Saturday, March 11, 2017

5 out of 17

As a public school teacher, I get many days off each year... Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving (plus two extra), Christmas (plus like 10 extra), MLK day, February break and April break and so many more... In addition to all of those set days off, I am also granted 15 sick days and 2 personal days. So, out of 176 school days, I can take 17 off and just work 159 days out of the entire year. "But Kristen," you ask, "Won't your pay be docked? How will you afford to live if you only work 159 days out of the year?!"  Oh silly person, you are clearly new to this blog.

Now I'm not saying I do take off 17 days a year...even I can admit that would be a bit ridiculous. But if I feel a slight warmth on my forehead or a tickle in the back of my throat, you can guarantee I'll take a day off to rest up. This is exactly what I did yesterday. I had been exhausted lately, and when I asked my students if they had noticed I'd been crankier lately, hands shot up into the air faster than if I had asked "Who hates homework?" I took that as a sign and excused myself for the day on Friday. Here is what I did instead:

7am coffee and space out time:



8am watched 7 episodes of Parks & Rec:



9:30am hungry from my busy day; leftover tikka masala:



 10am 3 hours of The Bachelor; I sort of regret this:



1pm put on a record and straighten up the house:



3pm back to the couch for Gladys snuggle time:



4pm finally left the house; devoured my burrito before I could take a pic:


5pm more Parks & Rec with a beverage:


So this is what my 9 to 5 looked like. How about you?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February Break

Two wonderful things happened to me last week: 1. My school was closed for February break 2. My friend, Mike, showed immense jealousy over the fact that I was on vacation and he was not.

Let's dive into number 1.
On Friday, February 17th, the glorious sound of the last bell of the day rang out for all to hear. Kids walked quickly and excitedly down the hall to get on their bus. A couple of them lingered to say goodbye to their beloved teachers. I, of course, immediately began my vacation song which goes something to the tune of Whitney Houston's "All At Once" but with lyrics like, "I cannot see you, I cannot hear you, I'm on vacaaaaaation." When the last child had left the building, I grabbed my bag and headed for the door without looking back.
Dylan and I had planned a road trip to Savannah, and after 8 hours of driving, an over-night stop in Virginia at my sister's, and 8 more hours of driving, we had arrived! Savannah was charming, sleepy, and rainy. In short, it was adorable but overpriced. We took a day trip to Tybee Island, and very possibly decided to move there. Wouldn't you?



After a few days of trolley tours and people watching in Forsyth Park, I became restless. It was clear that I needed more beach time for this to count as a vacation. So, we booked a hotel in Hilton Head and made a stop there on our way back north. I am going to say this with complete sincerity: I loved it there. I don't golf. I'm not rich. I hate seeing children when I'm "off the clock." And yet, despite all of these things, I felt like I found my legitimate home town when we parked the car at the Holiday Inn in Coligny Park, Hilton Head. Beach volleyball on a Thursday in February? Sure! Margaritas brought to your table pool side? Why not! If I died and went to heaven, it would have the scenery of Hilton Head, with Tina Fey as my bestie,  I'd constantly be slow nodding and drawling, "I told you so," spiced in between "Sure, you can top off my drink," and everyone would tell me how good the Eagles look for next season. This vacation, was pretty close to all that.




Now on to number 2.
Mike is a dear old friend. I have thought of him fondly for years now. But this past week, he really solidified his spot in my top 10. I know all of you are now wondering how you too can be in my good graces. It's really not hard. Show a near constant jealousy for my life and a somewhat frank hatred for your own and you too can make your way up the rankings. As I posted pictures of a warm, sunny beach, Mike would respond with comments lamenting the fact that I was on a vacation while he was stuck working all week. At one point, he actually asked me if I was traveling for work or for fun. Great question, Mike. While I was traveling for the enjoyment of it, I will remind Mike as well as the rest of you, that I was in fact getting paid to go on that trip. My paycheck next week will be the same as it always is with no time deducted. I didn't have to call out sick, fake some illness, or pretend to have a family emergency. No, this time off was given to me by the great state of Maine just for choosing my career wisely. So, as I hopped up and down the coast, sipping the local Georgian beers and tanning my shoulders, I relished in the fact that I was still making the big bucks while the rest of you chumps, Mike most especially, wasted your youth in an office.

Cheers!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017

Loyal Reader,

I apologize for my lack of consistency in updating you on the wonders of my life. Years ago, when I was living and teaching in San Francisco, it was easy to update this blog over my summer break from teaching middle school. I seemed to have plenty of time off, and the occasional foggy day in SF allowed me to spend my time updating you on each new facet of my life. I told you about my bike rides through the city, the constant lounging in parks, and the viewing of Victorian homes. You saw me enjoy more than one sunny afternoon in a beer garden surrounded by teacher friends. Life was good back then. My nostalgia for those days is still strong.

