My Classroom

As some of you may know, my initial plan for my adult life was to become a pediatrician. For various reasons, I changed my mind. I decided to go to graduate school to pursue my doctorate in infant cognition and perceptions. Because of illness, I had to give up that dream, though not before publishing my masters thesis.

Then I spent about eight years (on and off) teaching English in South Korea. When I came home, I battled illness, both physical and psychological. An excellent treatment team consisting of the University Hospitals, Cleveland bariatrics program, a general practitioner, a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

Just over three years ago, I applied for jobs in the child care/early childhood education industry. Despite what some may believe, we are not baby sitters. We are qualified educators with requirements to maintain our qualification. Like our K-12 colleges, I have to write lesson plans, do assessments, set goals, have parent/teacher conferences and much more. It really annoys me when someone tells me it must be so much fun to play with babies all day. Yes, it is a lot of fun, but it’s a TON of work, especially with the youngest infants.

I landed a job at a center just four minutes from my house. I began as a preschool teacher. Although I liked what I was doing, it wasn’t just right for me. I spent one summer developing and running the Summer Bridge program to help insure our school aged students didn’t lose too much ground over their long vacation. That definitely wasn’t the right place for me. I have so much respect for my K-12 colleges. I could not do their job. After returning to the preschool for a while, I found my true love, unsurprisingly, infants.

I started working with the older infants, 12-18 months of age. I enjoyed my ability to watch development, in what seems like fast forward. Then COVID hit. Our center closed. When we reopened, due to staffing difficulties, we combined the younger and older infants into one room. We being providing care for infants beginning at six weeks of age. So far, the youngest infant came to me at just under four months. She’s now 14 months old and it amazes me every day how much she’s changed. My little Londynn was basically a blob when she came. I had to feed her, hold her, carry her, decipher her cries. Not anymore. She’s saying single words and even a phrase or two (like “eat eat” when she’s hungry). I’ve been home sick for the last week (scientists don’t need to develop bioweapons, just use baby snot), so she just might be walking on her own now.

That’s a long preamble to post some pictures of my classroom. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I have a bit of a perfectionistic trend. I take great pride in keeping my room fresh and interesting. I have taken continuing education courses on how to set up an effective infant or toddler classroom. When we had our Step Up to Quality visit a few months ago, I received great feedback from the assessor. I’ve helped other teachers set up and enhance their classrooms as well.

Without further ado…

I love displaying the artwork the babies do. I generally have a theme for the bulletin board over the changing table. Currently, it’s summer. In the photo above, we did some tape resist painting using their initials. Other artwork is on the walls using inexpensive bulletin board boarder from the dollar store to frame it. The red, yellow and green posters are pictures of the babies in various activities. One is them eating, another is them doing art and the final one is them reading. And boy do they love to read. The large bulleting board above the play kitchen area says, “What Us Learn… and Grow!” and features pictures of them doing various activities.

As for how they do art? There’s an art to doing art with babies, but once you discover the methods, it’s a lot of fun, and surprisingly not very messy. I have a container and marbles that I put paper and paint in and let them shake, shake shake it. I have a salad spinner that I load with paper and paint and they push the plunger, sometimes with some assistance from me. I put the paper and paint in a plastic zipper bag, seal it up and they pick it up and smush and squish to their hearts desire. The next method is the one with a higher chance of mess, but it’s not too bad. You take your paper and paint (or even wooden forms) and sandwich them between two slices of deli paper (or any other sort of paper bigger than the artwork) and let them pat it, hit or rub it. Peal the deli paper away and your art is left behind. This is how I helped them make their initial. For those who are brave, I’ve done handprints. And for those who are super duper extra dedicated, take their shirts off, put on an art shirt and let them finger paint. There is nontoxic washable paint on the market, or you can make your own using various edible materials.

I hope you enjoyed

5K Training

I signed up for a 5K on July 3rd. It’s been a few weeks since I last went out for a walk/run. Things have been super busy at work and I’ve been working late on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not to mention Saturdays.

I had been lifting Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And then going for a run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But between all the crap at work and being under the weather with allergies and my second Covid shot… Well, my motivation and energy were lacking.

I think I only have 2 more weeks of insanity at work. And as long as the weather is nice, I need to at least go out for 20 minutes or so.

Back to Work…

First day back after a long break. My anxiety level was climbing all weekend. It was so bad last night, I ended up taking a Klonopin. I even needed to take one this morning. My anxiety is usually much more controlled.

Once I got back, I got back into the groove. All the babies were glad to see me. L reached her arms up as soon as she saw me. I picked her up and she just giggled. I said “Hey D Man” to D and he turned and gave me a huge smile.

When I left, A was rocking back and forth on his hands and knees. Now he’s properly crawling.

There’s so much development that happens in two weeks when you’re talking about babies under a year.

I found out this morning that I don’t have to do any office work. I don’t have to enter notes for the other teachers. I don’t have to answer the phone in the afternoon. Well, from 5-6 I do. The school age teacher is holding onto the phone until she leaves at 5.

I really think the owner is afraid of losing me. She really can’t afford to lose any staff. And she needs my degree to move her star for Step Up to Quality. It feels good to be needed. But not for the cost of my mental health.

Starting Up Again

It’s been many years since I’ve written here. I decided earlier this week to get back into writing on this blog specifically.

So what has been going on the last 3.5 years? A whole lot. I had a second bariatric procedure and I lost more weight. My highest weight was 440 pounds. I’m now 177. I was down to 164 but pandemic…….

I’m still working with infants in early childhood education. I’m still at the same place, though I’m brushing up my resume. I’m still coloring, though on my own. The meetup group doesn’t meet anymore because, well, *gestures wildly around*. I’m still baking and I’m part of an online baking “club”. “Club” because it’s only two of us. We are still trying to get people to join us.

