Share Your World for April Fool’s Day

Melanie hosts a weekly feature called Share Your World. Today’s is a little whacky because it’s April Fool’s Day!

Rhetorical Questions, but feel free to answer if you’d like:
Why is it called “beauty sleep” when one wakes up looking like a troll??
That’s why we have bad hair days!

Why do they sterilize needles for lethal injections?

Why do most cars have speedometers that go up to at least 130 when you legally can’t go that fast on any road?
I’ve often wondered this myself.

Did they purposely make dyslexia hard to spell?

(Rather naughty): If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?
Ha ha!

Odd but a bit philosophical or personal:
What are some things that are okay to do occasionally but definitely not okay to do every day?
1. Overindulge in a favorite confection – whether it is ice cream, chocolate cookies, pie, cake, doughnuts, etc.
2. Sunbathe
3. Spend the entire day reading
What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn?
When I was in junior high and I got my period, sometimes there would be a blood stain on the back of my skirt. I couldn’t go home, so I was stuck wearing that skirt for the rest of the school day!

In your opinion, what’s the best type of cheese?
That’s a hard one! Being a cheesehead (from Wisconsin), I like all kinds of cheese. But the one I eat every single day is a Light Babybel.
light babybels.png

What are some fun ways to answer everyday questions like “how’s it going” or “what do you do”?
If someone says, “Good morning” I sometimes say (if I’m grumpy or haven’t had enough sleep), “What’s good about it?”

For “what do you do” I have said, “I do a lot of things – which ones do you want me to tell you?” or “I do what is good for me and those I care about.” Sometimes I say, “Whatever I want – I’m retired!”

I’ve seen a great quote about teachers, which lists all the things teachers actually do all day. I can’t remember it but I have first hand experience with what teachers in fact do: I inspire kids, I write notes to students, I encourage children to do their best, I call parents, I turn kids on to books, I differentiate my instruction, I go to workshops and take classes, I collaborate with other teachers, I work 70 hours a week, etc. The list goes on and on!
what teachers do

Have you ever sent a text message to the wrong person? Details please.
Yes – well, actually I have received them. One of my son’s friends occasionally will text something really insulting, generally with expletives, and when I text back to him with some appropriately insulting response, he writes back, “Oh, sorry – I didn’t mean to send you that!” I forgive him because he has terrible eyesight.

If you could make a rule for a day, and everyone had to follow it, what would it be?
To be kind to everyone – even you, Mr. Trump!
I wish this rule could be followed every day!

You are about to get in a fight, what song comes on your mind soundtrack?
“We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles

Share a joke, if you know a good one!
I can’t think of any good jokes right now, but I like this line from a barbershop song: “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”

CFFC: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Busy or People Working.”

Every year, the last weekend in April (this weekend!), our church has a huge rummage sale, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We always need a lot of volunteers.
STAS13-IMAG0363.jpgThe sale takes over nearly every room in the church. We have a clothing room (above), housewares (below – the biggest department), Housewares, always a busy, popular, antiques, jewelry, toys, baked goods, books/CDs/DVDs, and outside there is a furniture tent and hot food (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.).20160421_111420Our church also does mission work. One of our missions is feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless. Des Plaines has a local PADS shelter on Fridays at a nearby church, where homeless adults get a hot meal for dinner, breakfast, sack lunches, and a place to sleep for the night. Different churches sign up for the Fridays they prefer and get volunteers from their church to work the shifts and make or bring food.  Some people work in the kitchen, preparing for dinner…20150227_190349
and then serve the food to the guests.
In the summer, we have at least one church service outside, with special invited musicians and ice cream afterward! This is the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Ensemble.20150705_095043.jpgEmergency workers are important in any community.  The American Red Cross collects supplies for people in disaster areas.IMAG0367-RedCrosshelpTeaching is a lot of work, even during special events when we look like we’re having fun (and sometimes we are)! Here’s a teacher holding up the flag of her alma mater during an annual College Day rally.
Sandy Rywelski holds up WIU flag next to her class.
The music teacher works hard – and so do the kids – with the different age groups to put on an annual show for the different grade levels. Here is the 1st-2nd grade music show.
20150415_134623.jpgA student helps out on the last day of school by cleaning the chalkboards.269
For children, school is their workplace and for very young children, play is their work; it’s how they learn. These kindergartners love building things with blocks.
And in December, everyone works hard on holiday projects. Here, a teacher’s assistant helps kindergartners make gingerbread houses.
Sometimes, people work to provide entertainment for others, either as volunteers or for tips, such as at a summer concert in the park.
While kids are getting their balloons, the band plays.
People with special talents perform for tourists for tips, such as this young man in Tallinn, Estonia.
Waiters in Japanese restaurants “perform” for diners, cooking their food right in front of them.
IMAG1924.jpgSome of the hardest working people work on cruise ships, in kitchens…20170324_103302or as stewards, such as this one trying to hold a tray of hot soup steady for the tourists on the windy deck of a ship in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.The steward holds on tight to the tray of soup.
Some athletes and actors make millions entertaining the public. They might even get a trophy, such as when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016!20161103_001137.jpg

