Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reflecting on Year Two.

Yet another school year has come and gone and it is just getting better and better. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am now doing what I was meant to do. The year had its highs and lows, but my students made it possible for me to leave happy every single day. Their sweet faces glowing with wonder and excitement about their learning gave me so much hope for the future -- theirs, mine, and ours. My co-teacher was amazing and we couldn't have done it without each other. It took me awhile to allow myself some of the credit for what the kids were accomplishing but in retrospect I realize how central I was in their learning. Duh, right!?

Of all the end-of-the-year gifts, the most priceless came from one of my students and his parents. The student made me the most intricate and thoughtful paper bag puppet (something I'd taught him to do days earlier). He asked me my favorite animal and I said "Well, I have lots: cats, dogs, birds, horses, and blowfish". He looked overwhelmed. He was going to try and remember them all. Well, he sure did because my paper bag puppet was a cat/dog/bird/horse/blowfish hybrid, with obvious detail for every species. He had gone home and worked for hours. The puppet is at my mom's house but I will post a picture soon :) Below is the second gift, from his father. I've taken out names for privacy purposes. He sent a letter to my principal and copied me on it.

(For the record, it mentions that I may not return to my school next year. The deal is this: I am the lowest man on the totem pole, so to speak, so if a certain number of kindergartners do not register and show up by Day Five of school in the fall, then my "unit" will be cut. I will indeed have to leave my school, which I really don't want to do. But the one upside is that I am now a permanent employee in the county, and I will be placed in a pool, where I can pick up another job opening at another school. So while my future lies in wait for now, I am guaranteed a teaching position in the fall and am more than willing to go with that flow :)

Mrs. Principal,
My name is D.G. and my son E.G. has just completed his first year at Lanier. It has been a wonderful year and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son make great strides academically and socially. He started out the year a shy unsure boy and has now found a sense of confidence and pride in himself. The reason that i have taken the time to relay this to you is because I contribute this to his two wonderful teachers Mrs. G. and Ms. Cook. My son loved his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. G. right off the bat, and she worked really well with him. then shortly after he spoke of a new teacher, Ms. Cook and since then that has been the focus of his daily reports. With the introduction of Ms. Cook to his class, I notice that my son was truly starting to flourish. His teachers show interest in not only his school work, but his fascination with art and even his Garbage Pail Kids collection. It is those little things that define a teacher. We are a very close family and our son is our life. We are very skeptical of the people in his life. These two wonderful teachers put all of our nerves at ease and have built a sense of trust with our family. At the PTA meeting, when they ended the performance by singing you are my sunshine to the kids, it almost moved us to tears. To know that they do this every afternoon showed how much they truly love their children, my child.
It has recently come to my attention that Ms. Cook may not be back next year. I believe that would be a great injustice and loss for your school. She is a great teacher and has a way of getting through to her children. My wife and I know that we do not have any bearing on whether she stays or goes. I myself work in a seniority based job, and understand the circumstances. However, we believe that if we didn't at least try and let you know what a loss she would be, that we wouldn't be able to live with ourselves. With more teachers like Ms. Cook, who actually care for the children she teaches, I believe that A+ standards could be met. I hope that all is being done to retain her at Lanier. I appreciate the time that you have taken to read this letter, and thank you for giving my son a super year.

Thank you,
D and C G.

**Ok back to Pea here. While I love this student to death and am so proud to have been his teacher, I feel I can take little credit. This boy is so amazing: I couldn't teach him as fast as he was learning. He devoured all sorts of knowledge, especially books, and I felt he was always one step in front of me. He is going into first grade reading at a beginning third-grade reading level. How awesome is that!!

Until next time
Much love,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

This was an all-around perfect weekend. The weather was beautiful -- we woke up to rain on Friday morning which helped with sleeping in on my last lazy weekday for a while. The rains were followed by wonderfully cool weather, clear blue skies, and a strong and lovely wind. We walked into Ybor on Saturday afternoon to see Where the Wild Things Are. This is one of my favorite children's books, and therefore I would normally not be that excited to see the movie because movies based on children's books tend to disappoint me. But something was telling me that I should see this one. And it was definitely one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It is an amazing take on a seemingly simple book, and whoever wrote this screenplay completely *got* this book in the same way I did. It also brought a lot of clarity to some of my biggest questions about life. I know, right?!! So yeah, I recommend it and I highly suggest seeing it! Let me know what you think..

