Posted in Teaching, Writing

Happy Spring!

Hello, World! What have you been up to? Me? Oh, the usual… reading, writing, accumulating pet hair on my clothes, and trying to get seventh graders to understand time management and the consequences of their actions. The time management thing would be easier if any of them could actually read an analog clock. [Here’s an idea: Let’s start putting analog clocks side-by-side with digital clocks in the hallways at schools to see if the visual comparison will help kids learn to tell time the old-fashioned way. It couldn’t hurt, right?]

As far as how the whole “actions have consequences” thing is going…

I used to have a cat who was addicted to curly ribbon. A package wrapped with curly ribbon couldn’t be in my house for five minutes before the cat would sniff it out, find it, and devour as much as possible, gagging all the while. I took to hiding my bag of gift-wrapping supplies in the top of my closet to keep the stuff away from him. One day, I couldn’t find Gink. I was looking all around my apartment, calling for him, when I realized… I’d left the closet door open. As I approached the space, I heard rustling sounds. Yep. High up on the shelf in my closet, there was a black tail sticking out of the bag of wrapping paper and ribbons. Having found the mother load, Gink gorged on it until he choked and began throwing up in that horrible unique way of cats. (Cat owners, you know it well. Front legs stiff, chin tucked, eyes bulging, tongue sticking out, sides convulsing, and the tell-tale “huck huck huck” sound.) But this was no ordinary hairball. Gink had swallowed, without chewing, an entire ball of curly ribbon. So when it started coming out, it didn’t stop. Like a terrible magic trick, lengths and lengths of blue plastic ribbon emerged from my cat’s throat, still connected, gagging him more with each heave of his little kitty belly. After a few agonizing minutes, it was all out. My poor, traumatized cat sat panting next to a pile of shiny blue vomit. I stroked his black fur and spoke soothing words into his fuzzy ears. “Poor Ginky. That looked awful. Why would you do such a thing? Do you see now? Do you see what happens when you eat curly ribbon? This is why I keep it away from you.” And as I comforted the poor dumb beast, he knelt down, stretched his neck forward, and tried to eat the pile of blue vomit.

Gink lived to 19 despite his addiction to curly ribbon.

Let’s just say that sometimes my students remind me of that cat. No forethought. No planning. Very little self control. For some of them, the curly ribbon is procrastination. For others, it’s online games on their school computers. For a few, it is the deep, unending NEED to reach across and poke the person in the desk next to them, over and over and over, for absolutely no reason.

Anyway, we’ll continue to work on it.

That’s not even what I came here to blog about today.

Spring has sprung, bringing all the usual delights: longer days, warmer weather, evil flowers, ghosts, and, of course, mummies.

Beware of Flowers

Today, I decided to celebrate the warm spring weather by going on a hike. Along the trail, I spotted these beautiful blooms and wanted to take pictures of them. Little did I know, I was falling right into their trap. When I knelt down to snap a photo of these pretty pink flowers, the dying cactus next to them stabbed me. Either that, or I was attacked by the world’s tiniest porcupine. Either way, I stood up with a finger full of thorns that I had to pluck out. Ouch! Beware of beauty. It bites.

Ghosts

If you think spirits only haunt in October, you’re wrong. I’m proud to announce that I’m writing my third book in the Spooky America series. The Ghostly Tales of Burlington will hit the shelves this fall. Since I have a day job and my own moderate case of curly-ribbon-esque procrastination on the weekends, I tend to do most of my writing late at night and, let me tell you, some of the stories in this Burlington book gave me the shivers, even though it’s nowhere near Halloween. The tales in this collection are so creepy, I may have to head to Vermont to check out some of these haunted places firsthand. Who wants to come with me?

In the meantime, you can still buy my first two Spooky America books. The Ghostly Tales of New England and The Ghostly Tales of Austin are available on Amazon, but if you order from me, I’ll send you a signed copy. $12 for one copy, or $20 for two. You can pay me via PayPal (@ cariejuettner) or Venmo (@Carie-Juettner). Just fill out this form to send me your address and the names of the person/people/pets you want the books signed to.

March Mummies

And last, but not least, springtime really wouldn’t be complete without a mention of mummies, right? On March 16th, Daily Science Fiction published my punny piece titled “20 Signs Your Neighbor Might Be a Mummy.” Check it out, and be sure to click the “Display Entire Story” button at the bottom to see the whole thing.

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That’s it. That’s what I’ve been up to. Reading, writing, teaching, getting stabbed by plants, and determining whether or not my neighbors are mummies. Oh, and I also celebrated my dog’s 11th birthday. How cute is this good boy?

Posted in Life, Lists, Teaching

11 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Former Teacher

Former teachers make the best employees (and there’s probably about to be a lot more of them), so if you’re looking to expand your workforce, here’s why you should consider hiring an educator.

#1: Excellent Communication Skills

Teachers are expert communicators. They can speak to everyone from children to board members to angry parents in a calm, enthusiastic manner, and they maintain a cheery attitude, even as they repeat the same thing 700 times a day. They’re good at speaking clearly, writing professional emails, and (thanks to covid) they have learned to convey a wide range of emotions from happy to shocked to sternly disappointed, with only their eyes.

