens! A lot!)

So, the litany of "I have to poop" starts. My response, as always, is, "So go. And you don't need to announce it."

"But I don't want to stink up the hotel room."

"Maybe you should've considered that before getting 60 cheeseburgers."

"I know! I'll use Savannah's room!"

My son grabbed the spare key for Savannah's room and took off for her bathroom.

This is how the visit went. Anytime someone needed to poop, they used Savannah's bathroom because she was out with friends more than she was in the hotel. 

No problem. Until Savannah got back and realized she had no toilet paper, on top of the fact that her room smelled like the elephant habitat at Brookfield Zoo. She was not happy.

To this day, when one of the kids has to poop, they sometimes announce, "I need to go to Savannah's room," despite the fact that Savannah hasn't lived with us for 4 1/2 years. I bet Savannah's thrilled that "Savannah's room" is code for the bathroom.

But Air Wick has a product that will make life SO MUCH SWEETER especially when you're staying in a little hotel room or as a guest in someone's house! Or on an airplane or a train! Or at work! Or at your own home. Okay, basically everywhere! It's V.I.P Pre-Poop Spray. The spray is scented with spectacular smelling essential oils like lavender, lemon, and rose. It comes in a little bottle so it's easy to toss in your purse, spray before you ‘go’, and voilà, smelly odor embarrassment syndrome avoided. And each little bottle packs 100 uses of impressive stink-banishing power!

V.I.P spray now resides in both of my bathrooms. My kids like to decipher the acronym, V.I.P. Very Important Pooper, Very Intense Poop, that poop made a Very Interesting Plop, Virulently Insalubrious Poop . . . . Hey, it's the pandemic; I don't judge their entertainment these days.

Here's a pro-tip from me to you: You need this V.I.P. spray for the holidays, especially if you're going to visit family, or if you're having family over. I know most of us are avoiding gatherings this year, but the people you live with/your immediate family will thank you for supplying your bathrooms with this spray also! Just add it to your Walmart grocery pick-up order (which may be the greatest invention ever) and you're set! Bonus pro-tip:  You want to permanently ban White Castle and chili dogs from any and all road trips henceforth. Trust me on this.


I've dubbed this Air Wick V.I.P. spray the elf-approved, official stocking stuffer of 2020 because somehow poop and 2020 go hand-in-hand, don'tcha think?


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

I Work in a Middle School. Yes, it's on Purpose!

When I tell people I work in a middle school, they respond with one of the following:

A. On purpose?  this is from most sane people who think I'm insane

B.  Bless your heart!  this is from well-meaning southerners who think I'm insane

C.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  this is from parents of middle schoolers who know I'm insane

D.  Oh cool! What do you teach?  this is from other middle school teachers who are insane themselves

They look at me like, well, they look at me like one would look at someone who purposely chooses to work with hormonal, angsty, drama-filled tweens who leave an intoxicating miasma of BO and Axe in their wake. (Sidenote: masks are wonderful for blocking out those teen smells and I may continue to wear one long after Covid is under control!) 

Middle school kids like to whine that they're bored. Like all the time. They are so addicted to technology that when they have to put their phone away and do something as mundane as algebra, they lose their minds. It's like taking the drug-of-choice away from a hardcore addict. They will spend the next 50 minutes jonesing for a glance at their phones. Then they ask to go to the bathroom just so they can text their friend across campus who is also asking to go to the bathroom in order to get a hit of Snapchat like some strung-out junkie.

Middle school kids are So. Filled. With. Drama! "So&so liked the picture that so&so put on the 'gram and she's just so obvious about it and he doesn't even like her because he likes so&so, but I don't know why she even likes him to begin with; did you see his shoes today?!"

And as grown-up as they want to be, they're still kids who like to have those meaningful conversations with you about every. single. aspect of Minecraft until your mind goes numb.

Middle schoolers lack the part of the brain that tells you to stop and think before acting. So when they do some dumb thing like throw a pencil across the room, and you ask them why they did it, they will inevitably answer with an, "I dunno" accompanied by a shrug. And they literally don't know why they did it.

But they also know stuff. They know what's cool and what's not. Did you know that Crocs are cool now? Not only that, but the little Jibbitz charms that you got for your toddler's Crocs 18 years ago are also cool now. Who knew? Middle school kids knew, that's who!

Today I noticed that it looked like it was "snowing" on my student's computer. "How did you do that??" I asked. "That's so cool! What did you install to make it look like it's snowing?"

She looked at me like I was simple-minded and instructed, "You just click the snowman on your Launchpad." 

"Wait what?! Do I have that on my computer?!" I ran over to my desk and sure enough, I did! The student told me there's something different every month that you can click. How have I never noticed this, I wondered. Oh yeah, because I'm not a middle schooler. They know stuff.