In other news, I took the girls to my new school today, just to let them run around while no one was there, and so that they could see where I would be teaching :). Well, we were able to walk right up to my classroom windows, and I saw a message on the whiteboard: "Welcome Ms. Cook!"...boy did that really get the message home that this is really happening! So after yet another awesome day, I just had a hearty warm meal and am planning on taking a bath and closing my eyes by 9pm. Tomorrow is Day One of the rest of my life as a teacher!!

Much love,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I got the job!!!!! This is just about the best news of my entire life! This means many things:

1) I will be teaching.

2) I will be teaching Kindergarten.

3) I will be a permanent employee for Hillsborough County.

4) I will be co-teaching only 21 students.

Well, teaching is what I was born to do. Teaching kindergarten is what I always dreamed of doing. And being a permanent employee (instead of temporary like last year), no one can ever take my job away from me again. Talk about job security.

The co-teaching thing means that another teacher and I are both in one classroom with one class (21 students is VERY small for a traditional co-teach classroom). The other teacher, Erin, and I can pretty much design our own co-teach model, whether we take turns teaching each day/week or split up subjects, etc. The beauty of it is that every single struggling student can have the extra attention they need, at the very start of their school experience. And ME as one of those two teachers? What lucky ducks my students are!

It is so hard to leave my nannying family -- I've grown to truly love all of them including the other nanny. And while they are pretty upset that I have to leave, they are nothing but supportive and celebratory of this opportunity I've been given. Tomorrow is my last day :( But I will be teaching again -- and forevermore -- starting this Friday!

Prayers are answered at every moment. Life is beautiful. I have so much and I make it my mission to give it all back tenfold. These students are the start.

Much love,
Jamie Pea

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brief update

Ok I will NOT be late for work again today. But I needed to post to say that Life is Good. Awesome, really. It is probably 75 degrees outside today, and while the "cold front" will only last through the weekend, it is quite a blessing. I spent the morning on the patio sipping hazelnut coffee and nibbling on homemade honey-butter crescent rolls while reading Don Miguel Ruiz. Something feels full-circle about this morning and I love it.

I have an interview for a kindergarten position on Friday morning and I feel that a) this is my last opportunity for a teaching job this school year, and b) this is my job. I really feel it.

I have lots of pictures uploaded on my computer and ready to post, so get ready! To come: a post about my newest family members (of 6 months now, yes I am a total cyber-slacker), my trip to Charleston/Raleigh, and my sweet babies I am nannying for.

Much love,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm Hiking For Hospice

Dear friends and fellow bloggers,
On November 8th I am participating in a hike to support Gulfside Regional Hospice. This is the first fundraising hike I've participated in and raised money for. Please help support me, even if it is with just $1!

Much love,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Still amongst the living...

I cannot believe that I have been disconnected from my beloved blog for over half of a year. My life has twisted and turned in innumerable directions, with ups and downs of mechanical accuracy, and I find myself still moving forward, with a strong will and an even stronger heart.

To sum up "the whole teaching thing": I had the most fantastic and horrifying experience teaching 16 children from the Projects. Nothing can prepare anyone for teaching at all, and add in the additional fact that you are teaching children who, for the most part, have had ZERO positive adult role models -- aside from, if they were extremely lucky, their kindergarten teachers. Not only were my students criminally behind academically, but many were socially inept and emotionally damaged. Many had seen things in their lives that we all should hope never to see. One precious little girl lived in filth and was a selective mute -- she said no more than 5 words per day, and only to me. A little boy's grandmother, who was raising him, met with me about his behavior problems and confessed that she fears she may actually kill him as a result of his behavior at home. Not only did I bust my butt to teach my sweet students to read, but I spent countless hours working on getting counseling for said grandparent and a donation of a new bed so that my silent student wouldn't have to sleep on a bug-ridden, urine-soaked mattress for one more night. The experience exhausted me in every sense of the word, but also taught me everything I thought I knew but apparently never did about Life. I am so completely changed and my only regret is not blogging about it for e. But alas, that Life did not allow time for blogging. My only time for true reflection was on the sake of preserving it for later reflection. My only chance for reflection was on the way to and from work and during my prayers. Otherwise, I was working, eating, and/or sleeping. I dreamt about my students every night for 5 months straight.

