Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(insert witty sub pun here)

Reasons for an Aspie not to be a substitute teacher:
  • The job, by its very nature, is not at all consistent. There is little opportunity to develop a routine. Each day is new classes, new students, new schedule, new room, maybe even new school.
  • It can be unsettling to be the official teacher for a subject she does not know well, creating some anxiety over not looking less than intelligent.
  • It requires a lot of interaction with a whole host of people she does not know. Lots of small talk and processing new information quickly.
Reasons an Aspie (with previous, successful teaching experience) might be a pretty good sub:
  • Previous practice has given her confidence in her ability to maintain acceptable order in nearly any classroom.
  • She will already have a number of scripts to handle varying situations, both for conversations with people and for handling information outside her areas of specialty.
  • Her attention to detail and need to get things right means that lesson plans will be followed closely.
  • This also translates to a conscientiousness that means she'll do more than read a book and ignore all but the loudest outbursts. She will most definitely not lose concentration long enough that some students sneak out (as happened to a different sub on the day she was at the school for an observation).
Guess what I'm doing to make a little money!

I am the newest addition to the substitute roster for Springfield Public Schools. It was much easier than the application made it out to be. And they're definitely happy to have someone who is more than just a warm body.

Two of my classes today met in the school library to work on their research papers. The head librarian admitted to me that he usually dislikes it when a teacher sends their students to the library with a sub. But he also made a point of telling me that my previous experience as a teacher was quite obvious and that I had handled the students very well. Not that the students were all that troublesome--it was mostly an issue of keeping them from talking too loudly and gently nudging them back on task. The librarian was actually disappointed to hear that I wouldn't be the teacher's sub for the remaining days he'll be out.

It has been nice for me to find a way to earn something to stretch our savings for the time being, especially since subbing pays better than the minimum-wage jobs I would otherwise be after. I've also missed being in the classroom, so this is a way to sate that.

But boy do my feet and hips ache from a day on my feet!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guess what I'm still thinking about

I have moments when I panic, when I run the numbers and worry about how long our savings will really last (mostly when I open bills like the one we just got for my life insurance--it's figured into our budget at a monthly level, but I'd forgotten it would come due in one lump sum, right at the beginning of all of this).

But most of the time I'm optimistic. Something will come through for Trillian soon. Not quite as soon as I'd like--that would be yesterday--but all signs point to enough work, through one or more sources, coming her way in the next month or so.

And the local school district has already jumped on my substitute application, so I may be able to make it through the rest of their process in time to get around a month's worth of work before summer break begins.

I've also been able to keep the humorous side of things in view. Maybe it's immature or small of me, but the fact that the company has handled so poorly pleases me (in a schadenfreude sort of way, except that the event is not separate from our own suffering).

Turns out that the decision to let go of Trillian came from very high up, based entirely on numbers, and not discussed with anyone who actually knows her work. Her immediate supervisor, who is just below the apex of the management pyramid, did not know until afterwards. In fact the supervisor sent Trillian an email in an everyday tone, asking about an aspect of their current project. Trillian, a bit confused, mentioned that she was not working on anything, given the whole lay-off thing. Which was the first her supervisor had heard of it.

Not that it gets Trillian her job back (though contract work or even getting the job back are looking more and more likely), but I do take some perverse pleasure in the damage the big guy has done to morale. Her supervisor is completely frustrated that he has no sense of the knowledge base she has--or the fact that they literally cannot replace it with a single person. And even if Trillian does get some work back with this company, he's made it that much easier for people to understand why she might want to leave if another offer comes along.

Another glint of silver lining is that Trillian has had a lot of former co-workers write glowing references for her. The unanimous opinion among her most recent co-workers and the friend who has been trying to get her a job with her own company has been "I really want you to be working with me, but the most important thing is to make sure your family is OK, so I'll help you get a job anywhere I can." It's not the circumstances one hopes for to discover how much one's work is appreciated, but it counts for a little something.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad news

As Scooter and I walked home from school one day last week, he gave me his bad news for the day. A friend had gone to a doctor's appointment and missed recess playtime with him, his made-up superhero had needed to run from equally made-up bad guys, and--my favorite--some kid had brought a frisbee from home and then thrown it into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a passing vehicle.

