Monday, May 30, 2011

Teacher Training vs. Teacher Knowledge

I know I am not supposed to care about such things anymore but... Recent studies show if math teachers want to be more effective they need to understand more math. All the workshops in the world are not going to help you get a point across if you do not understand that point in the context of the bigger picture.

Learn more math!

Teacher Training Does Not Help

Sunday, May 29, 2011

When will I forget?

After my cavernoma bled into my brain and I had to have a craniotomy, my memory suffered a major blow. I forget a whole lot of stuff. I don't remember people I have met, places I have been, words for things, and episodes of tv shows. That last one is major since I used to be able to recite the entire plot of a tv show, often quoting the dialogue verbatim. Now, not so much. The weird thing is I cannot predict what I am going to remember and what I will forget. I used to argue with people about stuff that happened. Now, not so much. It is pretty safe for me to assume I am wrong. When I was at work, people actually mocked me by saying, "I thought you said you couldn't remember." Okay, true. I did say that but... If you want to guarantee that I will not forget something then add some emotional trauma to the incident. For example, insult me and my intelligence. Question my judgement or ability to do my job. Point out all the tiny mistakes I keep making and exaggerate their importance.

There is nothing like a whole bunch of people you no longer trust telling you that your perception of reality is skewed to feed a growing feeling of paranoia. I want to forget everything that happened at work. I want to be free of all of it. I was officially approved for disability so I do not have to worry about my ability to "do my job" anymore. It was decided for me. I am still having bad dreams, yelling out in my sleep, and waking my husband.

Today as I was basking in the sun on my roof, a voice said my name. It was a former colleague and friend. In fact, she was with me the weekend before my bleed. (My husband thinks the bleed started that weekend though because I came home complaining of a headache.) I went skiing with three friends. It was amazing. I had not been skiing for many years and I was worried about my endurance. It was not a problem. The other gals were quite athletic and snowboarded, so I skied alone. It was fantastic though. I felt very free and happy. At night, we watched The Departed over and over again. Every time we put it on two of my friends fell asleep so we kept trying to replay it. The love scene with Leo was so hot and I kept listening to that song. Only now as I think about the lyrics, "I have become comfortably numb," do I connect them to the numbness that crept down the left side of my body in the days following.

On the roof, I was struck by a wave of unpleasant memories. Everything about work and the last four years hit me and I was near tears. I worked closely with this woman for years. We both taught sixth grade math together. I went to many of her birthday parties. She came to my wedding (as did all of my former colleagues). She was never mean to me at work. She never stopped looking me in the eye or saying hello. Very early in my return to work, fatigued and overwhelmed, my emotions flooded and my tongue let loose hurtful words towards her. I accused her of not supporting my ideas in a meeting, undermining my authority as math chair, and being passive aggressive. She was so upset. I was shocked that I had made her cry. Her response was bewildering to me at the time. Was she really surprised by what I said? Of course, she was. Professional people do not say these things in the work place and I was no longer able to filter my thoughts, words, nor actions. She left the math department that years so I did not see her as much. I was filled with remorse in the year after my surgery. My lack of control swept through all aspects of my life like a tornado wreaking havoc and leaving waves of hurt and disbelief in its wake.

It turned out that my former colleague was friends with a woman who lives in my building. There are 345 apartments in my building so it is not that strange. They met through biking. She shared news from school and reported that the other two women from our ski trip both got married this past March in the same weekend. I did not know. I was not informed. I was not invited. We are no longer friends. I have little to offer and my actions are often baffling even to me. I am okay with that.

When I was ready to leave the roof, I got up the nerve to go over to her and say goodbye. I asked her about her life outside of school and she asked after my family. She said to keep in touch and gave me her email address. I cannot tell you how grateful I felt for the normalcy of the interaction. As I rose to leave, she too rose and extended her arms for a hug. It has been so long. After my brain injured actions of the past four years left everyone distrustful of me, I am filled with gratitude for anyone who gives me a second chance.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The benign indifference of cookies

So I baked some cookies this weekend. More than I should have, in retrospect. Monday I got this crazy idea in my head that I would send some to school for my former fifth grade class as a way to say goodbye. I attached a little note saying hi and I hoped the were doing well and how certain I was they were learning lots of math with their new teachers. I asked a good friend to send them to school. Big mistake. Now, as a result of my impulsive act and the school's refusal to accept the cookies and note, I have made people uncomfortable again. Worst of all my friend, with whom I had hoped to share a special day. Now, my presence is tainted with the stench of conflict and toxins of betrayal.

And all because of these stupid cookies. Look how innocently they smile up at you, mocking and shiny.

This is the one Tess got into.

Sly dog that she is, she hid it and waited for me to go to bed. She was sleeping on the couch and as soon as I turned off the lights and went into bed, she snuck off to eat it. I only caught her because she usually comes bounding into bed before my head hits the pillow. When she was quiet, I knew something was up. I never knew dogs could plan ahead. Well, at least somebody wanted my cookies, even if she couldn't have them. I am trying to take it in stride but I am deeply hurt at the rejection and being disinvited by my friend. I understand why but it still feels terrible.

I feel very alone and misunderstood right now. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Sun Is Shining In My Head Today

I belong to an online support community. After a recent post, the moderator of the group wrote to me expressing concern that I get Positive Human Contact. This was my reply.

Thank you for your letter. That is one thing that I can continue to rely on. All things change and my mood is in constant flux. It is raining here in New York City so my head is hurting but physical pain can be remedied to some extent with meds.

Being away from work has relieved me of a lot of negative human contact. I think I got so used to those uncomfortable interactions on a regular basis that it became better than nothing. I was out of work three times this year before I finally left. After 22 years of working in the same private school, only a couple of my colleagues called me. I can never go back there. The email that the administration sent to all the parents and staff was so vague it left many people thinking I had a terminal illness. There is no way I can contact all the parents of all the children I taught to say goodbye. Even if I did, what would I say? I am not sick. I just have brain damage. Sorry I thought I could teach your kid but it turns out I couldn't.

A few parents did call me and so I am doing some volunteer work. It is essential to my sense of well-being. I am trying to get into a rehab program here in the city. We have the Rusk Institute and the Brain Injury Research Center. I am just starting a study on how exercise helps mood, cognition, and something else TBI related I can't remember right now. As I wrote those words, I suddenly realized the word I sought was memory. I kid you not.

On a positive, albeit harshly realistic note, my disability from the private insurance company from work was approved yesterday. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I am disabled.

I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to me privately. I don't even remember what I wrote now. When the sun is out, I cannot conjure up any memory of the rain. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Like my husband (who is Irish) always says, every day above ground is better than the alternative.

Your letter helps me remember to make an effort to find the positive. Please know that you really do make a difference.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When the chalk dust settles...

who will be left standing?

I was asked to take down my blog and I did so with much sadness. I did not know you could password protect it so no one could read it. By the time I found out, I had deleted so much of it that I could not put it back.

I have missed writing here. It is more than a blog. It is a record of what happened and how I felt about it at the time. My memory is so poor that I do not remember whether I struggled or breezed through something, whether or not I liked someone, or what my experience left me feeling. Unless I was furious or stricken by intense emotion, I simply forget my feelings.

I started two different new blogs but I could not write. I missed you To Be Invisible! I did not know how much I missed you until we met again. I will salvage what I can and you will rise again. Forgive me for my misguided attempts to fight a losing battle by compromising my ideals. We will rise again together! I will not be silenced again!