But as crazy as they can be (and we all know they're crazy,) they're also pretty cool. Today a student drew a picture for me. She wasn't even one of my kids; she was just in my room for testing. And last week I was subbing in a class for a teacher who is in the hospital. This teacher is gravely ill (not Covid) so we had her students sign get-well cards for her. There was one girl who pulled a Polaroid print out of her purse. (Sidenote - I think of a Polaroid as an antiquated way to take pictures, but I'm clearly mistaken because middle schoolers think of it as a totally cool, retro way to snap pics, and as we previously discussed - they know stuff.) Anyway, she pulls out this picture of her, one other student, and the currently hospitalized teacher. "Miss, can I get some tape? I want to put this picture in the card. But first, can I please take out my phone for a minute so I can take a picture of this for myself?" 

Now how cool is that? To this student, that picture of her with one of her favorite teachers meant a lot. Just the fact that she wanted to have her picture taken with a teacher is cool! And the fact she was willing to give that prized photo away to this teacher in an effort to cheer her up is just pretty darn awesome. Something about this student's enthusiasm for her teacher just struck me, especially since this particular student is one of the ones who can be a pain in my butt. It really made me stop and think about what a difference teachers can make. Even if the teachers don't always entirely realize the scope of their influence, it's far-reaching. These kids form some pretty amazing bonds with them, and teachers have the unique opportunity to impact these kids' lives in dramatic ways.

So I guess that's why I work in a middle school. These kids can be pains in the butt and they can try my patience on a daily basis. But if I didn't work there, I wouldn't know I could pull off wearing Crocs to work, my computer wouldn't be "snowing," I wouldn't have a wall full of drawings, and I wouldn't have a new appreciation for this "pain-in-the-butt student who, as it turns out, has a soft spot in her heart for her favorite teachers.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Dresses, Spanx, and Crotchless Undergarments: My Wardrobe Malfunction

I used to dress fairly nicely for work, but over the past 10 years, I've slacked off a little. Okay, a lot. Denim capris, flip flops, and a school shirt have become my uniform. This is partly due to laziness, but largely due to the fact that nothing fits me anymore. But today I put on a dress. I have no idea what possessed me to do this.

Now this dress fit, but I was a little uncomfortable with the idea that the fabric would be hanging over my blobs of fat curves and I might not look my absolute best. 

Enter Spanx.

I pulled out a pair of Spanx (if anyone is unfamiliar, Spanx is a popular brand of industrial-strength shapewear. Think - girdle on steroids. The idea is this - you pull on the Spanx which tucks all your rolls into its nylon embrace, flattening lumps and bumps, lifting buttocks, and smoothing cellulite and other imperfections, giving you a nice, sleek silhouette. That's the idea.

So apparently I bought these particular Spanx a long time (and more importantly, a lot of pounds) ago. Spanx are supposed to be really tight; that's the nature of the beast. But these? Well, these were tight on a whole 'nother level. 

So this morning, full of all sorts of stupidity blind determination, I struggled to pull on the diabolical undergarment. You know how you start? You step in, grasp the fabric in each hand, and pull as hard as you can while doing some sort of ancient tribal fat-banishing dance. One foot forward, yank. Other foot forward. Pull. Step to the side. Wiggle your hips. Straighten up. Step left. Step right. Pull, pull, pull. Bend over, straighten up. Readjust your grip. Heave. Wiggle some more. Seriously, all those Tik Tok dances out there? Amateurs! Finally I give up and lie writhing on the bathroom floor.

via GIPHY

The fabric is slicing into my legs, cutting off my circulation, and no matter how hard I pull, I cannot seem to tug these things up over my hips. After a full minute, I consider giving up, but at this point I've gotten them far enough up that removing them would be just as much of a struggle as continuing to pull them on. I briefly consider the fact that I might have to call the paramedics if I lie there, the nylon cutting into my flesh, much longer. I wondered if 9-1-1 gets many girdle emergency calls. With my luck, it would be undeniably gorgeous guys who showed up to rescue me, the beached whale, squirming on the floor, nylon encased thighs with a wave of fat spilling over the top.

I stood up and gave it a Herculean tug. They finally started to meld to my body. And that's when I noticed the rip in the crotch. I had managed to tear the crotch right out of these things. I looked down, trying to ascertain just how bad the split was. Realization dawned on me as I stared at the garment. There was no rip after all. Oh, there was a big hole, to be certain, but the fabric was neatly seamed all around it. The hole was on purpose. They were crotchless. It made sense, given the ridiculous and time-consuming dance I'd had to do to put them on. I mean, who would be willing to go through that every time they needed to pee, right?

After a good five minutes of struggling, I finally managed to get them on. I was a veritable sausage in a prison-like nylon casing. I couldn't breathe and I was certain I'd need scissors (or the jaws of life) to remove them later, but for the moment, my dress draped so nicely over my nylon-encased hips, butt, and thighs that I put that thought to the back of my mind. I even put the fact that it was a little um, breezy down there out of my mind. The things we women endure for fashion!

So I get to work, and people are telling me, "Oh you look nice today," which I always interpret as, "You usually look like a hideous wildebeest. What a pleasant departure." A student looks at me and asks, "Why do you look so nice? Do you have a date?" Sadly no because the only people I meet are 12 years old. 

