Note to Self – KISS

I left the house the other morning at a quarter to six as usual. It was dark and cold. I drove to the barn to toss some hay to the goats and feed the rabbit before heading to school. As I left the barn I noticed that one of my headlights was out. No problem, I could do this! Several months ago I had replaced a tail light and had, being both frugal and relatively flush, bought the two pack of light bulbs figuring if one light had gone out the other would likely go out before long.

So I retrieved the extra light from the glove compartment and popped open the hood. It was too dark to see much so I flipped on my flashlight app and propped my phone against part of the engine. I unplugged the old bulb and pried off the rubber gasket. The bulb was secured by a metal clip that I had to open in order to remove it. It wouldn’t open. I pinched and pulled and squeezed and wiggled. It wouldn’t open.

There had to be a trick. I grabbed the owner’s manual from the glove compartment and found the page of instructions on replacing headlights. I scanned the directions and confirmed that I was doing the right thing and returned to the front of the car. My phone had slipped sideways on the engine block and was pointed up at the sky as if it was rolling its eyes towards the heavens and wondering when we would be on the road.

I squeezed and wiggled and felt the skin on my thumb split open, but the clip didn’t budge. It was getting late and my ‘quick’ fix was turning out to be neither quick, nor a fix! Blood dropped onto the bulb but even this sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I gave up. I need the half hour I have at school before the students arrive and this “repair” had already halved it. I would have to chance a ticket. I pushed the gasket back over the bulb and plugged it back in. The light came on.

Somehow I had forgotten the first rule of electric and electronic parts. Unplug it and plug it back in. Turn it off and restart it. Keep it simple stupid.

I retrieved my cell phone, closed the hood, and with frozen fingers and a throbbing thumb climbed into the car and drove to school, both headlights lighting the way.

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No Miracle Worker

As a girl I read Helen Keller’s story. I was horrified by it on some level – the blind, deaf and mute child shut off from all real contact with her world, living an almost feral existence – but so inspired by Anne Sullivan. Not inspired to follow in her footsteps mind you – I never even considered it. That was too far above my abilities. I just thought she was the most amazing woman I’d ever read about. She had such patience and insight.

As a teacher I still don’t aspire to be Anne Sullivan which is a good thing because I just can’t reach students the way she reached Helen. I do try to inspire students to be intrigued and amazed by science and the world around them – that’s where my passion lies, but I struggle with making a difference in the lives of the kids who really need someone to do that.

Several weeks ago I told you about reaching out to one of my troubled students – a young lady who affected an “I don’t care” attitude, who had a short fuse and a rough manner, who put her friends ahead of everything and who was frequently led astray (or led others astray).  She confessed that reading was hard for her and I told her she could stay after school on tutoring days and bring any of her home work to my room and I’d go through it with her. It didn’t have to be science.

She hasn’t come.  She’s been in more trouble since then and was even suspended for a few days.  She’s behind in my class and has over due assignments.  She’s been kicked off choir and  was on the bench (outside the office) again this past week for fighting (someone dissed a friend of hers).

I keep trying. I let her know I missed her when she’s out of school (for whatever reason). I tell her I care about her and want her to make good life decisions (but her dad’s in prison and her brother has been in trouble as well). I have Pretty Lady like fantasies of taking her shopping and bonding over a pedicure and taking her on a tour of a college campus that end up with her seeing the light and turning her life around.  And I want to be there when she graduates high school.

We’ve been working on a big (bigger than I thought it would be) project on El Nino in my 8th grade classes – the kids have been researching El Nino’s impact on different areas (economics, weather, environment, and so forth) and creating a poster showing both global impacts and impacts here in the Midwest. It’s been a stretch for many of them – a lot of research, writing summaries, teasing out the impacts for our area which are frequently different from the global impacts (less snow, warmer temperatures for us), citing sources and adding illustrations. Several of the students have floundered and stumbled on one aspect or another.

Including this student. She missed several days of school, lost her work, forgot her iPad, spent time socializing rather than working. But on Friday she came to class, asked me to help her find some new articles (lost the other ones she’d been working on), and told me she was back on her ADD medicine. She thanked me for printing articles and sat down and wrote a summary of them. We work on various “Lifelines” at our school and manners was one of this month’s lifelines so I quickly wrote up a ticket for her (it goes in a bucket for a drawing) and passed it to her at the end of class. “Manners!” she said.  “If I win, I’ll die laughing!” “You won’t be the only one.” I said. “But go ahead – show them!” She grinned at me. “I will.” she said.

Do I think she’ll make only good choices from now on? No. She has a lot going against her. But she also has several teachers and counselors pulling for her and we won’t give up easily.