A while ago, I quit therapy with Dr. D. I’m back working with her again. Dr. W (who I still see) encouraged me to start therapy again. I’m glad I did. The thing that made me walk away was her trying to dive into (what I recognize now as) my social anxiety. I wasn’t ready to tackle it and I was doing well in other ways. The break was good for me.

In terms of meds, I’ve been able to taper off the Haldol, Effexor and Celexa. In a few months, I’m hoping to start getting off either the Zoloft or Wellbutrin.

Last summer, one of the baby girls in my class at work had some possible vaginal bleeding. The way it was handled by my boss plus just the idea that maybe someone was hurting that little girl really messed with my head. At that point, I was seeing Dr. D. I ended up taking a week off to get my head screwed back on. The family left the center and I occasionally wonder what happened to her and hope she’s okay.

A couple months ago, we had a new family join the center. There are an infant boy, a toddler boy and a preschool girl. These children were removed from their mother. The toddler spent many hours just crying “mommy” over and over. The way the building is set up is there is a half door between the infant room and the toddler room. So I could hear every single scream. It broke my heart. It didn’t help that the toddler teacher was getting frustrated and would say “J, please stop crying.”. Let me say, that I totally understand her reaction. She had 6 other kids under 3 and it was overwhelming at times. I’ve been in her shoes. I was told A, the baby in my room, was born to a crack addicted mother. I need to do some reading on what the shorter term ramifications are of that. I’m probably most concerned about B, the preschool girl. She seems totally unaffected. I know she’s older than J, but she’s only 4.

I’ve been dealing with my reactions to those two incidents with Dr. D. After the baby girl, I took a week off to get my head back on the right way. Last week and this week, I’ve been on vacation. There were many reasons, one being the new family. Another is physical exhaustion. I’m still dealing with fibro. Two weeks ago we were so short staffed because of Corona. I ended up working 8-6 with a 2 hour break. It just wasn’t sustainable for me. I’m also the acting administrator for 4-6. Another staff member thinks she’s in charge and was being a general pain in the ass. I told my boss that E can be in charge since it seems that’s what she wants. My boss told me that no, you’re in charge and I deliberately chose you. And then there’s all the BS that needs to be done for Step Up to Quality. I was doing a good deal of other teachers’ work.

It’s definitely been a crazy year.

33 Classes and Counting

And they had the never to ask if it if were possible for me to be out before Saturday AM.  Hello?  I work here until 9.  Where would you like me to go.

And they found a new person.  I will leave my plan book and a key to deciphering it.  I’m actually am going leave the ticket incentive system I step up because the kids (well kid kids) really respond to it.

In maybe very well just leave this new person (was she dumb enough not to ask to talk to a current teacher or will this be the beginning of the screwing over).

Anyhow.  I’m cold.  I’m going to go jump in my prewarmed bed and dream of class number 0.

New Little Widget

Some of you may know I’m working for a bunch of crooks.  They started it when they “fired” me because some kids said I smelled funny (define funny, damnit) who of course complained to their parents who complained to the school.  The straw the broke the camel’s back was a kid saw me crying in my classroom (my pain was about an 11 that day).  Kid complained to parent who complained to school who fired me.  Nothing was said that the kid walked into a classroom with a closed door when she should have been in class (it was one of my two weekly breaks).

Anyhow I immediately started looking for a job and I’ll be working for a start up academy with no Korean teachers and run by a woman from the UK and her Korean husband.  I’ll also probably be doing some IT stuff for them as well.

And now since I think my hands are going to fall off, I’m signing off.

Freedom

If all goes well, I’ll sign a contract with a new school on Saturday.  I’m getting away from the Wicked Witch of the East

I was told our incompatibilities was due to the fact I’m the first American teacher they worked with.  They just didn’t want to pay their fair share and I would have lost almost 2 grand over the course of the year.  Plus they thought I was going to pay 300 bucks a month in health insurance when, if they followed the law, I would have paid more like 40.

So overall good news.  And, despite the bed being broken (for a month now and after numerous requests to fix it) I slept like a baby last night.  So much so I’m up at 7  AM.

Red Alert

So much has happened.  I had an upper endoscopy last Thursday that was a literal nightmare.  The good and bad news is they didn’t find anything.  So I’m still nauseous all the time and have stomach pains.  The doctor didn’t return my call today.  Hopefully he will tomorrow.  I’ve been crying off and on because the whole thing retriggered some of my PTSD issues.  My anxiety has been through the roof.  I guess I should call my GP and see what she has to say.  I’ve been trying to hold onto my sanity until I get back to Daejeon and I can see my psychiatrist there.

Sleep is a joke.  When I do sleep, I feel like I dream constantly.  They aren’t nightmares, per se.  But the people in them are faceless.  It’s really quite creepy.

I’ve been living with high levels of pain since July.  I was hoping it would calm down on its own, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.  Again, I was waiting to get back to Korea to see my rheumatologist, but that’s looking 2-3 weeks off.  I don’t know how much longer I can take pain at this level.  Sleeping hurts, sitting, stand and walking hurt.  Basically, everything hurts.  I guess it’s another reason to call my GP.

I’m worried about going back to work.  I’m worried about the time change and jumping right in to a new school with a curriculum I’ve never seen.  Just the thought of packing overwhelms me.

I’m tired.  I’m anxious.  I’m depressed.  And I hurt.

Heading Home

I’m heading back to the US.  My body can’t take the stress right now of full time teaching, especially 3 year olds.  Maybe in 6 months I’ll head back to Hong Kong and pick up there.  The director is fine with that.

So for the first time I’m going to take care of myself and do what my body needs rather than pushing through it.