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When you hover over the internet explorer icon, it says something akin to “finds and displays information on the internet”, but I find that is a gross oversimplification of what internet access does.

The internet at work is down this morning, mysteriously, and while my iPad can detect the Wifi, it cannot latch on.  The desktop is a lost cause until the rest of the building has been restored.  Until then, I sit, making a pen and paper list of the many tasks I wish to accomplish today, but cannot.  Being off-line has me stymied.

As a speech pathologist who trained under the pot-and-wooden-spoon approach to speech therapy, I could do therapy out of a cardboard box.  Some of my working spaces have resembled cardboard boxes, actually, but I digress.  I have all the tools and materials I need to make it through a day, if need be, and I won’t be shirking any responsibilities, or compromising any treatment sessions.  But it’s making the tasks around my job mightily difficult to be off-line.

I have to e-mail the parents the weekly session notes from last week, so they know what’s happening with their kids.  All my session notes are safely tucked away on googledocs.  I have to e-mail the HR person to find out about my coverage.  I can’t very well just pop by there, as the poor woman manages the entire 80-person staff by herself and can’t handle walk-ins.  Likewise the nurse, with whom I’d like to make an appointment for a flu shot, and hasn’t arrived yet anyway, judging from her darkened office window.  I can’t share notes with my colleagues from a meeting last week concerning their students, as they’re trapped on my iPad.  Nor can I let them know which meetings I plan to attend this week so we can decide who goes to lunch duty, who sits in meetings, and who might possibly have a blessed day to just eat lunch.  I can’t look up new resources for the students I’m working with today/this week and prep in advance.  I can’t add an appointment to the google calendar to “claim” the time I’ll be doing an observation on a shared student, so that Psych, OT, and I don’t show up at the same time.

And let’s not forget all the non-work tasks I could fill my time with, if strictly necessary.  There’s shopping on Zulily, lusting after the cutest baby clothes.  There’s downloading or uploading wedding or baby photos for photo books since I just realized that printing digital pictures and then putting them into albums by hand is sooooo 2003.  I could be blogging in real time, instead of typing into a Word document and uploading it later.  I could be looking up images to inspire this year’s Valentine postcard.  I could be taking my turn on any number of internet based games, keeping up to date on my friends’ latest child-rearing or gustatory misadventures.

Instead, this morning, seeking company, or more than that, I walked upstairs, sat down in a colleague’s room, and we talked while he drank some tea.  He couldn’t print his day’s work; I couldn’t plan mine.  But we caught up on our weekends.  It reminded me of my first year here, when our rooms were dark, cramped, inconveniently placed behind partitions, and we routinely ran into each other due to geography.  While I prize the privacy I now have with my own office, and not having to compete with two other sessions happening at the same time, I miss being able to talk over the partition to ask a colleague a question.  I miss being able to easily run into someone in the hall.  I miss that we all gathered in a centrally located reading teacher’s room to clutch scalding tea between our gloved palms in winter mornings because the c.1900 building didn’t heat up until noon.  While our new building is sleek and modern, with Smart Boards, central air, and security cameras in every corner, we’ve lost a little something.

This morning a, while the server was down, I still had a connection.

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I love the quiet moments before school starts.  I love being able to hear the clock ticking and the pipes banging as the heat decides to turn on for the morning. 

On a regular morning, I come in around 7:40am.  The other speech therapists usually aren’t in yet, so I have the room to myself. Kids drift in from their various school districts and carpools, congregating in the hallway by their lockers.  They speak in hushed tones, sipping tea or hot chocolate, still half asleep. 

By the end of the day, these same drowsy teens will be bouncing off the walls, eager to burst out of classrooms a minute early.  They’ll be trapped in advisory, unwilling to even sit down, ready for the climactic final bell that signals their release back to the bus and carpool mayhem. 

But for now, it’s quiet.  It’s calm before the storm.  It’s a time for me to recollect the things I forgot to finish yesterday, to have a moment’s peace to check my e-mail before the insanity kicks in.  