After first period, I have to pee. There is no conceivable way I'll be able to pull these things down, pee, and then repeat the whole process of stretching them up over my butt again in the less-than-4-minutes I have before my next class, but since they're crotchless, all I have to do is squat, pee, and go about my day without having to wrestle with these things time and time again. That's the general idea. Most people can appreciate this feature. Most people can take advantage of this feature. 

Then there's me.

It's really not that complicated! I mean, even a caveman, er, cavewoman can do it. But as I left the bathroom, I felt a little um, I felt like I maybe hadn't quite mastered the whole 'peeing through a hole' thing. Great. Did I pee on myself? I don't think so. It's probably just a stray drip. What now? Maybe I should just cut these things off. Oh wait, then I'll have to go commando for the rest of the day! Probably not the best idea. I know! I pulled a pad out of my purse before realizing I had nothing to stick it to. Hmmm, maybe I can stuff it up into the hole and just stick the very edges down in the front and back around the missing crotch. But that would leave a whole lot of exposed tape, and I know darn well that two steps out of the bathroom and the pad would become dislodged and end up sticking to my leg halfway down my thigh. Or worse, it would fall off with a plop as it hit the floor in the middle of my classroom. My classroom filled with middle schoolers. Then I'd have no choice but to fling myself off a bridge.

"Why am I such a spaz?" I grumbled to no one. I'll spare you the details of the rest of my day and just say - next week I will be back to wearing my denim capris and flip flops! As I left for the day, a coworker called, "You look nice. Your waist looks so small." For a moment, all common sense left my brain as I delighted in the compliment and toyed with the idea of wearing Spanx under all my clothing because - woo hoo, small waist! And this is why women do these stupid things!



Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Tale Of Two Teachers

I had interactions with two of my kids' teachers on Friday. And they were so night-and-day different, you wouldn't believe they worked at the same school.

You know that Brooklyn never gets less than an A in any class. She's a naturally smart kid and she's remarkably self-motivated. This is not me being one of those - 'My kid is perfect and can do no wrong' kind of things because believe me, although I love all my kids, I would not use those words to describe all of them! Unfortunately, she's struggling in her biology class this year. She ends the day in tears often, saying, "I'm just not learning anything this year, Mom. She just reads these powerpoints and she goes so fast and she just assumes that everyone knows what she's talking about instead of explaining and teaching it. Maybe it's just me, but I don't know anything in that class."

This teacher gives her students until 6:00PM to submit their assignments each day. For the kids who have activities after school - jobs, sports, volunteer work, church, classes, well that's just too bad. They get a zero. No chance to turn it in later. They can't do it the next day. Nothing. Just a big fat zero for the assignment. As you can imagine, a couple zeros on assignments dramatically bring down the child's grade.

To her credit, the teacher does replace those zeros with the score the students receive on their quarter exams. I'm sure this helps some students. Brooklyn, who has struggled all year, stayed up and studied a good 2 hours the night before that test. She went through every Kahoot (game-based learning platform) the teacher gave the kids to help them review. She literally wrote down every question and answer, felt she had a pretty good understanding, and thought she would do well on the test. When the test came, Brooklyn felt it was over completely different material than what she had studied and she got a D on the test. That was a tough pill to swallow for a straight A student. Especially when that grade was not reflective of her effort.

Incidentally, this is the same teacher who taught from home the entire first quarter of school. I use the words "taught from home" loosely as many of her classes were taught while she was driving, or sitting in her car in a parking lot. 

Which brings us to Friday. On Friday, this teacher told her class that they were going to dissect a flower, but she generously gave them to until 7:00 to complete and submit their assignments. Nothing had been said about this in advance so students could make arrangements to have the supplies they needed. Students on campus were sent into the courtyard of the school to pick flowers, however students who were doing remote learning from home, were out of luck. We don't have any flowers. There are literally no flowers anywhere in my entire apartment complex. 

I had never communicated with this teacher about her policy of not accepting work after 6:00PM. I had commiserated with Brooklyn, I had gotten resources from the science teachers at my school to help her, and I had told her that she would undoubtedly have teachers throughout her education whose teaching method just didn't resonate with her, and that she just had to do her best. But this flower thing just pushed me over the edge. So now Brooklyn would be getting yet another zero because once again, this teacher had set those students up for failure. So I emailed her.


Good morning,

My daughter, Brooklyn Meehan told me that you informed her during class today that she needs a flower to dissect. We live in an apartment that has no flowers around the complex. Had your students been notified in advance, I could have made arrangements for her to have the supplies she needs. I’m a single mom, I work 2 jobs, and I won’t get home in order to bring my daughter a flower or take her to pick one until after your cut-off time for turning in assignments. I feel that making students turn in work by 6:00pm, you’re setting them up for failure. Brooklyn struggles to complete your assignments on days that she has cheer practice after school, and has received zeros because you don’t allow your students to turn in assignments in the evening. Yes, I know you replace those zeros with their quarter test grades, but this does precious little for poor test takers. As a parent, this is frustrating. As an educator, it is mind-boggling to me.