Go Cubs Go! video






June 10, 2015

X is for … ?
I looked in a dictionary but found nothing much relevant – what can I say about xylophones or xanthochroids that has anything to do with my teaching career? There are words with x in the middle, like Mexico, or boxes. The symbol for multiplication is often an x. But I don’t have much to say about that either, except as a segue to math…
But I thought, I need to think outside the box. How else is x used?
In our tech-based world, where much of our communication is reduced to abbreviations and acronyms, there are words like Xmas (actually the X here is a symbol representing “Christos” in Greek. When we see this word, we usually say “Christmas” but sometimes we do say “Xmas.”); Xlnt meaning “excellent” and Xtra meaning “extra.”
Students may take an Xam and do an Xlnt job on it, and perhaps they will earn Xtra credit for solving a particularly challenging problem.
Then I came across another meaning for “ex” – former, as in “ex-husband.” So I started thinking how that will apply to me in three days:
As of 2:00 pm on June 12,
My place of employment will become my ex-school –
Teaching will be my ex-career –
I will have ex-students,
ex-supervisors, ex-administrators
ex-work schedule,
ex-lunch duty – which makes me Xtra happy!!
I will miss many of these ex’s, while others I will gladly give up.
It will be Xlnt to have–
ex-lesson plans
ex-alarm at 5:30 am
ex-exhaustion at the end of the day
ex-principals who screwed me in some way!
ex-coworkers who were gossipy and vindictive –
It’ll all ex-gossip to me in three days!
I will be Xcited to welcome back into my life former ex’s:
Ex-free time will be free time anew!
To write, volunteer or try something new!
Ex-relaxation – take it at any time!
Meditating and having breakfast on the deck will be fine.
Ex-social time – have fun and enjoy!
The possibilities are endless when I’m no longer employed!
And this is my ode to my ex-workday world.


June 8, 2015

V is for Vacation, a teacher’s favorite word! I admit that having summers off was an closedforsummer_colorincentive for me to go into teaching. However, teaching is way too challenging and exhausting for that to be the appeal for long!

Teachers look forward to their vacations as much as their students do. Most schools in the U.S. have three vacation periods a year:  2 weeks for the holidays, 1 week in early spring, and 2 months in summer. Each one of these vacations is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, but summer represents the transition from the old to the new. By this time each year, everyone at school is anticipating the start of vacation. Kids are antsier than normal and teachers tend to have a more relaxed attitude too.

What exactly do we spend our summer vacations doing? Often students are asked to write “What I did on my summer vacation” paragraphs when they first go back to school in the fall. If I as a teacher were writing that, what would I say?

I'm on vacationIn the early years of teaching, we often spend our summers taking classes, perhaps working toward a graduate degree. In my case, I took classes required for ESL and bilingual teaching certification. The first one I took was a survey course, and it was held in Oaxaca, Mexico – a nice way to combine work and pleasure!