I’m by no means a morning person.  When the 2-hour delay was called this morning, I was the first one to hit the couch, setting the oven timer for another hour of sleep.  I tossed my glasses on the coffee table, peeled off my shoes, and relished another hour of slumber.  After I’d finished scraping my car out of its icy casing, I left for work.  I took my time on the unpredictable roads, but still arrived before 9:30am.  School probably won’t start officially until 10:15am, but the kids are already trickling in, a little more alert than usual.  Still, I have my time, my alone time without the clawing and licking from the dogs at home, nor the pressures of the workday at school.  Yet.

Nothing quite makes you have to pee so acutely as hearing someone say the toilets are not working.

As I lounged on the couch yesterday morning, in my usual half-stupor, I barely registered the news or traffic reports, let alone the ticking timer that serves as a constant reminder that I cannot be trusted not to fall asleep completely in the minutes before I leave for work.  I heard about a burst water main near my school, so I grabbed the GPS in case I needed to reroute through the tortuous one-way city streets. 

I arrived at work, the timer having done its job, and I prepared to do my own. My supervisor came in a few minutes later and told me we had neither water nor heat in the building.  The 100 year old building I work in is heated in a manner similar to my home – hot water.  I do not know how the boiler and the pipes and the radiators work, but I do know that it’s a system that is slightly dependent on, well, water.  I had not registered that it was cold – the 3rd floor of an old building often is, first thing in the morning – but it became clear this was to be no ordinary work day.  Since it’s illegal to hold class in a building with neither heat nor water/toilets, we found other facilities – a nearby basement/bingo hall/cafeteria – and traipsed over there.  We then commenced to have a “normal school day” full of “productive, educational experiences”.  I could barely meet with any of my speech caseload, due to new schedules, a lack of materials, and the noise level — jet engine – that occurred as a result of cramming an entire middle/high school into a room usually suited to church suppers and bingo night.  Literally, there is a giant bingo board at one end of the room, and all the chairs face it.  Three giant “Smoke Eater” machines from another era are bolted to the ceiling, reminding me more of clubs and bars than a learning environment.  Some kids had class in the kitchen, and other classes convened around long tables, with sporadic internet and creative teachers to keep them busy.  It.  Almost.  Worked.  Mercifully, administration let the kids go at noon, lest we tempt mutiny by prolonging the tenuous arrangement. 

The worst part, however, was not the feelings of futility, the rage at freezing temperatures, the uncertainty of kids’ rides home, or the disappointment at having to stay the afternoon to engage in some faculty-oriented “learning activities”.  It was missing out on Adult Lunch.

Adult Lunch is a marvelous invention.  When it’s lunchtime, we shoo all the kids down to the cafeteria, and immediately proceed to take a much-needed mental break by eating together in the library.  Some days there are as few as 4 of us; other days the census at the round table swells to 8 or more as we compete for elbow room, but we never run out of space.  Round tables are magic, as is the time spent in adult company after a morning of discussing video games, new cell phones, and ”The Wizards of Waverly Place.”  The other thing we do is drool over each other’s lunches.  There is a vast continuum of cooking ability represented, from those of us who grab Lunchables or Uncrustables from the fridge/freezer or rely on Lean Cuisine, to others who always have leftovers from gourmet meals.  Homemade soups, pasta dishes, panko-coated chicken, and more.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle, but I always lust after the effort (if not the product – being vegetarian and annoying as I am) of the thoughtfully cooked meals. 

Wednesday night, Mr. Apron and I made summer rolls, using instructions and materials sent to us from an authentic Asian friend.  I was apprehensive, but we had success!  I even made the accompanying peanut sauce.  They were not bad looking for our first try, and I could not wait to bring the leftovers into work yesterday to show them off.  I mean, to eat them artfully and let others wonder and ask if I had made them myself.  Of course, I would have been modest and self-effacing, yet I would have eagerly shared the process and talked about how it was not so intimidating as my (professional) rolls might make it seem. 