What are you doing for Launch-Ed students who aren’t able to pick flowers in the school’s courtyard today? Is there an alternative assignment? Or are you giving them longer than 7:00pm to complete it?

Ms. Dawn Meehan

J Be the reason someone smiles today. J


This was her response:


Hello Mrs. Meehan,

Your concerns about me, how I teach, my teaching strategies, and my policies are duly noted.

No, there is no alternate. No, they do not get any longer than 2:20 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to walk outside, pick a flower, remove its parts, use the diagram to label it, and upload the image to a GOOGLE form.

That part of the assignment will simply be adjusted for her, and any other student that finds that part of the assignment too difficult to complete.

Thank you for letting me know.

Dr. XXXXXX


I forwarded our correspondence to the principal along with this note:


Good afternoon, Mr. XXXXXX,

How can it possibly be acceptable by OCPS for a teacher to refuse to accept assignments after 6:00pm on a daily basis? Brooklyn cannot be the only student with after-school commitments who finds it difficult some days to complete assignments in that time frame. Brooklyn was one of few students in Orange County accepted into the Horizons Scholarship program. She is required to put in volunteer hours and engage in regular after-school Zoom meetings, classes, and mentor sessions. And of course, she’s encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities as well.

Brooklyn gets a zero from Dr. XXXXXX every time she cannot complete an assignment by 6:00pm because she has cheer, band, or a Horizons Scholarship activity after school. Dr. XXXXXX does not give her the opportunity to turn in assignments after her after-school activities; instead she simply gives my daughter a grade of 0%. These zeros negatively impact Brooklyn’s eligibility in the Horizons program because the coordinators obtain regular grade reports from the high school.

What do I need to do to get Brooklyn a teacher who will work with her and not against her? Brooklyn would love to go back to school face-to-face, especially if it meant a schedule change and a different biology teacher, although I understand I missed the cut-off to change from Launch-Ed to F2F. Is dropping biology at the high school and taking it on Florida Virtual School a possibility? Because I am not okay with Brooklyn missing out on 2 years of college tuition because of a poor grade in biology that is not reflective of her ability.

Thank you for your help on this matter.


I imagine the principal will address this on Monday. If not, it will all be forwarded to the chief of high schools.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


While this was going on, I received an email from Clayton's calculus teacher: 


Ms. Meehan,

Is everything ok with Clayton?  He has missed the last two days of class and has not turned in the last 3 assignments. 

Bob XXXXXXX


My response: 

First off, thank you for being that amazing teacher who legitimately cares about his students and wants to see them succeed. Believe me, that is not always the case!

And this is completely unacceptable and will be addressed with Clayton immediately.


I had a little talk with Clayton that went something like this, "You need to email Mr. XXXXXXX and copy me on that email! You apologize for not showing up to class, you make up those assignments NOW, and you don't miss another class in the future or your part time job is OVER, Mister, because that was the deal when I let you take that job! Get your act together and get caught up!"

And here is Clay's correspondence with his teacher:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

This is Clay's second year with this math teacher, and this is not the first time this teacher has reached out to me in concern about Clayton. (Although Clay's really smart, he's a little lacking in the motivation department.) Anyway, Clay says that he's the best teacher he's ever had. Not only does he do an amazing job explaining things and teaching, but he records and puts every lesson online so students can go back and and review. He also gives students his phone number and tells them they can call up until 10:00PM if they have any questions. And he does free tutoring as well. Clay's teacher is clearly invested in his students' success. He goes above and beyond to ensure his kids achieve. He's the kind of teacher who most teachers strive to be. 

And then there's Brooklyn's teacher . . .


*****UPDATE*****

Brooklyn's biology teacher happens to be the teacher's union representative for her school. I get the sense that the administration is afraid to approach her on her teaching methods or her tone of correspondence to parents' concerns because of that simple fact. I feel the principal gave me a disappointing non-answer. But I kept pressing because I felt strongly about this. I've had 6 kids go through that school, times 4 years each, times 7 periods a day. Of course my kids have had some less-than-wonderful teachers over the years, but I've never complained before. Instead, I've always told my kids that they will encounter people throughout their lives who are simply difficult to work with, and they need to learn how to make the best of it. But this teacher's policies and attitude especially, especially during a pandemic with so many other challenges, both educational and other, is just unacceptable.

Anyway, I insisted they withdraw her from the class, and I signed her up for Florida Virtual School for this one class. Because FLVS is inundated with students who having chosen that platform this year, she hasn't been assigned a teacher yet, but they said she should be able to start next week.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I Do It For The Comments

I started blogging back in 2007. At the time, I used my blog as an outlet for all the crazy shenanigans my kids pulled so I didn't lose my mind and run away from home. I used it encourage other parents in the trenches. I was hoping in time that it might become a source of income to help my family of 8 financially. While I was writing, encouraging other parents and letting them know they weren't alone, the strangest thing happened. The comments they left for me on my posts encouraged me! I found myself eagerly devouring every word that my readers left for me. It somehow validated what I was doing.