Some teachers will teach summer school or tutor students for part of the summer. Some get other part-time jobs to supplement their income. When my husband was teaching at a Chicago high school, these jobs helped boost his “strike fund” – extra money put aside in case there was a strike and thus a period of not being paid.

Some teachers will just stay home and relax, catch up on sleep and do home-based projects that they never could get to during the school year. Maybe do some gardening, painting, cleaning out closets, whatever.

Of course, the vacations I most look forward to were those during which I got to travel!

Here are the trips I took during my vacation periods:
March 2001 (spring break) – Cuba with my mother
DSCN7981Every summer – our cottage in Northern Wisconsin
July 2003 – Oaxaca, Mexico with others taking a graduate course required for ESL/bilingual education
July-Aug. 2004 – 5 weeks study abroad & homestay in Costa Rica, with my son (took Spanish and a Costa Rican culture course).
June, 2005 (5 days) – Arizona for high school reunion, (where my husband met my two Cathedralbest friends from high school), and visit to my aunt & uncle in Mansurs' house in Prescott - 2005 scrapbookPrescott
June 2006 (2 weeks) – another high school reunion and sightseeing in Arizona, followed by a week in Seattle, WA where we had a family reunion of sorts with my husband’s family
Aug. 2007 (5 days) – San Francisco, with my husband, sister & brother-in-law, for an aunt’s memorial
July 2008 – (12 days) Peru – (with a tour company) see elsewhere in this blog for my 978complete journal of that trip.
July 2009 – (10 days) Hawaii, to visit my husband’s sister & Raw00107tour Oahu with a short hop to Maui
July 2010 (4 1/2 weeks) Spain – (study abroad) see elsewhere in this blog for my complete journal of that trip.
DSCN4007June-July 2012 – (road trip) ancestors tour to Ohio and Indiana, visit

Katy standing behind one of the guitars

Springfield, IL
June-July 2013 – road trip to Texas to visit 506a high school  friend, also visited Memphis, TN.
Late March 2014 (1 week) – road trip to South Carolina, Hilton Head, and Savannah, GA. DSCN8635Thus I’ve managed to take some kind of trip almost every year during my teaching career! I plan to continue traveling as often as possible during retirement, but it could be at any time of year – stay tuned!

rainbow & airplaneThis summer will seem like any other summer, except that we have sold our cottage, so next weekend is our last trip up there.  I don’t think I’ll feel “retired” until school starts again in August and I won’t be going back!

For me, the summer of 2015 marks the end of an era.


G is for…gossip: The School Office

May 15, 2015: G is for gossip

When I conceived of doing this ABC tribute to teaching, I had vowed to keep it generally light and positive. However, there is a nastier side to this profession that cannot be overlooked and it is one of the factors that contributed to my decision to leave. Many people are basically competitive, in spite of being encouraged and mandated to be collaborative to do what’s best for the students.  And the pressures of teaching lead to more than just food binges.  I have learned that the principal and assistant principal (if there is one) usually set the tone in their school. If cliquishness is encouraged, there will be cliques. If a principal is a dictator, she can destroy the unity of a formerly cohesive staff. On the other hand, if cooperation and team spirit are encouraged and the principal is open minded, that will be the prevailing atmosphere at the school.  You are lucky if you get to work under one of these latter administrators for any length of time.

Administrators are under pressure also, especially in today’s culture of standardized testing for accountability and staff evaluation. Perhaps I will go into this more in a future post.

However, today is G day. To illustrate the nastiness of cliques and gossip, I am posting here a short story I wrote a few years ago, called “The School Office.” This story is almost non-fiction. I added and combined a few things and changed all the names in order to write a fictional narrative that is, however, an accurate, searing portrait of what some school offices are like today.

(copyright 2013)

The school office is a busy place. People are coming and going all day long: parents, students, substitute teachers, staff members and more. There is one full-time secretary to handle the entire workload of the office, but another office clerk has been hired to work part-time. Even after the doors are locked once school has started, the buzzer rings frequently, and the secretary checks the camera to see who’s out there before she buzzes them in. At least sometimes she does; other times she lets in whoever presses the buzzer.