And I missed all this because of a water main.  We’ll have to make summer rolls again, so that I might show and tell, and receive the good, affirming praise all children seek, whether they bring in a favorite stuffed animal, a piece of string, or a story about how grandma fell and broke her hip.

A friend of ours is your typical Type B personality – laid back, can’t be bothered by things like deadlines, unfettered by time constraints, and seemingly unaffected by the stress of others around him. 

This is the man who installed our closet, a “one day job,” over 3 weekends.  This is the man who would stop to chat about any number of his previous lives, such as when he owned a restaurant, his first date, on growing up in a small enclave on the Main Line, on seeing a circumcised penis for the first time on a Boy Scout trip.  You name it; it was part of a closet-installation digression.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s a wonderful guy, with a great attitude towards his family, his work, and his life.  He just sometimes clashes with others of us who are more Type A, and feel more pressure to be slightly more product oriented. 

So it’s no surprise that when his son set out “to seek his fortune” and scored his first job out of college, he had some pearls of wisdom.  His son, eager to impress, had said he would be the first one to work, the last one to leave, the guy to take on extra work, the overachiever, the go-getter, the brown-noser.  And the father, ever the sage of work in moderation, told him, “Just be there.  Don’t be early, don’t stay late, just do your job.  Don’t stick out, don’t try to impress, don’t work too hard.  You’ll burn out, and they’ll be sick of you.  Just do your job.”  And wouldn’t you know, within 4 months, he’d been promoted. 

I guess the theory is, when the upper echelons go looking for their next promotee, they don’t want a trouble-maker.  They don’t want someone who has too much personality and sticks out and is going to require too much managing himself.  They don’t want a slack-ass who will need babysitting.  They just want a competent fellow who can do his job without too much support, who doesn’t cause friction or require too much maintenance.

Throughout grad school, when I would begin a new practicum, there was a very gentle beginning, with much to learn, but little to do independently.  My responsibilities began and ended with our patients, or clients, or students.  I didn’t do billing, or deal with office crap.  I showed up, prepared (or pretended to be), saw clients/patients/kids, wrote notes, and tried not to stick out.  When I was bored, I tried to look busy.  I journalled.  I flipped through catalogues of therapy toys or resource books.  I was fully aware that if I had that expectant look on my face that said I was bored, or needed a task, I would seem like I needed something to do.  And that my supervisor would have to find something for me to do, as for a small child who constantly needs to be stimulated with brightly colored toys. 

In my efforts to look busy, I have developed many tasks that serve me well.  I am quite adept at self-entertainment at work.  I have theories that we are not a truly the efficient work force we claim to be in this country.  Who among us can claim to actually be productive for 7-8 continuous hours in a day?  Who among us is not guilty of extraneous trips to the bathroom, water cooler, and coffee pot?  Who among us does not welcome a walk around the building or the neighborhood on some silly errand?  Who does not check e-mail a little more than necessary?  These breaks keep us sane, they keep us busy, or at least they keep us looking busy. 

The best part about looking busy is that it allows me to just do my job.  If I do end up with extra work – a report, billing, a deluge of e-mails, or some extra last-minute kiddos to cover for a coworker – I can manage it.  It’s built into my schedule, both mentally and physically.  If I were already operating at maximum capacity, I would burn out.  A modicum of Type B would serve us all well in the work force, and provide better stories, too.

My mug is missing. At my new place of employment, we are not only able to enjoy previously unheard of luxuries as “adult lunch”; we are also privy to tea.  One of my coworkers keeps an electric kettle on a one of the deep window ledges in her classroom.  She has a drawer full of tea bags, and all the accessories you could need.  I was told to bring in a mug, so I could reap the full benefits of a morning tea break (with my animal cracker snack), so I brought in a big blue mug emblazoned with the name of a school I used to teach at, the kind of mug you can wrap both hands around on a cold morning, and could use for soup in a pinch.