And then there are these kinds of comments. 


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Do you understand that this post was about Monopoly retiring a game piece? So let me get this straight – your previous roommate constantly talked about the dog playing piece in the Monopoly game? I can see why he’s not your current roommate.

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He's right. It's no laughing matter. Every year, tens of brides become fainted from tight underwear. Don't let it happen to you.

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There’s a rich diversity about bat roosting songs? Is there really? Because I can only think of maybe 12 or 13 songs tops. And they all sound the same.

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Yes, I do know your exact trouble. Approximately, that is.

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Google translate fail for $400, Alex!

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Oh yes, I'm really looking forward to you touching me too. Right after I research how to file a restraining order.

The bottle was solid into the ocean in 1886. 
The week is long. The silver cat feeds when blue meets yellow in the west. A trip to China sounds nice if you tread lightly. Oh wait, this isn't a Russian spy code?

I turn to a vampire any time i want to. i become a vampire because of how people treat me, this world is a wicked world and not fair to any body. at the snack of my finger things are made happened. am now a powerful man and no one step on me without an apology goes free. i turn to human also at any time i want to. 
I don't know if I'm more disturbed that this guy turns into a vampire, or that he snacks on his fingers.

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Finally someone is listening to my many, many posts about organizing one's sandpaper!

and I am one of the most dreaded man in my country. 
Donald Trump, is that you?

At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming yet again 
I think my breakfast just came up again too.

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Yes, I do. Learn how to spell.

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This! This right here is the reason I write! To get these fulfilling (and not at all spam generated from another country) comments!

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Do I get drunk or poke out my eyes? The choices . . .

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Time for a career change.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Life Lessons from Love Bugs

The other day I was driving to work when a couple lovebugs hit my windshield with a splat. By "couple," of course I mean a dozen as it's Florida in September where lovebugs swarm in plague-like dark clouds, literally proliferating as they fly. I turned on my wipers in an effort to clear the mess, but managed to just kind of smear the bug guts in a sweeping arc across my line of vision. 

As I drove, my eyes were pulled back to the splattered remains of the bugs. I thought to myself - it would really suck if I got in an accident because I was focused on the smudge adorning my windshield instead of focusing on the stretch of highway before me. I forced my eyes back to the road, paying attention to the traffic, lights, and pedestrians. Before long, my gaze was once again drawn to the spatter on my window. I reprimanded myself. "Seriously, Dawn. Stop concentrating on the splotch of bug guts and shift your focus a few yards ahead." This happened a couple more times until I pulled into the parking lot at work. Each time my eyes shifted, it only lasted a second, a brief moment. It was hardly noticeable at all; I didn't even realize I was doing it.

And it made me think.

How often do we look ahead, pointed in the right direction, traveling along the correct path, and yet our focus is pulled just slightly away from where it should be? We're moving forward, all seems well, and yet we can't help focusing on something just slightly out of our line of vision. Maybe it's something that happened in the past; some blight in our history that we just can't seem to escape. Or maybe our focus shifts ever-so-slightly to the left. Or the right. Or somewhere in the periphery. We're not off-track per se. But something has pulled our attention away and we aren't focused exactly where we should be. It doesn't seem like a big deal at first, but the danger is that those momentary diversions can eventually pull us away from our destination, our purpose.

It happens to all of us. But how do we keep our attention where it should be even in the midst of endless distractions? If you read the first paragraph, you'll have seen that I'm hardly an expert as my attention shifts easily.


That could also say -
"I have so much to do!"
"Oooo look! Netflix!"

Or -
"I am SO over dating!"
"Oooo look! A cute guy!"

So although I'm clearly no expert, here are my ideas for staying focused.

1.  Determine your priorities. It's hard to stay focused on what's important to you if you don't know what's important to you. Unless you have a clear idea of what you want to focus on, your attention will be easily led in ways that won’t get you where you want to be. 

2.  Start the day with that priority. If your priority is to focus on God, begin your day with prayer. If it's to accomplish some goal (for example, weight loss) start your day by telling yourself you can and will succeed. Read a success story, look over the past weeks of weight loss and remind yourself that you're doing well, look at a "before" picture and applaud your success thus far.

3.  Have a plan.  



Again, I'll use the weight-loss example since this is something I've struggled with for a good 35 years. If you don't have a plan, you're doomed to fail even before you start. Plan out your menu, have healthy food on hand, carve out time to exercise. (I'm good with the giving of the advice, but notsomuch with the following of the advice.)

4.  Know that at times you'll lose focus on the big picture. It happens. When you find yourself looking at the messy bug guts of life, just shift your focus back where it belongs. And extend yourself some grace because we're all human. Just don't let your concentration veer completely off course or you could crash and burn.


Psalm 101:3 ESV
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.