Before my first year of teaching, I had been a behavior therapist (or glorified teacher's aide), and was paid by the hour. A sick day (for me or for the student I worked with) meant no compensation. A school holiday was nothing to rejoice about as my paycheck would be smaller as a result. It was truly medieval. When I finally finished my Master's program, earned my teaching certificate, and began teaching, I wondered briefly if my lifestyle would change at all now that my position had changed. Seeing my salary for the first time was the biggest shock as I realized my income had literally doubled in the last year. I remember my dad telling me to save 10% of my paycheck, and I told him I had been steadily saving 33% of it. Yes, I worked part-time at a barre studio, coached sports, and took on every paid stipend position at the school, but still, I was rich.

I remember feeling completely in awe at the fact that even with this tremendous increase in compensation that I would have three full months off each year. I immediately thought, "They will pay me this summer to NOT work. I will actually be paid to take the summer OFF from work. What is this life?" The summers really made it all worth it to me, but even during the school year, I experienced fantastic perks that my silly corporate friends could never dream of. The school where I worked ended at 1:50pm. Yes, 1:50. I would get to the bar so early, breakfast was just ending and happy hour wasn't even on the horizon yet. Some days, I would get off of work, go to a fitness class, come home and shower, and THEN go to happy hour. Can you even imagine?

Since those early years a lot has changed. Of course, we've moved to Maine. School now ends at 2:50 (the audacity!) and most importantly, I've gotten used to the lifestyle. I've had waves of gratitude for my life but have also taken many of these elements for granted. I've gotten used to the huge bi-weekly paycheck; I automatically expect all national holidays off from work; June rolls around and I complain if the last day of school is too far into the summer. I have briefly lost sight of just how fortunate I am and just how lucky I am to live a life so superior to your own. Don't worry... I have once again come to the grand realization that the life I have curated for myself is one of the best and deserves to be understood and praised by all.

So, take this as your fair warning that the boastful posts you love and have missed so much will now be coming to you on a very regular basis. I will once again keep you updated on my afternoon strolls that start and end before you begin packing up for the day. I'll let you know how I spend my hours from 3-6pm while you're worrying about how much traffic you'll hit on your way home. I'll post pictures of my many days off from work (176 working days minus 15 sick days a year...) and I apologize in advance if you soon regret all of the decisions you've made in your life to get you to where you are (or are not) now. I'm sure you'll appreciate it all. Stay tuned.

Kristen

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Classic Avoidance Procedures

All school year I work with incredibly bright, caring, and respectful 6th graders. They are truly the cream of the crop. By mid-October, we have a true understanding of each other. I understand not to give them homework over the weekend because it simply won't get done, and they understand not to talk to me each morning until I finish my cup of coffee. I understand that I need to repeat directions half a dozen times in order to have hopes that the assignment will be done correctly, and they understand not to show me their wiggly, loose teeth or any signs of blood. I understand that all learning from 5th grade vanishes from their heads over the summer and we're basically starting from scratch, and they understand that I need to be holding my stress ball when they tell me they didn't complete the homework because of a baseball game the night before. This mutual understanding takes hard work and patience, but it's certainly worth it to have a successful school year. As a result, I enjoy my job and look forward to waking up each school day and seeing these youngsters' eager faces.

The same is not true of random children I see on the street. No, I don't look forward to seeing a baby in a stroller that is taking up 2/3 of the sidewalk. I don't enjoy reading in a park that is infested with 8 year olds playing within inches of my body. Nothing can be worse than hearing a strange child whine at their parent...and then hear the parent give in to the child's demands. Living on the seacoast, a prime touristy spot in the summer, I am surrounded by the younger generation on a daily basis. I've seen fingers shoved so far up a nose that you'd think surgery would be required to dislodge the digits. I've seen toddlers playing on iphones at a nice restaurant, while the parents sit across from each other, depressed, speechless, and distracted. I've heard children crying because they didn't want to go in the water, then crying because the water was too cold, then crying when it was time to come out of the water. It's July, and by now I've surpassed my limit on time I can spend with people under 18.