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Quick Update

It’s been difficult to find time to research all the health care options.  The school insurance premium is going down to $132.10 per pay period but the deductible will be $3,000 per person or $6,000 per family (up from $600 per person and $1200 per family).  In a meeting about the new insurance options they recommended we take the savings from the lower premium and put it into a bank account to pay for the deductible.  However even if I did that (and I’m afraid that little extra money in the paycheck is much more likely to be spent on existing medical bills, utility costs, gas, food, textbook fees etc.) the amount I could save ($1,248) would not come close to covering the new deductible.

So I went shopping on the exchange and quickly found out that due to my below poverty line income it was recommended that I apply for Medicare. I never thought I’d be applying for public assistance while working full time; that just seems wrong.  It is not easy to compare the deductibles and what the plans (school vs Medicare) cover but the cost for the latter appears to be significantly smaller. So I wended my way through the application over the course of the weekend (had to get my college daughter’s information for her work-study job) and submitted it today.  They will let me know in approximately 6-8 weeks and in the meantime on Monday I’ll be switched to the lower premium, higher deductible plan. It doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2016 so I should know before then.

So that’s out of the way, and out of my hands.  In the meantime I’m continuing to try to talk to my insurance company about the dental bill in hopes of bring it (now just under $1,400 with the latest charges) down a bit. I’ve cancelled all scheduled dentist appointments for the time being.  I’m also awaiting a bill from my recent visit to the emergency room – just a minor thing but something I couldn’t deal with myself.  I had a nosebleed after school one day that lasted an hour.  I finally got it stopped but it started again in the evening and gushed for 4 hours (72 drops per minute – I counted).  My blood pressure was inexplicably high as well (I had been taking my medicine nightly with good results up to that point).  The ER doctor cauterized the broken vein and sent me on my way. I don’t know what that will cost. Our only flexible expense at this point is food so we are trying hard to limit spending in that area.

On the home front we had a nice day-long rain that refilled our cistern at least partially so we restarted the pump and have running water again.  We don’t use it for drinking or cooking but it seems fine (once I add bleach to the cistern) for washing and flushing. It’s nice not to have to haul 20 or so gallons of water every other day.  We are looking at a mild start to November which is good as we haven’t refilled our propane tank (used for heating and cooking) and it also means the goats can continue to graze (along with some hay and grain).  We need to get some more hay in and enough straw for bedding for the winter, especially with babies on the way!

I finally finished laying the laminate floor in the large ex-bathroom (which required a fair amount of replacing of the sub-floor and insulation) and just need to do the finishing touches (strips around the edges, wall repair, touch up paint) to complete the conversion from bath to bedroom. It will be nice to have my son out of the living room as it will give him some privacy and the ability to close his door and keep animals away. This, plus some air filtering, should help with his allergies next spring.

My oldest daughter turns 18 this week! We are filling a reusable tote bag that says “Believe in your Selfie” with cookies, cough drops, sharpie highlighters, cozy socks, chicken soup and other things she can use in the dorm as winter and finals approach.  She is doing well in college and I’m very proud of her.  My middle daughter has been very involved in the high school drama production (behind the scenes) and we are in the midst of performances.  This means a lot of extra driving around and late nights for both of us, so while I’m happy that she’s involved I’m also looking forward to closing night! The HS drama department doesn’t do things half-way and the kids who are a part of it end up putting in literally hundreds of hours over the course of their high school career.

At school we are in the midst of planning the first science fair in years and coaching for Academic Bowl has begun. We are also trying to get the science and math club off the ground.  We finally have our classroom pet – a leopard gecko named Atom – who has been a big hit with my students.  Kids from other classes stop in to see him as well.  It’s been a bridge of sorts with some students – amazing to see the ‘tough’ kids get all quiet and careful when they are sitting on the floor letting the gecko run across their hands and up their arms after school.  And since they only get to handle or feed the gecko if they are up to date on their work I’ve had a few late assignments turned in as well!

Other aspects of teaching continue to drag me down – all the data collection and analysis, prepping for tests, the cookie-cutter approach (we all have to have to use the same lesson plan template even though music class, math and science all have different approaches to teaching our subjects), and the low pay.  I’ve started looking for positions in my old business – environmental planning & permitting – and expect to send out resumes to get a feel for whether I’m still a viable candidate having been out of the field for some years now.  I can’t make a living as a public school teacher.

And now a heart-felt thanks to everyone who supports us in words of encouragement, sharing the blog, purchasing through the link (for which we get a small commission at the end of the month), buying things on our wish list and sending contributions.  You helped fill our pantry so that I can allocate more money towards the dentist bill! We appreciate your kindness and are deeply grateful.  Please know that you make a real difference in our lives and it is so nice to feel we are not in this alone!

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