Psalm 119:37 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Proverbs 4:25 ESV
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

Philippians 3:14 ESV
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 25:15 ESV
My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Job 31:7 ESV
If my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands,



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I'm Sharing Because Visits to the Gyno are SO MUCH FUN

I had my annual gyno check-up today. I know, I know, contain your jealousy. As much as I hate going to the doctor, especially for this kind of appointment, I admit I'd rather have a pap smear every day of my life than to go to the dentist even once. That might make me a freak, but I bet I'm not alone on this one. Someone back me up here!

Anyway, so I specifically made an appointment with a female doctor because I'm just more comfortable with a woman doctor poking around "down there."

I sat in my car until I got a text from the office that I could come in. Upon entering the building, I had to answer some COVID-related questions and have my temperature taken. Then I proceeded toward the elevators, but some guy was standing in the middle of the hallway blocking the whole thing while he obliviously texted on his phone. I made a slightly dramatic show of walking around him because I'm immature like that people who are clueless to the fact that they share this planet with others tick me off. And it doesn't matter if they're cute young guys. Not that I noticed he was a cute young guy.

When I was called back into the doctor's office, the nurse weighed me and commented on my shoes. 

"I love your shoes! I'm going to get a pair of those. I do baking on the side," she explained.

"I just like doughnuts," I returned as I stepped on the scale. Seeing the number that came up, I muttered, "That might have something to do with my weight."

She lead me to a room, took my blood pressure, and asked a few questions. Then she said, "Stacy will have our newest midwife, Alex with her. Is that okay?"

"Sure, the more the merrier," I said only slightly sarcastically. 

"Okay, Stacy will be in with him soon," she said as she departed.

"Wait! Him? Alex is a him? The midwife is a he? Did she just say him?" I resigned myself to having a guy look on while she did her thing down there.

I changed and hopped up on the table to await the fun.

After a brief knock on the door (side note: I never know what to do there. Are you supposed to say, "Come in?" I never do that. But that has literally never stopped a doctor from walking right in as soon as they knock. Hmmm . . .) Anyway, after a knock, Alex enters. Alex is a guy. Alex is the guy. Alex is the guy I walked around when I first entered the building. Alex is the cute young guy I walked around when I first entered the building. Because I am just super lucky like that. And Stacy is nowhere in sight. A nurse enters and stands to the side while this guy gets out the jack that will pry open my cervix. So it looks like all my planning in making an appointment with a female doctor paid off!

He asks, "What kind of birth control are you using?"

"I've been single for 11 years," I answer dryly. 

Judging by the look on his face, he wasn't sure whether to laugh or feel sorry for me, but he dropped his line of questioning.

"Do you have any questions for me?"

"Well, I'm not too thrilled with the fact that I can go 2-3 months without a period and then other times I get it after only 2 or 3 weeks. And I never used to get PMS, but now I get a raging headache and moodiness bordering on a multiple personality disorder. I assume this is normal because I'm at the fun-filled age of 50?"

"Yeah, that can happen," he stated and I thought to myself - Oh what does a 20 year old boy know about it?

Then he said, "Well, I won't torture you too much. You don't need a pap because it's recommended to do them every 5 years when you get to this age. I'll just do the pelvic exam."

"You do realize that if you have to put your hands up my hoo ha anyway, then it doesn't really matter if you stick a Q-tip up there as well, right? I mean, that really doesn't spare anyone any torture."

Uncomfortable silence.

Trying to make amends for my smart mouth, "Well, at least you're not drilling my teeth so it's okay."


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

When Squirrels Attack


You know how much I love creeping, crawling, flying, hopping, scurrying creatures, right? Feel free to read any/all of the following if you need a refresher.

THE WILDLIFE IS OUT TO GET ME

HOW NAPS ARE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

POISONOUS SPIDERS! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

HOW I STOPPED THE COCKROACH THAT NEARLY ATE MY FACE OFF

HOW A BUG NEARLY CAUSED A 5 CAR PILE-UP

20 WAYS FLORIDA WILL KILL YOU

THE REASON THERE'S A SPARKLY FROG ON THE LOOSE

FEVERS, FLAMETHROWERS, AND BAT ATTACKS

KILLER MOTH: THE SEQUEL (BATMOTH'S REVENGE)

YOU WON'T BELIEVE MY EXCUSE FOR AVOIDING EXERCISE THIS TIME

And  of course, Florida is the worst place to live if you have a hate/hate relationship with wildlife. Seriously, it's like living in Jurassic Park down here!

A couple days ago, I walked out to my car so I could go to work. I saw a squirrel under my van who was chattering away. As I got closer, I noticed a baby squirrel on my windshield. 


I cautiously approached the van. "Hey baby squirrel. Hop off!" I instructed him. "Go ahead. Jump off my car. Just jump," I helpfully suggested. The squirrel just lay there, squirming around a little. Meanwhile, mom squirrel climbed out from under my car and up into the tree where she started yelling at me.

I picked up my wiper blades, thinking maybe he was stuck under one. Nope.



What to do, what to do? I thought. He was pretty cute, but still I didn't want to touch him because 

*  I was afraid I'd squish him.

*  I was afraid mom squirrel might abandon baby if I touched him.

*  I was afraid mom squirrel would come chew my face off.