Because of this bombardment of young people, and worse--their parents, I've developed several strategies to cope over the summer months. First, when I enter a restaurant, I now directly tell the host or hostess that I cannot sit near a family. If I am placed near a family anyway, I look slowly at the family, make eye contact with the children, then look back at the host and ask for a new table. If I am sitting in a park and a family approaches, opens their blanket, and settles near me, I sigh deeply, roll my eyes, and move 20 feet to the left. If I need to take public transportation and I enter a subway filled with school aged kids headed downtown for the afternoon, I silently turn around and get right off the train. I would rather wait 20 minutes for the next subway than take one filled with teenagers singing, "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" off-pitch for the entire 15 minute ride. These precautions are necessary. I am storing up my patience, gathering more each day and saving it for September. At that time, I'll need to smile and say, "Sure you can go back to your locker in the middle of class," and "I would love to attend another meeting about this," or "We took notes on this yesterday, remember?" Until then, I'll bide my time in a child-free zone, blocking out all sounds of high-pitched voices trying to infiltrate my peace.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer 2016

Loyal Readers,

I'm BAAAAAAACK.

September through May is a tough time for all of us. It's rough for me because I'm hard at work, molding young minds and thus shaping the future of our country. It's probably even more difficult for you though, because you have to live these nine months every year without an update to this life affirming blog. Well, the wait is over. I'm here to rescue you from the very boredom that is your working life. And, unlike with me each summer, your work life will never really end or even pause until you turn 65 or die--whichever comes first.

So now that the school year has officially come to a close, I have begun my new summertime routine, which is alternating drinking wine outside with binge watching mindless TV.

Here are the details on both:

My backyard seemed quite empty the first day of summer break, so I decided I needed to fix that while sticking to my budget. Since I boycott Walmart (saw too many butt cracks last time I ventured in), I went to Ocean State Job Lot, which seems to be a hell specific to New England. It's filled with meth head employees who regret taking on a part time job to feed their habit. I walked in, not knowing what exactly I was looking for, but I knew I'd recognize it the moment I saw it. And indeed I did. Not even 10 feet into the store, and already my eyes lit up, my mouth watered, and my entire body shook with anticipation. There it was in all its glory--an inflatable swimming pool size 10 feet by 6 feet. I walked over to the colorful box and looked for age restrictions such as "For 5-10 year olds." Much to my delight, there was no age limit, but there was a picture of several children in the pool at the same time. This means the pool would be large enough for multiple people to enjoy the pool party at once. I knew Dylan would be thrilled. (More realistically, I knew I had to get home and inflate it before he would have the chance to tell me to return it.) I checked the price, and immediately made the best $20 purchase of my life. Even better, since I am getting paid my regular teacher salary over the summer, I actually got paid to shop at the devil's store. Now, my backyard is filled with joy. Each day, I pour myself a glass of white wine, grab a book, and head out to bask in the sun in my luxurious swimming pool that the neighbors certainly envy.





The details on my binge TV watching are less thrilling and much more pathetic. I recently came across a youtube channel of TV bloopers and started watching all of the bloopers for each season of The Office. I couldn't stop watching, even after I quietly judged myself, and Dylan joined in by loudly judging me. I then began to re-watch the entire Office series (on season 3 now), and I realized I truly hate Jim. I think he's a creepy stalker. More importantly, one day while I was watching these people move about their cubicles and commiserate over their meaningless jobs, I thought of you, reader, and what your life must be like. Of course, I can't relate, but I did try to put myself in your sensible, appropriate shoes, and it was terrible to imagine. You wake up every morning, drive to the same fluorescent-light filled room, make small talk near the coffee maker, and dread every incoming email. I'm sorry that is your life. I'm truly glad it's not mine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Emails

One of the best parts of summer vacation is that I often receive very touching, reflective emails from students. It seems that as soon as a week or two goes by after school gets out, they start to go through withdrawals as they realize just how valuable I am in their lives. Since school is no longer in session, I have the luxury of reading these emails in the privacy of my own home, where I do not actually have to see these tiny human faces for another two months. I can read their words, remember them fondly, and then turn back to Netflix to see who killed Laura Palmer.

Email #1
I hope you're having a great summer so far!
I just wanted to thank you again for being the most amazing teacher I've ever had. I've had so many great teachers in the past but you helped me through so much more than just ELA. I will definitely visit you at least 3 times a week next year!
I am being very mature and making sure to make smart decisions. I still plan to go to university of Oregon the first year I get out of high school so I can become a SPED teacher. Then I would like to move back to Maine so I can apply to work at Marshwood.

Email #2
Hi. Thank you for being the teacher that understood everything that happened to anyone and you always knew how to react to them. I'm going to miss having a teacher like you next year! I hope that your advisory and classes are amazing, hopefully you won't have any kids who get sick often so they get you sick too!
I am so happy I had you as my ELA teacher you make learning ELA a lot easier because first I didn't like writing and then when we wrote the essays I started liking to write more and more. Now when I'm bored I either read a book or I write about something.
Thank you for inspiring me to do my best no matter where I go, to always be strong, and always be willing to change. I will remember the life lessons for a very long time.
Thank you for being the funny, amazing, caring, smart, great teacher you have been.
Hope your summer is great!