A busy school office

                                                                            A busy school office

Lately, the office has become a hangout for certain teachers during their lunch periods, teachers who are favorites of the principal, whose office is right next door to the main office. It started out innocently enough: one of the teachers went to use an office computer to enter ELL* student information, and noticed that the office secretary was overworked. She decided to pitch in and help by answering phones whenever she was in there. That generosity, of course, put her in favor with the secretary, so she was welcome anytime.
The conversations in the office can get rather loud. In fact, the faculty lounge is usually comparatively quiet because so few people use it; the ones who did use it most now have their lunch in the office.

The bell has rung and Shannon has accompanied her students to the door which opens onto the playground, where she turns them over to the recess monitors. She then heads to the office, where teachers’ lunch orders from the school cafeteria have arrived.
“Here, Shannon, this one’s yours,” says the secretary, Bobbie, who has taken a few minutes to compare the orders with what was actually delivered and to set aside change for anyone who paid more than the actual cost.

“Hey, thanks,” says Shannon, as she plops down on the empty office chair, box of salad in hand.

“Is Kristen coming too? asks Bobbie. “Her order’s here.”

“Yeah, she’s on her way.”

The phone rings. Shannon grabs it before Bobbie can even get to it.

“Good morning, Roosevelt School,” Shannon says in her best receptionist voice. After a pause, she continues, “Yes, I think so – hold on…” Cupping her hand over the receiver, she asks Bobbie, “Is Sharon here?”

“Yup, she’s in her office.”

“OK…yes…yes, I’ll transfer you.” Shannon presses the transfer call button and dials the principal’s extension number before hanging up.

Lowering her voice, Shannon says, “Hey, you know who that was?”

“No, who?”

“Jason’s mom!” This triggers an outburst of laughter from both women.

The door opens. “Hi, girls!”

“Hi, Kristen!” the two answer in unison.

Kristen picks out the Styrofoam container with her name on it and perches on the empty desk. “So, what’s the gossip today?”

“Jason’s mom’s on the phone – she just called for Sharon.”

More laughter.

“So, what’s Jason been up to now?”

“Oh, you know that mom – she’s always complaining about something. Jason hasn’t done anything much – this week at least.”

“Say, guess what I heard,” Bobbie says with an enticing voice that indicates this bit of gossip is especially juicy.

Shannon and Kristen lean toward Bobbie. “What? What is it?”

“The list of the teachers being cut just came in the interoffice mail.”


“It was in a sealed envelope so I couldn’t see.”

“Awwww,” say both teachers with disappointment.

“BUT,” Bobbie continues, “after I gave her the envelope, I heard Sharon on the phone with

They revel in gossip.

                              They revel in gossip.

the superintendent. It sounded like she was complaining about something.”

Raised eyebrows and gasps. “Could it be one of – ?” Kristen couldn’t bear to finish her question.

“No, of course not! They can’t get rid of bilingual teachers!”

“Well, they could…what about you-know-who?”

“Yeah, that one, well – hopefully she’s on the list.”

“Oh, she’s gotta be,” says Shannon. “Sharon’s been hearing complaints about her all year.”

“Yeah, I know, she’s had her spies in that classroom,” Bobbie replies. “Shannon, you’ve been in there, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, I was supposedly there to help with math – Sharon wanted me in there every week during my plan time – but Ms. Superior Attitude made it clear that she didn’t need me at that time.”


“She seemed surprised that I came in at all – I think she knew.”

“What, that you were there to spy on her?”

“Probably.” Shannon pushes the remaining pieces of her salad around the tray with her plastic fork.

Nothing more to be said on that topic, Bobbie changes the subject. “So, how’re things going with you, Kristen?”

“I’m tired…Juanito is wearing me out.”gossiping women cartoon

“What’s he up to now?”

“He’s just so hyper all the time. Today he was making everyone laugh by tossing his head and then making faces when I was writing on the board.”

Just then, Janice, the art teacher, enters to pick up her lunch order. “Hey, gang! What’s up?”