*  I was afraid I'd get bitten or scratched by him and then I'd get rabies and then my work would have to have a 5k run for me. The Michael Scott Freedom Middle School Orlando Dawn Meehan Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.



I stood there, kind of lost as to how to handle the situation. Maybe I should just call in to work and stay home. "Sorry, I can't come in today; there's a squirrel on my car." I could just picture the principal's face as I delivered that news.

I texted Brooklyn and Clay. There's a baby squirrel on my windshield. I don't know how to get him off! Help!

Clay answered. Use the windshield wipers.

I responded. Clayton!

I tapped the glass behind the squirrel, hoping to motivate him to hop on off my car and into the tree. He scooted forward a little. And mom squirrel, up in the tree, started throwing acorns and branches at me.

I texted the kids again. And now I'm being attacked by the mom squirrel!

I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to get the little guy off somehow so I opened my car door to search for a sweatshirt or something I could use to pick up the baby squirrel and relocate him. Great plan except I don't carry sweatshirts in my car on account of it being approximately 50,000 degrees every day!

As I contemplated my next move, my neighbor walked out to the parking lot. I explained the situation. 

"There's a baby squirrel on my car and he's too little to jump off and the mom is in the tree pelting me with acorns and I don't have a sweatshirt and I don't want rabies and I sure don't want anyone to have to do a 5k on account of me."

She looked around, and seeing a big stick lying on the ground, grabbed it. She held it up to the baby squirrel who clutched at it with its baby squirrel arms, then she carefully moved the squirrel-on-a-stick over to the tree. Baby squirrel climbed onto the tree, mom squirrel stopped bombing me with foliage, my quick-thinking neighbor walked away, and I drove to work.

I really think it's time for me to move.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Fire, Fire, Fire

The kids and I have been playing Monopoly a lot lately. Well, actually we've been playing Chicago-opoly which, as the name suggests, is a Chicago version of the classic game. As a kid I LOVED Monopoly, but I could never get anyone to play with me. That may be part of the reason I had kids - to have willing players at my disposal. Although my own kids haven't especially liked playing with me either. It may have something to do with me jumping up and shouting, "Yes! Ha! In your face! That's $950, now pay up!"

Lately though, Clay and Brooklyn have really gotten into Chicago-opoly so we've been playing most nights after dinner.

There's a card in this game that reads - Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicks over another lantern.


I told the kids, "You know we learned a song about Mrs. O'Leary's cow in grade school."

Of course they were super-excited. They gushed about what an interesting childhood I'd had and how they were jealous of the myriad things I've learned. Then they begged me to sing it for them. At least I'm pretty sure that's what they meant as they sat there rolling their eyes while saying, "Oh yay, Mom's searching for the song on Youtube. Lucky us.

"Hey now! Do other kids your age know this? I teach you stuff so you'll be smarter than the average bear!"

I was met with more blank stares, motivating me to skip over the Yogi Bear lesson which was formulating in my brain.

I found a video of the Mrs. O'Leary song and started singing along.

Five nights ago when we were all in bed,
Old Mrs. Leary left a lantern in the shed,
And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said,
"There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight."
FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!

"Mom, roll the dice!" my kids complained that I wasn't focused on the game.

I threw the dice across the board then continued my lesson. "So there was a huge fire in Chicago in 1871 that started in Mrs. O'Leary's barn. There was much speculation about how the fire actually started. The newspaper stated it was Mrs. O'Leary's cow that had kicked over the lantern, igniting the fire that went on to burn 3 square miles of the city, but in 1893 the reporter of that article admitted he'd made it up. Finally, in 1997 Mrs. O'Leary was exonerated. Do you know what exonerated means?"

"Wait! So the cow didn't even start the fire?" Brooklyn asked, appalled.

"Well no, probably not."

"Then that whole song is pointless!" she insisted.

"I'm going to forget that story in 2 minutes," Clay stated. "Oh wait, nope! It's already gone."

I try to impart important knowledge to my kids. Like when, after Clay and I watched the movie John Wick the other night, I told him that I knew Keanu Reeves when he was much younger. I went on to play Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for him. In related news, I'm not allowed to pick out the movie anymore.

But I try to teach my kids, and expose them to a variety of information that will undoubtedly come in handy one day. You know, like maybe when they're doing a trivia night at a local bar. And this is the abuse I get. Guess what we'll be singing on our 3 hour drive tomorrow. Oh yes. FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Drag Queens, Caterpillars, And Heath Ledger

As I said in my last blog post, I haven't applied makeup in weeks. Because why? I rarely leave my apartment these days, and I've just adopted a Who cares? attitude about the whole thing. But after the whole "cute guy at the gas station" extravaganza, I decided to put on makeup to go to the store in order to pick up a prescription. Because, you never know - maybe I'll meet the man of my dreams there, right? And then at least I'll be wearing makeup when I make a fool of myself in front of him. Because we all know darn well that's the only possible outcome when you put me near any attractive man.

