Saturday, April 22, 2017

Things I've "Learned" From Being a Widow

Note 1: There is some math content embedded at the bottom, so scroll through the beginning parts if that's what you are looking for.

Note 2: Someone dies, and there is no purpose, and it is not a learning opportunity, and there is no reason, so that is why I put the "learned" as it is.

My husband of 20+ years died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 53 last school year, one week into school. These days, any time I think back to last school year, I don't know how I muddled through, or more accurately, I don't remember lots of things that happened. I guess I know how I muddled through, you just go through the motions each day, concentrating on keeping your mind occupied and making lists of things you need to do, and you just mindlessly do it. In fact that is how I muddled through: keeping my mind occupied with chores, so I wouldn't have to think of the horror that was my circumstances.

It seems obvious once I write the following, and it's still unreal to me, but the fact is that I am a different person now.  I guess, how can you not be when something so traumatic happens in your life. I used to be a more bubbly and easily-cheerful person. I used to think that everything would always work out (since it seemed to for me). I took tons of things for granted because I was sure they would always be there. My first thought NEVER was (as it is now) that you could die soon, so you better soak up all the goodness that is in your situation. Also, what I spend my energy on these days has changed. Thus, why I blog way less.

And then all this seems like I am probably walking around moping and sad sack all the time and raining on others' parades. No. In fact, today for example, I had lunch with a friend, and my stomach hurt from all the laughing we did. This has happened many times in the last 20 months. I cherish these moments more now since I know that quite possibly later something could trigger an Andrew memory, and I will be a sobbing mess for a bit. In fact, the other day, I couldn't figure out why he was so suddenly on my mind that day as nothing in particular reminded me of our life together. Then it hit me. I was having one of THOSE weeks where I was so school/life stressed out, that I just needed him to hold me and pet my head and reassure me that things were going to be okay. I wanted not to be an adult for a bit and to be taken care of in that loving way. 

So that is one thing I am more conscious of, being grateful for the many great moments in my life. Another thing is that you have to really listen to what people are saying to you, regardless of the words that are coming out of their mouths. 90% of the times when I mention I am a widow to someone in a conversation, it just goes on and the person glides over that fact, like I had just mentioned that I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. My tone is not crying and sad when I mention it, but it is a horrific thing, and it is not an every-day occurrence. I didn't realize how much it bugged me until one day I was in my favorite co-op grocery store near school and mentioned it to a worker as we were chatting. I was ready to continue the conversation, and then he stopped and said, "wait", and got up from where he was sitting stocking something and came over and hugged me. I almost started crying because of his generosity and humanity. That's the person I want to be. The one that processes things someone says no matter their tone, and makes sure to acknowledge their pain or their joy and celebrate or commiserate with them. 

There are many other things I now know, but I think those are two life skills that everyone should embrace and practice regularly.

Now onto the math. I have 5 preps this year, and one things that is kicking my (time) butt is Algebra 1 for grade-level students. The awesome teacher who is teaching one of our 3 sections and I are constantly creating new worksheets and figuring out the right recipe to engage them and to make things stick in their heads. We most definitely don't always get it right, but I am proud at some of the things we have come up with. 

I think we taught factoring and quadratics effectively. After we taught the multiplying of binomials, we explored and made connections:

Next, instead of just saying "here is how you factor", we made it into a challenge on that same sheet with some "skeleton notes" that had them figure out numbers that went in the slots. We seem to have less students complaining about not knowing how to factor, so there is that. HERE is a link to this file.

Then, of course, we taught solving by factoring. I liked the fact that we had them explore on the graphing calculator and make the immediate connection to x-intercepts and reinforced the fact that y = 0 at these solutions, and kept asking out loud, "what would you plug in to make y equal to zero". Since we are also on a time crunch for the state test (Thank you, Texas, for shoving more topics down to Algebra 1), we also tossed in some parabola terms on this sheet as we went over it (vertex, axis of symmetry). A side note, we got in the habit of putting "name" and "date" on our worksheets in different languages. So that's why that is in Navajo. HERE is a link to the packet. Ackh, also, we noticed a typo on all the "e" problems. That should be "y = ...."

Next year, sadly, I don't think I will be teaching Algebra 1. I have loved it, and the 9th graders are so fun to harass and talk with, even though they are squirrelly little puppies with non-developed study skills. And, rumor has it I will be down to 4 preps. Woot!