“Hey, you! Why don’t you stay and talk to us?”

“Can’t – gotta get Who’s the Best Valentine contest ready.”

“I told you – I have the most awesome costume,” Shannon tells her. “You gotta let me win.”

“Well, we’ll see – you never know what some of these other ‘spoilers’ might come up with. But probably.”

“Yay!!” Shannon cheers as Janice leaves. “You’re my best friend, Janice!” she calls after her.

The three women turn back to their previous conversation.

“What about Atziri?” Bobbie asks Shannon.

“That Atziri is a mean girl,” Shannon says. “Seriously mean. No wonder she doesn’t have any friends.”

“But she’s so good at chasing boys around the playground and they’re all screaming,” Kristen adds. “Yesterday, I saw her in the halls with a couple of other girls. She –” Kristen gestures for the others to come closer. Shannon and Bobbie roll their chairs forward until their heads are nearly touching.

Just then, the door opens, and the women separate, bursting into loud, raucous laughter.

“God, can you believe it?” Shannon says loudly and deliberately. They laugh again.

The teacher who has just come in hesitates, holding the hand of one of her students, one of the new kids this year.

“What do you need?” Bobbie asks her, forcing a polite smile onto her face. Kristen and Shannon sit in silence, eating the last bites of their lunch.

“Vanessa needs to call home. She forgot to ask her mom who’s picking her up after school,” replies the teacher.

Bobbie waves her hand toward the phone on the empty desk. Shannon rolls her chair back to get out of the way, but bumps into Kristen. Laughter erupts. Vanessa, meanwhile, presses her body against the desk next to the phone and dials her mother’s cell phone number.

“Mommy?” Vanessa presses the phone closer to her ear as the conversation in the office continues.

“I saw her last night,” Shannon is saying. “You should’ve seen her clothes! Tight, tight jeans, high boots, tunic with sequins plastered all over it.”

“A woman her age shouldn’t wear stuff like that,” Kristen says.

“My niece is 35 and you should see her wardrobe,” Bobbie says. “She dresses like a slut, and her husband doesn’t even care.”

“…are you picking me up, Mommy, or is Lia?”

“Everyone dresses like that, nowadays,” Shannon says in mock admonition. “You shouldn’t be so old-fashioned, Bobbie.”

“…Okay. Bye, Mommy. I love you.” Vanessa hangs up the phone. Her teacher moves quickly to grab her hand and leave the office.

As the door shuts, Shannon, Bobbie and Kristen are all laughing loudly again.
Shannon turns toward the computer on the empty desk. “Bobbie, I gotta look for something.”

“Okay, no problem.”

“Don’t let Juanito get to you,” Bobbie tells Kristen.

“I know, but…” Kristen trails off as she sorts her thoughts in her mind, and rubs the outside corners of her eyes. “No, I know,” she continues. “He’s a nice kid, but he just gets SO silly.”
“How about that other kid in your class, Horacio? Is he doing okay?”

“He caused SO much trouble last year,” Shannon interjects without turning away from the computer.

“Yeah, he’s doing a whole lot better.”

“Sh—! I can’t believe it!” Shannon shouts suddenly. “That bitch sent me an email…”

“What bitch?” asks Kristen.

“Which one?” asks Bobbie.

Just then, the principal’s door opens. Her bronze nameplate printed MRS. NOWAK reflects the light from her desk lamp.

“Hi, Sharon!”

Sharon smiles broadly. “Hello, ladies! How’s your lunch?”

Kristen shrugs. “It’s okay, nothing special.”

“That’s what you get for ordering from the cafeteria,” replies Sharon. “I’m going out for lunch.”

Before she can leave, Shannon swivels around in her chair. “Sharon, Mrs. Navarro sent me an email. She wants a conference.”

“Oh? Did she ever show up for the fall conference?”

“No,” Shannon says pointedly. “But now that her little angel is bringing home behavior notices every day, she wants to see me as soon as possible – today, if possible.”

“So? See her.”