There was a sense of comfort in hearing the bad news from a six-year-old's day, especially in contrast to the very big bad news his parents have been dealing with. Trillian has been laid off. Quite unexpectedly, with absolutely no warning, not all that long after we'd convinced ourselves that her job was secure (there's already been a round of layoffs, her team had enough work to keep everyone scheduled at 50+ hours per week, and they're expecting to enter an even busier period soon).

Her company has handled this in a very ham-fisted manner. The person who spoke to her on the phone gave her some misleading information (and said more than he should have--if we wanted to sue for wrongful termination, he gave us enough ammo); she wasn't clearly told until the next day that the lay off was immediate and that keeping her on payroll until the end of the month is the sum total of her severance package. They may or may not be able to throw some hourly work her way, but it's not clear who will be making that decision. And it sounds like they won't be able to get COBRA information to her until sometime in May, after their payment of her coverage ends. The COBRA benefits will be retroactive to the beginning of May, but the sticky point is that I may or may not be covered by them--since Trillian and I are not married in the eyes of the federal government, this is a gray area. So the longer they sit on the information, the more likely it becomes that I will be without insurance for at least a couple weeks.

The silver lining, I suppose, is that Trillian detested this job. She had been brought on with the promise of a mix of the work she'd done before and the opportunity to expand her skill set. Instead, she was stuck with a bunch of editing work that nobody else wanted to do and which was really many steps back for her.

She's been working on some of her contacts for a couple months now. The plan had been to stay put until something definite was in place. Her best lead is with a large company where a former co-worker and friend has been dying to bring her on. Of course, that company put in a hiring freeze just as her boss wanted to hire Trillian. So now we're waiting to see what comes of this. The current bad news/good news is that the person who would need to sign an exception to the hiring freeze has not made any moves, but the hiring freeze is expected to end in mid-May. We're hopeful that even if we have to wait a month, things move smoothly after that.

In the meantime, we have our emergency savings. It hurts to dive into it, but this is exactly the situation for it. We've got 5 months at our current spending levels, more as we cut expenses and I attempt to pick up some tutoring, maybe substitute teaching and childcare too. Trillian already cut our costs on a couple extras, without us having to sacrifice much at this point.

The experience of even these few days has shown me how hard it will be for the economy to reach its previous state. For a few months, we'd cut back on our spending, suffering from the psychological fear brought on by all the news coverage. Just recently, having been reassured that Trillian's job wasn't going anywhere, we were spending a little more. Not tons, not lavishly, not cutting out savings, but allowing ourselves the occasional treat, continuing our Starbucks habit, planning vacations. All of that, just to get bitten on the ass. Now you can be sure that even if Trillian manages to get another job before we've been without a full income for a month, we'll be socking it away like mad, less inclined than before to spend on the extras.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reaching for the life preserver

I've been meaning to write the funny version of Scooter's recent arguments and obstinance. Trillian and I (and several others) have been laughing.

But the flip side is that things have been really hard the past few days. It doesn't seem to be any one thing that has set Scooter on edge, but the accumulation of all the little events have led to exhaustion and tears and yelling.

Scooter came out of his birthday celebrations and Spring Break not wanting to return to kindergarten. The funny bit is that he had this all worked out logically and had decided he would just stay home until 1st grade starts in August.

I ended up driving him to school that morning, as he was dragging his feet (and yelling about not going, etc). He did get into the car under his own power once he realized that Trillian and I were 100% not backing down. So he quit talking instead. It didn't last long, I'm told, but I left his classroom half expecting a call sometime during the day.

Since then, he's had numerous accidents at school. I could write a whole post on the fact that we're here at 6 and still no end in sight to toilet training. With the school connection, I am most concerned about any social stigma that may follow him.

There are other little things at school that suggest he's been thrown off kilter, though he's mostly holding together. But then he gets home and has meltdown after meltdown and generally communicates by yelling. Little decisions, like what he wants to eat, are too much, but if we offer concrete suggestions, he rejects them all.

He cops to being "a little grumpy"--and yells at me if I leave off the qualifier or suggest "very" in its place. But he says he doesn't know why. And I'm inclined to believe he really doesn't. I have memories of elementary school and bursting into tears without being able to explain why, just knowing that I felt off, but unable to figure out the one or many causes.