#2: Fast Learners

Concerned that a former teacher doesn’t have the specific skillset you’re looking for? Give them an uninterrupted hour and see what they do with it. (The first thing they will do is look scared and confused because they’ve never been given an uninterrupted hour before. To make them feel more comfortable in this situation, try ringing a bell once in a while or screaming in the office next door for no reason.) Educators are given new technology on a yearly (sometimes weekly) basis, trained on it for thirty to forty-five minutes, and expected to implement it with 140 users the following day. And they DO. When the technology doesn’t work as advertised (it never does) and when the users haven’t been added correctly (they never are) the teacher figures it out, makes it work, and hands out two Band-Aids, a laptop charger, and a pass to the counselor’s office all at the same time. Teachers are learners. Give them a chance to learn, and they will wow you.

#3: Calm Under Pressure

Teachers remain calm in stressful situations. We are used to having unexpected (and unusual) circumstances pop up in the workplace, and we handle them swiftly and without panicking. Even when we may be freaking out inside, we remain cool, composed, and unruffled to the outside observer. Situations in which I, myself, have had to remain calm include but are not limited to the following:

  • A student sticking a paperclip in his eye
  • A student sticking scissors in an outlet (This actually happened next door, but I had to watch both classes while the teacher escorted her shocked (literally) student to the nurse.)
  • A student vomiting in my trash can
  • A student drawing Pennywise-the-clown makeup on his face during my lesson
  • Having to keep my students in my room for an extra half hour because there was a bat in the school that had to be caught before we could release them into the hallways again

#4: Great Public Speaking

Educators are comfortable in front of large groups of people. We know how to get the attention of a crowd, and we can project our voices when the mic doesn’t work.

#5: Masters of the Pivot

The definition of flexibility in the dictionary should have a picture of a teacher next to it. Teachers are excellent planners. We create engaging, educational lessons properly paced to fit within our forty-five-minute, one hour, or ninety-minute classes. But we know, when creating them, that the chances of the lesson going exactly as planned are slim. Anything from a technology outage, a fire drill, or a disruptive student can throw off the best laid plans. That’s why we’re always ready to pivot. Swap the writing lesson for reading time. Take a walk outside to escape the heat of the broken air conditioning. Do Friday’s lesson on Thursday, or reteach what the class learned on Wednesday if they’re still struggling with the material. Changing plans is part of the job when you’re a teacher. We’re better at it than anyone should have to be.

#6: Strong Organizational Skills

Teachers must have systems in place to keep track of who’s absent, who’s missing work, who’s failing, who’s in the restroom, and who’s allergic to peanuts. They have to differentiate every assessment for each student’s individualized learning plan, and they have to keep data on each student’s progress. This takes an organized mind and (for me personally) a lot of different colored pens. (Side note: Teachers love office supplies. If your company wants to up your sticky note game or needs advice on the best brand of marker, hire a former teacher.)

During hybrid teaching, the need to stay organized increased tenfold. Suddenly teachers’ desks looked more like the workstations of air traffic controllers: multiple monitors, a dozen tabs open, headphones, the dings of various messages and notifications interrupting every other sentence, and the poor teacher coordinating it all. (Please note that none of us want to do that again, but we can. We did. No planes crashed on our watch.)

#7: High E.Q.

Companies today are beginning to see how valuable it is for their leaders to have strong emotional intelligence in addition to intellectual intelligence. Being able to relate to others, to empathize and connect as humans, is essential to creating a successful staff. Employees are happier, less stressed, and more motivated to produce quality products when their emotional needs are met in the workplace. Teachers are ahead of the game when it comes to E.Q. They’ve been trained in Social Emotional Learning and have both participated in and led numerous team-building exercises. Educators know the power of intrinsic motivation. They know that students won’t perform their best if they don’t feel safe in their environment, and they won’t reach their full potential unless they care about the work they’re doing. If you need someone to build relationships within your workforce and help your organization feel more cohesive, what you need is a teacher.

#8: Boundless Creativity

Teachers are problem solvers, content creators, web designers, and miracle workers. In addition to teaching, we also have to decorate our classrooms and hallway bulletin boards, participate in random dress-up days throughout the year, and constantly come up with fresh, engaging, interactive lessons to ensure that our students aren’t bored. A teacher’s creativity knows no limits. Try us.

#9: Assorted Skills

Teachers have skills you might not even know your company needs. We’ve been trained (yearly) to deal with seizures, peanut allergies, asthma, fires, tornadoes, lockdowns, cyber security, suicide prevention, bullying, covid protocols, active shooter scenarios, the proper way to use an epi pen, and how to safely clean up blood. You’re welcome.

#10: Lunchtime Entertainment

Former educators have endless funny stories to tell about our teaching career, the kinds of things that sound made up but aren’t, so we can keep your team entertained on lunch breaks. Plus, we all eat super fast, so we’ll be finished long before everyone else.