I used it for tea exactly once.  I washed it afterwards, and left it on the drain board to dry.  The next day, when I went to go retrieve it, I noted that someone had graciously put it on a mug hook above the sink.  I let it be.  The next time I wanted tea, I went back to the sink, looked at the mug hooks, and it was gone.  I had assumed that my proprietary mug rights would be respected, that if I put up my mug, I, and I alone, would be the one to use it.  Even if there had been explicit instruction that all mugs were for communal use (please-wash-and-dry-when-done protocol), I would have expected it to return shortly.  Tea only stays hot for so long.  And then I would have promptly taken it back to my office, where I would have hid it in my desk for my own personal private specific exclusive use. 

I’ve taken to furtively glancing around classrooms I enter, scanning the shelves and desks for my mug.  Unfortunately, I’m only in 4 rooms besides my office, and so far – no luck.  I don’t want to send out an e-mail to the entire staff, since I think that would seem petty and stupid.  I was supposed to bring in a mug I didn’t care about, since an environment of children (no matter how old or disciplined) is always subject to running in the halls and impulsive sporadic movements.  I kind of don’t care too much about it, but I can’t get another one, and I want to have some tea!  I even brought in my own contribution to the (expressly communal) tea bag collection, and now I can’t use it!

Pray for my mug.  I won’t rest until it’s home safely.

This is my last day of work at my old job.  I will start my new job on Monday, assuming a seamless transition between old and new, right?  Wrong.  I am terrified.  I will be leaving the world of preschoolers, leaving behind playing with play-doh and focusing on whether children could let you know they before they peed their pants.  It’s not that the standards are low.  Quite the opposite – modern preschool programs are positively bursting with standards aimed to ensure kids are getting a variety of stimulating experiences and developing across different domains.  But you can only expect to get so far with a preschooler.  You can only develop a 5-year-old’s language so far before discharging him.  While most kids have mastered the basics of language itself by the time they head off to kindergarten, language itself remains fairly basic.  No one is expecting a preschooler to explain the Treaty of Ghent, nor where didgeridoos come from.  More likely, preschoolers who can explain where the blocks go and how they got dressed that morning are the star pupils.  That’s enough.  As kids get older, more is (rightly) expected.  And that puts more of a burden on the adults supporting them.  

As I move onto my new job, I will still keep details (incriminating and otherwise) private, but I can bet I’ll still be needing a forum to tell stories about my students and vent about the adults I’m working with.  (It’s always the adults who cause the problems, no matter where you work.)  I’m going to be moving up, graduating from preschool and being promoted immediately to middle/high school.  On hearing this, most of my current coworkers, as well as friends and family, have one of two responses.  The first is that they’ll be taller than I am.  How comical.  Imagine the 5-foot-tall speech therapist looking up at the towering 12 year old.  Insert amusing mental image.  They were taller than me when I was their age, too.  The second comment is one of genuine curiosity.  Most people do not know what kinds of “issues” adolescents can have with their speech.  Are they still dealing with lisps?  Am I working on stuttering?  The misnomer that kids who seem to walk and talk okay, are okay, is quite pervasive, and frightening.  It shows me that most people have no idea what higher level language skills are, and what they’re used for.  It shows me they’re still mentally separating out the classroom work of reading, writing, math, science, and history, from the language skills used to comprehend, listen, sound out words, scan text, break down scientific vocabulary, and retell narratives.  

Ironically, when I would tell people that I worked with preschoolers on their language and speech skills, a comment I would often hear was, “What do you work on with a kid that young?  What could be wrong with them already at that young an age?”  Only the foundations of spoken and written language.  Only the fundamentals of communication and self-expression.  That’s all. 

The issues become more complex, the academic stakes higher, in middle and high school.  The kids don’t stand much of a chance of being “cured”, or “fixed,” as one could hope an articulation disorder might be.  More likely, they’ll develop strategies to help them organize their thoughts, mnemonics to work on classroom concepts, and many many visual supports to reduce the verbal load and cognitive demands of school work.  I had a professor in graduate school, who was so scatter-rained as an instructor she would often forget to give us quizzes, but who had brilliant therapy ideas.  Though she taught preschool and school-age language disorders (focusing on birth through elementary school, usually), she worked with middle school-aged students.  