“But – !” Shannon puts her head down between her arms on the desk. “I know what she’s gonna say,” continues her muffled voice.

“Shannon,” Sharon says. “Don’t worry about it. You are a professional, and an awesome teacher. You can handle her.”

“Can you be there, or at least drop in?”

“Depends on when it is.” Sharon glances at her watch, then says, “I gotta go. I’m late for my lunch date!”

“Oooooooo!” tease the others.

Sharon throws a coquettish look back at them as she heads out the door. “Bye-bye!”

The three women are jolted by the sudden sound of the bell.

“God, Bobbie,” remarks Shannon, “That bell rings really loud in here.”

“You already knew that,” says Kristen, as she tosses her lunch garbage into the wastebasket next to Bobbie’s desk.

“Yeah, but it’s always so jarring,” Shannon says. “It jolts me awake!” she adds with a laugh.

“You need it. Did you sleep well last night?” Kristen asks as both teachers leave the office.

“No, as usual, I woke up after three hours, and then …” Shannon’s voice fades from Bobbie’s hearing as the two teachers walk down the hall.

Sign that should be on the door of every school office.

Sign that should be on the door of every school office.

*ELL – English Language Learners

Al images downloaded from Google Images.

F is for Food (in the teachers’ lounge)

May 14, 2015:  F is for Food in the teachers’ lounge.

Teaching causes a lot of stress. For this reason, teachers have a lot of nervous energy which they fuel with an obsession for food. Never in my life have I seen so much food brought to the workplace nor that food disappear so fast as it does in schools. The picture below shows a pretty typical spread:

treats-1024x768Meetings often include food. Teachers help themselves, then find a place to sit for the meeting, being careful not to spill anything on their notebooks or handouts.

Teacher appreciation (from Google Images)

            Teacher appreciation 

When the PTA wants to give teachers a “thank you”, they often show their appreciation with a large spread of nibbly food items in the teachers’ lounge or work room. Also, every school has a social committee, and one of the things they sponsor is weekly or monthly food fests! They put out a sign-up sheet and generally teams of staff members will sign up for a particular date. It’s then that team’s responsibility to bring food on that day.

I worked in one school where it seemed teams of teachers were trying to outdo each other. Bagels, doughnuts, veggies and dip, chips and salsa, cookies and brownies plus gallons of orange juice weren’t enough – the next team began bringing home-cooked food – egg casseroles, potato strada, etc. – to please their colleagues. Then another team would make food AT SCHOOL and serve it up fresh and hot! These were hard acts to follow!

I gained almost 30 lbs. while teaching. When I was on the verge of collapse from exhaustion, a brownie, cookie, bagel or other saved item pumped me with instant energy and it was a reward for myself that I could look forward to. Any teacher that wanted food, however, had to get to the lounge as early as possible and pile goodies on a plate to take to their classrooms and save for later. By noon, most, if not all, of the food would be gone!
teacher-apreciation-week-685x320For two years, my classroom was across the hallway from the lounge. Every time I walked past, I peeked in the window to check for food. Sometimes goodies were brought to the lounge when it wasn’t even treat day. For example, someone had leftover birthday cake, Valentine’s Day candy, or other leftovers they wanted to get out of their house. Bring it to school – it will get consumed for sure! I think those were two of the years that contributed most to my weight gain!

Staff eating cake at one of my former schools

                           Staff eating cake at a bridal shower in the library of one of my former schools

Another occasion for food and beverages was during our after school reading group. The teacher that ran it tried to provide small treats and possibly tea that connected to the book we were discussing in some way.

The next year I was far from the lounge and didn’t even like to go there much, so it was easy to stay away. I had also joined Weight Watchers by that time so I didn’t need the temptations.

My success with losing weight improved when I had a less stressful job! Nowadays, I often forget all about treat day and by the time I get down to the work room to make copies, it is mid-afternoon and there’s nothing left. If I do happen to get in on it, I’ll take what I want and eat it for lunch, leaving the lunch I brought from home in the refrigerator until the next day.

treats in loungeNote: All images downloaded from Google Images except the one taken at my former school.