Actually, it wasn't entirely the gas station incident that prompted me to don makeup for this outing. I'd been watching RuPaul's Drag Race because apparently my current goal in life is to exhaust every series ever made on Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. It floors me that these plain-looking guys can put on makeup and look like these gorgeous women. I thought - I have GOT to learn how to apply makeup better! I mean, I don't necessarily want to look like a drag queen, but you know, maybe I could look a little better than Hagrid.

So I put makeup on. My hand. I mostly put my makeup on my hand. Yep, I eyelined the heck out of my hand.


Don't ask. I'm pretty sure no drag queen applies their makeup like this. I'm pretty sure no human applies their makeup like this.

I finally got the eyeliner on my eyelids. I know better than to use liquid eyeliner. I'm a complete spaz with it. But this was magnetic eyeliner and I wanted to use my magnetic lashes so I gave it a go. And I mean, I had literally nothing else to do all day so I could take as long as I wanted to apply it.

Pro tip: After applying liquid eyeliner, wait for it to dry before blinking.


Or this will happen.



I tried to wipe it off, but this stuff stays on like Sharpie. So I grabbed a Q-tip and eye makeup remover and scrubbed it off. But then I was left with an obvious blank spot where my eye shadow had been removed. So I reapplied my eye shadow. Then I relined my eye. Then . . .

I did it a second time!



Remove the eye liner, apply the eye shadow FOR THE THIRD TIME, and reline my eyelid.

Fast forward. I get to Target, put on my mask, run in to pick up my prescription, grab some more coffee and yogurt while I'm there, and run out. It's all good. I haven't tripped or pushed my cart into anyone. I didn't run into any cute guys or students of mine. Woo hoo! I acted like a normal person! I'm feeling pretty good. I have prettyish eyes, my makeup is decent, I'm on top of the world!



As the cashier is ringing up my purchases, I see something out of the corner of my eye. I can't quite figure out what it is, but there is definitely something there in my periphery. I blink a few times and now I can see it even more. Oh no. No, no, noooo, please, please don't let it be my eyelash. My first instinct is to try to stick the eyelash down. I reach up but then remember - I can't touch my face! The 'rona! So I do some weird winking thing where I scrunch up my face and try to will the eyelash back into place by making demented faces. It doesn't work and now the cashier is thanking God for the plexiglass separating him from the crazy woman in line. Namely me.

I grab my bag and make a beeline to my car. After dousing my hands in sanitizer, I look in my rearview mirror to see what appears to be a baby caterpillar crawling down my cheek. Nice. I adjust the eyelash, aligning the magnets and it clicks back into place. I look in the mirror again to make sure all is well when I notice that although my eyes are once again fine, I have smeared lipstick, foundation, and sweat covering the lower half of my face. I look like the Joker.


So yeah. I'm back to my Why bother? theory of wearing makeup. In that I DON'T wear makeup. Or leave my home. Ever.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

It Just Fell Off. Really!

Although a tank of gas is lasting me a couple months these days, I had to fill up yesterday. In PC (pre-coronavirus) days, I would NEVER have left my house without doing my hair and applying full make-up. Now? I don't even remember how to put on make-up, and my hair? Well, I was mistaken for Hagrid last week.

Now I just don't seem to care. No make-up? No problem. My mask hides most of my face anyway. Pajama pants and a t-shirt with a bleach stain in public? Whatever. What's the point? Who am I trying to impress? I've clearly given up.

So I stop at the gas station, get out, start pumping gas, and notice a cute guy looking at me. Is he looking at me because I didn't put my mask on to pump gas? Is he trying to ascertain if I'm a woman or a man? (see: Hagrid hair) Maybe he's checking out my hot minivan. Why is he looking at me? I should've put on make-up. Maybe I haven't entirely given up yet. Maybe I just don't remember what it's like to interact with other humans, and therefore don't remember that it's nice to look presentable for said humans.

I fill my tank, go to hang up the pump, and the nozzle falls off. The nozzle separates from the hose and falls right off. IT. FALLS. OFF. Gasoline splashes from the hose and covers my flip-flop clad feet in the smelly liquid. The cute guy looks on in astonishment, and says, "Wow. Didn't know your own strength there, huh?"

I stand there in a puddle of gas for a second while my brain catches up to what just happened. I should tell someone. I need to tell the gas station people, I think. I grab my purse from my car and head toward the store. A few feet before I reach the door I remember my mask. I turn on my gassy foot and retreat to my car. The cute guy continues to look, mesmerized, no doubt, by my weird awkwardness, Hagrid hair, and the fact I can't even pump gas without looking like a monkey. I grab my mask and head back to the store.


"Hi, um yeah, I broke your pump. Or well, I didn't break it per se. But it's broken. The nozzle totally fell off. It's lying on the ground. You might want to um, I don't know, get it, or tape off that pump or something. I'm sorry. I don't know how that happened. It just fell off."

I felt like a toddler explaining to my parent, "I didn't break the vase. I don't know how it happened. It just fell off the table." The employee looked at me, eyebrow raised, like - Yeah, sure it did.

So, how's your week going?

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