Speech therapy is a pretty cool thing when you’re in preschool.  You get extra attention from an adult, you get to work on silly words or sounds, and there are often motivating toys, games, or prizes involved.  Right around third grade, being pulled out of class to go work on /r/ or /s/, or receiving extra attention in the classroom ceases to be cool and starts to be mortifying, for myriad reasons.  Because of this shift, my professor, in her work with middle school-aged students, began calling her work “Strategies”.  She would pop her head in a classroom to extract a student, and tell him it was time for “Strategies”.  I like this term not just because of the stigma-decreasing acceptability to the child, but also because the student really will be learning strategies to help him make it through school; to help him adapt his learning style to the way his class is taught; to help him tune out the distractions that plague him so he can focus on the lecture; to help him communicate effectively with other kids so they can work on a group project together; to support him to be able to approach school with a toolkit of strategies, so he can succeed.  

I am extremely fortunate in school.  The teaching paradigm that prevailed until fairly recently, worked for me.  Reading and sounding out words just made sense to me.  The way math was presented jived with the way my brain worked.  With my high verbal skills I understood math, English, science, French, and social studies as they were presented to me in school.  It wasn’t until an in-service on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, at my first teaching  job, that I had a revelation.  The presenter at the in-service put up a word problem on the overhead, and we were all given some time to solve it.  I had, of course, written out an algebraic equation, and I reached the answer quickly.  She asked us not just what answer we’d come to, but how.  And there were at least three different ways people had arrived at the same answer.  While my textbook algorithm worked for me, and was the most efficient way for me to solve the problem, it wasn’t the natural choice for others.   Previously, I’d thought that everyone who didn’t “get” math in school was less intelligent than me, that kids who didn’t pick up differential calculus on the first pass just weren’t able to grasp advanced math, and were just stupid or something.  

As I moved through the grades in “advanced” reading groups, I wondered what it was about reading that was so hard for the kids in the lowest reading group, or, worse, the ones who went to the resource room.  I can’t begin to get into their brains and understand how difficult it must be to read if you cannot sequence sounds, or struggle to remember when the C sounds like an S and when it makes the K sound.  I have a better respect, though, when I see the euphemism of kids who learn “differently”.  While in a traditional school setting, with a teacher who only presents one way to approach a concept, these kids may indeed look like they have a learning “disability”; however, if a skilled teacher is able to teach fractions with manipulatives and mnemonics, and break down the steps in finding least common denominators, then a child may be said to truly learn “differently”, if he can still grasp the concept.  

These are the students I will be working with.  They will present new challenges to me as I recall from my language development class those advanced language concepts we’ll be working on together.  I hope I’m able to work with them to support their ability to excel in the classroom, to help them be successful teens and achieve their highest dreams.  Even if they tower over me physically, I hope we’ll be able to see eye-to-eye.

Due to some recent instability at work (insecurity as well) I’m in the process of “putting out feelers” in my field, seeing what’s open, who’s hiring, just in case I need to know. 

Mr. Apron found a terrific-sounding job.  It would be working in a classroom with a team of teachers to support kindergarteners who are at risk of learning disabilities.  Language enrichment all day long, not just during your 30 minute speech therapy session.  Sounds, great, doesn’t it?  So I applied.  And they asked to have a phone interview today!  Turns out it’s only a part-time job — 28 hours a week, and no health insurance.  I needn’t say that amounts to a pretty substantial pay cut, enough so that I can’t begin to entertain the idea of pursuing this any further. 

Then I went into the office after a morning of seeing kids who have June fever — they’re just about bursting to get out the doors and are making their teachers/therapists nuts.  I have scarcely enough time to do my regular paperwork, let alone the extra paperwork I’m doing for a colleague who’s out on sick leave, and we have a staff meeting, where we found out we’re doing our paperwork all wrong. 