These students mention that I've taught them more than just language arts, and they couldn't be more right. Throughout the year, I have taught them and their classmates several life lessons.

Here's a bit of a recap of these wonderful and life-altering lessons:

1. Always wear deodorant. If you want to have friends and have people to sit with at lunch, you must wear deodorant every day. If you don't know what this is, it's time to have a talk with your parents.

2. Brush your teeth twice a day. Nobody wants to talk with you if you smell.

3. No dating until you're 18 years old. This is one of my most important rules. The main reason why people date is to see what type of person they are compatible with so they know to marry the right person. If you're not thinking about marriage at the age of 11, then there's really no reason to date. Also, if you start dating people in 6th grade, you will literally run out of people to date by the time you're in high school. Everyone will be asking people to prom, and you'll be like, "I have no one left!" At that rate, you will end up living in your parents' basement, with a gut, playing video games alone.

4. No caffeine or energy drinks. Wake yourself up naturally using lemon water or doing some backbends. You're too young to have an addiction to coffee anyway. Give it 10 years.

5. I'm not your mom. We had to learn this rule the hard way. "Do you have a pencil I can borrow?" "Are there any more tissues?" "I don't know where I put my paper." "I need a fork." The answer to all of these issues is that--thank god--I am not a parent. If I were somehow a parent and hadn't thrown my kid into a trashcan, then yes, I'm sure I would drive them right over to Staples for some new school supplies. I would care about them having the right utensils to eat their food, and I'm sure every little issue in their life would just consume me. But... as I've trained my students to say on command, "You're not our mom."

6. It's okay to change. You can change. Other people can change. Your friends will change and if they change in a good way, more power to them. If they change in a bad way, then you have a decision to make. Those who end up stuck in a rut, depressed and hopeless at age 30, are the ones who are afraid to take a risk, be challenged, or make any sort of move at all. Change your life if it's not working for you. Live in a way that makes you happy, even if it means your definition of this life alters each year. This rule is a real gem. You're welcome.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Teacher Memes



During the school year:











       


                                                                                                                                                                   


During the summer:



  

















Sunday, July 12, 2015

Coloring Between the Lines

I am 30 years old, which seems ridiculous. I am, of course, wise beyond my years, incredibly mature, and I definitely understand the meaning of life. Having accomplished greatness in my first 30 years, I am now taking some much needed time off from solving the world's problems. For the foreseeable future, I'm focusing on spending my time in other important, necessary ways. Namely, I am getting pretty heavy into coloring books.




That's right. I pop open a bottle of wine, put on a Carole King record, and get started on the hardest space out session I've had since my last Phish concert.  And why not? I've got nothing to do and nowhere to be for another six weeks. And as for you year-rounders complaining that it's Sunday night, this is a great way to wind down before your work week starts again tomorrow morning. Suckers.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It's Saturday for Everyone!

Did you spend your day off wisely? I sure hope so! Remember, you only get 2 a week! I vaguely remember what that's like--kind of miserable with a touch of false hopefulness, right? Like it's Thursday at 3pm and you can just taste the weekend.  "One more day!" you think to yourself with a forced smile. Then, Friday rolls along and someone at the office says, "T.G.I.F" and you pause to see if they're being sarcastic or ironic. But nope, they mean it full heartedly. They honestly mean it to the core of their being--Thank GOD It's Friday. They're not sure they'd be able to take one more day of staring at their coworkers through cubicle glass, scanning emails from their under-qualified supervisors, and trying to find which string cheese is theirs in the packed office refrigerator.

When Friday afternoon finally arrives, and computers are being shut down and bags are being packed up, there's a sense of camaraderie among you all. "We made it!" Your eyes seem to say to each other. Someone inevitably high fives you on your walk out the door, and as you turn your car engine on, the radio starts playing, "Everybody's Working For the Weekend." You start singing along, and it's not until about 30 seconds into the song you realize just how sad your situation is, am I right?

Soooo yeah, hope you spent your Saturday wisely. I know I sure did!






Friday, July 10, 2015

Kittery

Loyal Reader,

From following my life through writing, you learned two years ago that I moved to Kittery, Maine. What you may not realize, however, is the untapped potential this particular seaside town flaunts on a daily basis. It's quaint without being rural, it's active without being aggressive, and its residents are humbly adorable.

There is a small beach in Kittery named S____ Beach. (Name has been withheld so that my millions of readers don't crowd the shore.) It's open to the public, but only Kittery residents can park their cars, so only us chosen ones roam the beach on any particular day.

If you would like an invitation to this paradise, mail me $100 cash and a kitten, and I'll see what I can do.