Right now I'm holding onto the hope that is the support team we have through our school. Not only is his OT on the district's autism team, but the child psychologist who is assigned to his school part-time is the lead of that team. And the school's special education coordinator, while not to my knowledge part of that team, is both his SLP and the go-to person in the district for social stories. Even without an official diagnosis, even without a major crisis at school, they're on the case.

I think that I had expected another layer of bureaucracy between parents and the autism team. Not that I thought they would be aloof or unresponsive, just that we wouldn't have the direct line we seem to have obtained. Technically, the psychologist isn't even on Scooter's team. She was brought in for one meeting when we went over the autism evaluation, but was not initially included in the list for his annual IEP meeting. She had, however, offered to meet with us to go over more details of the report and then expressed an interest in attending the meeting. We've since emailed or spoken with her on occasion for advice in specific situations, and she's always been quick to respond, even to call us or seek me out when I'm scheduled to be at school.

On the flip side of all this, I recognize that some part of my anxiety comes from the confirmation that this is where Scooter needs to be now, probably through elementary school at the least... paired with the fact that employment may be hard to come by for me within an hour's drive. I've started to put together applications for substitute teaching and a teacher certification program so that I can have a foot in the public schools here, plus I'll be keeping my application active at the small liberal arts college in Capital City and crossing my fingers that the local branch of the state university decides they can use me after all (although their adjunct pay is beyond crap).

Now to bed so that I can try to find some bit of energy for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The twins

One of the indignities of the two miscarriages is that my breasts managed to grow in the short time I was pregnant--and then stayed there. To some people, this would be a positive, but here's a point of reference: I'm just now back to my old size and it required losing fifteen pounds overall... and my current size is a D-cup.

This is not a post on insecurities about body image. I have plenty of that, but not connected with my rack. I actually think I have a nice rack. (Topic #1 for those of you who've met me: Yay or Nay?)

Anyway, my style of dressing is not particularly revealing, but it does tend to accent my assets. Though to be fair, it would take more effort and consideration to hide them.

Here's my current dilemma. I have a tutoring student, a male teen. And while our sessions do include a good amount of productive explanation and drilling, I'm pretty sure his eyes wander every time we're not focused on a specific line of text. Even when I'm wearing a non-descript t-shirt.

Either I don't usually attract this sort of attention or I'm just less attuned to adults who may be a bit more subtle in their gaze, but this is new to me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Going into the opening reception for my conference, I was already exhausted, having left our house very early in the morning, met with an old teaching colleague, and then braved a major shopping area to do some shopping at Ikea and the Lego Store (first one was a necessity since we've been missing one caster we need to raise our TV cabinet, second was inevitable since it provided plenty of options for the 'surprise' Scooter expects).

I told Trillian that I would aim to stay for the first half of the two-hour reception. Since I'm staying a ways outside the city (for free!), I didn't want to push past my limits.

At the outset, I came upon someone I had met at a small conference last fall while getting some antipasti. We chatted a little, then she excused herself to get some more food--she'd been traveling all day. I sat down at one of the tables to eat my cheese and olives, trying to see if there was anyone else I knew--the program had not been very promising in that respect. The woman I had already spoken with joined me, and we talked for a good 30 minutes. At first about kids and being in safe, small towns. And then a really excellent conversation on an area of overlap in our interests, one that spoke directly to some issues I will have to tackle for my last paper before I start my dissertation (and will bleed into that as well).

During all of this, I saw a woman at a not-too-distant table who looked very familiar. I was tempted to go up and introduce myself, tell her I thought I knew her. And I was going to do this after my previous conversation ended, until I got a new perspective on the table. I saw the older woman sitting next to her and a man across the table, and the new context gave me the answer immediately: these were all people from University of 2nd-PhD-program-I-dropped-out-of. The older woman was a professor I'd had, and suddenly I didn't want to go up and introduce myself.

"Hey, remember me? You know, the one who spent a whole semester in your department before deciding she'd rather go do just about anything than stay?"

So I checked my watch, decided 50 minutes was close enough to an hour, and headed to the bathroom, conveniently located across from the elevators to parking.