And I longed for the other job.  This just about set me into a fit of depression already, but the meeting had started late.  We never finish on time anyway, so I dashed out the door already a half-hour late. 

Traffic, for those who don’t Commute, is determined by exponential factors.  Leave the office at 3:30pm precisely, the trip may take 42 minutes.  Leave at 3:45, it’s creeping up to 48 minutes.  Leave closer to 4:00, it’ll be an hour.  I resigned myself to my fate, and promptly sat on my ass for an hour, trying to decide not to kill the four youths who decided to thin the gene pool by crossing a highway at a leisurely pace nowhere near a light or a crosswalk. 

No one I wanted to complain to was able to talk on the phone.  My sister, a social worker, had to take someone grocery shopping.  My mom was in the basement of a fabric store.  My husband had an appointment.  Eventually, I reached Mom, whose solution was that Mr. Apron should go to bartending school.  As a teetotaler, and the wife of a teetotaler who has never anything beyond Manischewitz brush his lips, I could not begin to fathom where she had conceived such a ridiculous idea.  And told her so.  That always goes well.  As usual, she changed the subject, trying to distract me by telling me about some 3.5 year old client she has who gets speech therapy. 

I reached Mr. Apron, but there was nothing more to be said.  I’m sad about not being able to entertain the idea of the job.  They hurt my feelings at work by asking too much of me and not respecting my time.  And I was stuck in traffic, with two dogs at home fairly pissing themselves.

Finally walked the dogs, one at a time, for ease of perambulation.  The puppy seems to have forgotten how to sit on command, even with a treat dangled in front of her nose and few birds, squirrels, dogs, humans, and cats to distract her. 

Oh, and my wrist hurts — my tendonitis is acting up again.  Because that’s awesome when I’m trying to walk two dogs. 

So I sit down to be productive, to have a little success.  I pull out my brand-new box of invitation-sized envelopes so I can bundle up notecards Mr. Apron and I made for my upcoming craft fair, and start to stack 5 envelopes with 5 notecards.  Lo and behold — Staples’ definition of “invitation size” is different from Wal-Mart’s definition of “invitation size”.  Staples knows you want to chop up a piece of cardstock and slide it in the envelope; Wal-Mart assumes you want to mail 4″x6″ photos.  Since I had already started before I ran out of envelopes, I’m now faced with a dilemma: do I use all the Wal-Mart ones, which are absurdly oversized, but would all be uniform?  or do I dissolve, sobbing, in the dining room table, over the matter of a quarter inch of envelope?

The time clock is coming.  First it was the annual time motion study, asking us to account for the hours we work in 15 minute increments for a week.  Now the payroll time clock is here.  Don’t get me wrong, time clocks work, when they’re used for their intended purposes at appropriate workplaces.  As I understand it, a time clock is a mechanical or electronic or computerized way of clocking a person in and out of work, for payroll purposes.  If you’re at work when you’re supposed to be, the clock can verify this, and you’ll get paid for the time you work.  If you slack off, or sleep in, or skip out, the time clock should also verify this, and pay you accordingly.  I get that it’s very useful when people have changing shifts, or variable hours worked each week, or overtime to be calculated.  You know, for people who work at an hourly rate.
 
It, however, is gratuitous and ridiculous at a job where the vast majority of us work 8:30am-4pm M-F.  That’s it.  We’re all here, we’re all on the clock at the same time.  None of us would need to clock out for lunch since we pretty much work while eating.  None of us works overtime or overnight.  And here’s the kicker — the vast majority of us are salaried. That’s right — our hourly rate is extrapolated from a yearly salary, and we bring home the exact same paycheck each two weeks, regardless of how late we stayed in a meeting, or how early we arrived to finish up some paperwork, or even if we got to leave a half hour early by the grace of bad weather. 
 
Maybe this is some attempt by our higher-ups to enforce a unified start time, to encourage us all to be here on-time, preferably before the kids arrive.  Some staff do show up a bit late.  And some do try to leave early on a regular basis.  Are we moving to time clocks because we have to stoop to the lowest denominator?  Will those who come late be docked pay according to what the time clock says? 
 