#11: Appreciative of Perks

Teachers are used to doing a lot of extra work for no extra pay. Everything from bus duty to cafeteria duty to academic coaching to after school tutoring fall into the category of “Other Duties as Assigned,” and these minutes taken away from conference periods, lunches, and evenings are rarely compensated. The kind of perks we’re used to are jeans passes (You get to wear jeans on a day that’s not Friday! Yea!) and snack size candies in the lounge. If you give a former teacher stock options or a bonus or the ability to go to the bathroom whenever they want, they will cry with gratitude.

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All joking aside, teachers are some of the smartest, hardest working, biggest-hearted, most creative and passionate people on the planet. They’re just looking for a chance to make a difference in an environment where they’re valued for their skills and effort. Their resumé may not wow you at first glance, but if you give them a chance to learn, and if you treat them with respect, they will blow you away with their work ethic and dedication. Hire a former teacher. You won’t be sorry.

Posted in Teaching, Life

A Weird Kind of Nostalgia

Ten years ago this May, three days before my husband left home for a week-long business trip to Hungary, I did something incredibly stupid.

I drank after a toddler.

I know, I know. How could I be that dumb? I KNOW little kids are gross. I KNOW they’re little bags of boogers and cooties. But when our friend stopped by with his daughter and she asked for a glass of juice and only took two sips of it before abandoning the rest, I let my “Don’t be wasteful” mindset overcome my “Do not poison thyself with the vile germs of a child” mindset and drank the rest of it.

Two days later, I learned that the child in question had hand-foot-and-mouth disease*. The next day, just as the hubby was leaving for the airport, I woke up with a fever.

I don’t get sick a lot. A cold here, a little food poisoning there, but for the most part, I tend to stay away from illnesses because they’re gross. So this was the first fever I’d had since… I’d become an adult. At least as far as I could remember. And it was NOT FUN. I stayed in bed with a 102° temperature for twenty-four hours. I must have fed my cats at some point, or they probably would have eaten me, and I vaguely remember letting my leashed puppy out the door to run into the waiting arms of my sweet neighbor so she could walk him for me (without actually entering the house of the sick) but that’s it. Otherwise, I slept, moaned, and eventually sweated myself awake, confused, hungry, and REALLY regretting drinking that juice.

When I’d showered and eaten a piece of toast, I Googled hand-foot-and-mouth disease to see what I was in for. The internet told me I would begin seeing symptoms three to five days after exposure (check), have fever for twenty-four hours (check), then a sore throat for one to two days, followed by red sores on my (you guessed it) hands, feet, and/or mouth. As I finished reading the article and swallowed my last bite of toast, I felt the bread crust scrape down the sides of my already tender throat. This is going to be fun, I thought. And it was. (Just kidding. It was not fun.)

A week later, the spots on my hands had almost completely cleared up—thankfully, I didn’t get any on my feet or mouth—and by the time my husband returned to the country, I was pretty much back to normal.

And I never drank after a toddler again.

The end.

But it’s not really the end because today, I found myself looking back on this experience with a touch of nostalgia.

It’s not that I want to shiver, sweat, cringe, and itch my way through a week of hand-foot-and-mouth disease again because I don’t. I really, really don’t. But there was something so satisfying about being told exactly how the virus would run its course and then having the virus do exactly that. Y’all, I’m a teacher. I LOVE it when things follow directions. Lately, that’s the most frustrating thing about covid. It’s not following directions.

Omicron is sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day***. So far this week, I’ve had eighteen students absent, and our admin team is spending all their time calling families to let them know their child was exposed to someone who tested positive for covid. We’re supposed to stay home if we’re sick and get tested if we think we might be infected, but Googling omicron symptoms brings up a dozen different articles saying a dozen different things. It feels like allergies, it feels like the flu, it comes with a fever, it doesn’t come with a fever, it starts with a sore throat, it includes an upset stomach, it feels like a cold, it doesn’t feel like anything at all because some people are completely asymptomatic…

This vague advice makes me question every sneeze, sniffle, cough, and eye twitch, but ultimately, I keep going to work and teaching whoever is there and waiting for the email to let us know how many new cases our school has that day.

We are ALL tired of covid. I know that. I feel it. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all go away. Since I can’t, I have a new wish. I just want it to start following directions. Tell me exactly when I’ll get sick and how and for how long. No more rogue viruses. Make covid follow the rules like everybody else.

That’s all I ask.

Here’s hoping that all of my readers are safe and healthy. I hope none of you have covid (or hand-foot-and-mouth disease either) or that if you do, you have a light case. Get vaccinated, and encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated too, and hang in there with me as we make our way through this mess. We can do it!
*sanitizes hands for fiftieth time today*

* No, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not something farm animals get**. It’s a virus that is common in human children and less common (but really, really not fun) in human adults.

** Ok, I was wrong. I just looked it up, and foot-and-mouth disease IS, in fact, something that farm animals get. So the people who said to me, “Isn’t that a farm animal disease?” probably didn’t totally deserve the mean looks I gave them. But HAND-foot-and-mouth disease is a human virus. Because humans have hands. #science

*** Coincidentally, cedar fever is also sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day, and the fact that its symptoms are so similar to omicron’s nebulous, varied symptoms is not helping anything.