At the end of the year, my position was, unfortunately, no longer available because I was a temporary employee in the county. The principal offered me a third grade position that iI didn't feel prepared to handle after what I'd gone through in first grade at the school. In fact, there is not a single primary teacher (K-2) in the school that feels up to teaching intermediate grades (3-5). I politely and respectfully declined the offer and kept my eyes open for other positions. Well, this particular principal, who I am comfortable calling an egomaniac, didn't take it lightly that I "shot him down". When it came time for my interviewers to call my reference, he never forgot to mention that I shot him down -- in his words, it "didn't look good" to other principals. So with that, along with the recession causing teachers with WAY more experience than me to be applying for the same jobs as me, I was left jobless this school year. (The ironic conclusion about that principal? The school was the lowest-performing elementary school in the county, no doubt largely due to his less-than-stellar relationship with faculty and students, and he was conveniently "promoted" to a position in which he will never directly work with students again.)

So did I cower in a corner and cry about my unemployment? Nope! I explored other options as a backup and was blessed to find an amazing job as a nanny to an awesome family. So while I am still keeping my eye on the prize and hoping for the right teaching job to open up, I am in the meantime spending my days with Seth, a 3-year-old boy's boy, and Arielle and Alyssa, the sweetest, roundest, hairiest 6-month-old twin angel girls. I am also graced with the presence of another full-time nanny named Susan. We get along so well and it is a wonderful bonus to have another adult around to give you a reprieve and more importantly to converse with during the day! So while my dream of teaching is taking a little detour, I am happy and content with my current situation and I have the ultimate faith that this is all in God's Plan for me. I can't wait to see how this all pans out!

Thank you to anyone who may actually still have faith that I would return -- much more to come in the near future: love stories, kitty adventures, and of course the return of Gabby and Ava!

Much love,

Monday, January 26, 2009

merrily rolling along.

I went through processing at the school district today. it was daunting and nerve-wracking, but 2.5 hours later, I was officially given the green light to start teaching AND get paid. putting those two factors together is a foreign and awesome concept for me.

wrapping things up at the sierra club is tough. it feels weird to be packing up shop after 2 years of hard work and great friendships. olivia and i are moping around being sad but also promising to stay friends. mary is totally going to miss me but she is showing it through frustration and taking it out on me. it makes me love her more. no one could ask for better bosses.

i have been somewhat maniacally gathering little goodies for my students. i already bought them the coolest valentines ever (2 words: Fun Dip). i just cannot wait to meet them!!!

there aren't words to explain what is happening in my heart and in my life right now. i am fighting for all of the things that are most important to me -- and i am winning. i am so blessed with a healthy brain and a strong heart, an incredible family and inspiring friendships, and last but not least hilarious and loving pets that remind me to let go and laugh at least 47 times a day. lucky, lucky me. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A letter to my first graders

Dear boys and girls,
You don't know me yet, but my name is Miss Pea and in two weeks I am going to be your first grade teacher. Even though I am not your first teacher -- heck, I'm not even your first FIRST grade teacher -- you are my First Students. This is a big deal in my world, and not something I take lightly. I am scared, much like you all may have been one year ago upon entering your first day of kindergarten. What a RESPONSIBILITY you undertook, and I will undertake. But I am so excited and happy to become a part of your world, and I have full faith that my placement as your teacher has a great purpose.

I love you all already. I will be there for you, making school fun and fascinating. I will be there to confide in, to comfort, to reassure on days when all seems to go wrong. I will be fair and equal, open and honest. I will keep you safe and secure while you are in my classroom, and I will instill in you the importance (and the rewards) of being a responsible citizen, in the classroom community and beyond. Be equally assured that we will sing and dance and be goofy on many occasions, all the while accomplishing our main mission of Learning.

My job may be the easy one. You will have to work harder than ever before. You will learn to read and to be a friend. You will learn to add and to work cooperatively. You will learn the parts of a flower and how to embrace diversity. You will learn the pledge of allegiance and how to use your indoor voices. You will be part of a family full of unique individuals who have come together to achieve common goals, both academically and socially. You will be part of a classroom democracy in which you will be given the right to help make the rules, but you will also be solely responsible for upholding them for yourself. You will work hard, it's true. But you will succeed and you will have had a great time along the way.

Above all, we must remember that no one is perfect and mistakes will be made. Someone wise told me that "Every mistake is a rebirth", and what that should mean to you is that mistakes teach us valuable lessons, if we are willing to forgive ourselves quickly enough. So when it happens, remember to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try try again. (Did I mention I will help you up and assist in the dusting if you need me? Just checkin'.)

I know that we will be a great team. You can help me from the very start by reminding me that, just as you got through that first day of kindergarten -- just breathe Miss Pea -- so will I get through my First Day. And the rest is a breeze so long as we all remember why we are here and what we are capable of, each and every one of you, and myself.

Your teacher Miss Pea.