The official word is that the time clock, being modern and synched up with the money people, will help make payroll easier for the folks off-site who process our checks.  Until this impending change, we will still be filling out paper timecards.  The secretary at one of my sites said that when she came to work here 12 years ago, they were promising a move to electronic time cards, so as to make her job easier.  She’s still waiting.  It’s very silly to have an allegedly modern organization with computers and internet and fax machines and scanning copiers still using paper time cards.  Yet here we are, letting the interoffice mail pick up timecards from 8 different sites and schlepp them to the corporate office across town each 2 weeks. 
 
But is a timeclock really the answer?  Is this leap backward to the 1950s really the way to go?  I can’t even begin to get into all the ways this is not going to work, all my questions and concerns.  Least of all, we’re supposed to start this coming Monday, yet we’ve had no training on how to use the fool thing.  Just a crude clock sketch on the whiteboard by the office, and the note that we’re starting Monday. The word on the street (underground employee information network, from others at other sites who are a week ahead of us) is that the clocks will only allow us to clock in from 7 minutes before the scheduled start time (e.g., 8:30am) to 7 minutes after.  This has already led people to have to excuse themselves from meetings running overtime to go clock out in their 14 minute window of opportunity.  The major issue, beyond the nit-picky annoyance of having the machine own our paychecks, is the loss of the human factor.  Not just the trust (outlined in the employee manual) that we will be here as long as it takes to do our jobs (ah, overtime without pay, I know it well), but the wiggle room allowed by other humans because we are all human.  One day you stay 30 minutes late for a meeting, the next day you can “comp” 30 minutes and scoot out a little early.  One week you have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, so you make sure to get in a little early on that day.  I don’t think the timeclock knows how to do that. 
 
More than that, it doesn’t know how to clock in people who are itinerant.  Two and a half days out of every week, I’m in the “field”.  I start my day at Sally’s Childcare or Big Bertha’s Head Start.  I start my day at homes, churches, daycare, and pre-k classrooms in Our Fair City.  The vast majority of us who are itinerant do so.  We only come into the office at the end of the day, and even then, some of us see a child as the last thing we do.  On a given Friday, I might not be in the office at 8:30am or 4:00pm.  Okay, so maybe they give the itinerant folks a bye on using the time clocks, but what about people like me, who divide their time between places?  I may start at Daycare X, only to finish my day at a site with a time clock.  I may have 3 days in a week officially clocked in and out, but 2 more days lost to a system that doesn’t understand or reflect the way the workers, um, work. 
 
Nevermind the fact that we haven’t been trained how to use the machine; nevermind the fact that I’m one of those annoying goody-goodies who’s always here on time.  It still irks me on a fundamental level.  I know the kinks are going to take a long time to work out.  Meanwhile, we all get to feel like the work we do on the job is secondary to how we cross the threshhold to the workplace. 

It’s so hard to talk about work.  There’s the intentional vagueness, the fear of being identifiable, or identified, the desire to at once expose the daily insanity and yet still keep my job at the end of the day.  I try.  For my own sanity, I try.

Changes are afoot at work, and responsibilities are being shifted around.  Certain positions have been, shall we say, outsourced, so we’re all struggling to put the pieces back together and fill in the blanks left by those essential players on our team.  While the parent agency feels the important duties have been re-delegated appropriately, they have not.  Other parts of the job have been abandoned as non-essential, or they took on a wait-and-see approach — we’ll just wait and see if/who picks them up.  Yesterday at an IEP meeting, we finally found out.  No one did.  We sat across the table from the person who is supposed to have taken over the bulk of the responsibilities and listened as she told us it was on our shoulders.  And then we exchanged a few words.  Which is very responsible to be doing in front of a parent.

“Where’s the folder you guys always prepare?”

“Um, the woman who did that is no longer here.  We though it would be your job now.”

“No, if it’s going to be done, it would be you guys.”

Awesome.  And the shit hit the fan.  Which leads me to the bigger point.  On the continuum of slack-picking-up, where do I lie?  I noticed last year, when we were short another speech pathologist at my old center, my caseload seemed to grow and grow.  They weren’t any closer to hiring anyone else, and yet angry parents whose children weren’t receiving services due to our shortage were being placated so they wouldn’t sue.  Placated by having Junior assigned to my caseload.  Which grew.  And grew.  Beyond recommendations for a center-based speech pathologist of any experience, let alone a first-year clinical fellow.  In 3 days of center-based treatment per week, my caseload maxed out at 38 children.  It is recommended that a caseload for a center-based clinician not exceed 50 children per week, or 10 per day, or 30 in my 3 days.  Oops.  And who picked up the slack?  Me.  Who prepared for 100% of the scheduled IEPs despite being on campus 60% of the time?  Me.  And why did I do it?  Because I felt the children needed to be seen.  I didn’t want to punish them for the lack of speech therapists.

Imagine my intense jealousy when I found out they now have 8 days of speech therapists assigned to the same caseload I was drowning under in 3 days.  Well, I guess the new hires finally came through. Grrr.

And now, at my new center, we’re seeing the thousand little jobs our former coworker did, and we’re all wondering who is going to do them.  If we all pick up the slack, and take on things that aren’t in our job description, then the center may run smoothly, and we’ll feel her absence less keenly.  On the other hand, if we stand by and let the pieces fall where they may, it will hopefully send a message to the parent agency that we cannot do this by ourselves.  We need the support system we used to have.

I’m all for working together to make the best of what we have.  But what if what we have is not enough?

I think I’ve been channeling some teenage rebelliousness lately.  I’m not talking about hitting bars, clubs, or hanging out past curfew.  It’s that too-cool-for-common-sense attitude I remember, the little things we used to do just to defy our parents, teachers, and mother nature.

My center-based job is housed in a former church campus, so the center is comprised of 5 different buildings surrounding a parking lot, a set-up I’ve heard someone refer to as a California campus.  In other words, a campus which only makes sense to people living in California.  For those of us in climates which get winter, separate buildings are a major pain in the ass.  I regularly visit three different buildings, keeping the person who buzzes us into them very busy as I jet across the parking lot for the fortieth time of the day.  Sometimes I bother to get bundled up, like when the kiddos are headed outside, or if the heat hasn’t kicked on indoors yet, but frequently I find myself marching across the parking lot without a coat, in stern indifference to the cold.  No matter how lightweight they are making coats these days, no matter how much “bulk” they promise to condense, coats are still a nuisance.  Put my coat on, button up, brave the 50 yards of cold air, then enter another warm building, pull layers off, find a place to stow my coat on an absent child’s coathook, forget where I put it, leave it in the wrong building, etc.  Even as we head into a cold snap that reminds me what winter is all about, even as the, um, wiser coworkers insist in their well practiced mothering tones, “Are you sure you don’t want a coat?” or, passive-aggressively, “Aren’t you cold?” I’m increasingly defying the weather and letting the cold air hit me as best it can.

We had a snow fall last night, enough to cause many suburban school districts to open two hours late as they rushed to clean off buses and plow roads.  I left the house a few minutes early this morning, my school district being obstinately open, in order to clear off my car.  I wore my mock-Uggs (Target, $19.99) which I have defiantly covered with multi-color Sharpie graffiti, so as to keep my grey argyle knee-socks dry while I tromped around the driveway.  As soon as I pulled into my first site this morning, I flung the car seat into its furthest back position, and wrenched those boots off in favor of a pair of decidedly unseasonable ballet flats.  These are shoes so unpractical the snow laughed in my face as I stepped from my car onto the icy road.  But frankly, I don’t care.  I am so sick of bundling up (and it’s only January, folks!)  that I must exert my independence against the confines of practicality and defy the common-sense conventions that are supposed to have taken root by adulthood. 

“Screw you, winter!”  I shout in my head.  “You can’t tell me how to dress!”