Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Losing a beloved pet

 Yesterday, I had Quigley, my canine companion of 13 years, put to sleep.  A couple of years back, she had developed a tumor in her throat.  The vet gave her about six months to live.  Our plan was to help her live a good life for at least that time period.  She had other plans.  She stayed strong for close to 18 months before beginning to slow down about six months back.  Still, she got around well and wasn't above snapping at our other dogs when they got into her business.  She even tolerated the new puppy we adopted a month back. 

I still remember the day I met her.  I was working in the yard and my wife called to tell me about a cute puppy her friend had found.  Needless to say, I was not excited about getting another dog.  One was enough.  But, being a dutiful husband, I went along to see her, if only to say no to keeping her.  What I found was a tiny little thing that was so small she would fit in my shoe and I fell in love instantly.  She had been walking by herself on the side of the road and, according to our vet, was already at least three months old.  She was malnourished, full of worms, but still feisty.  When we took her home, our four year old dog growled and snapped at her.  Instead of pulling away, she bit her tail and didn't let go for the next year.  

Two days ago, after arriving home from work, my wife told me Quigley just didn't seem right.  When I checked on her, her neck was extremely swollen.  The tumor had ruptured and was filling her with fluid.  We called the vet, realizing that she was suffering and barely able to get around.  We made her comfortable in our utility room and then took shifts just loving on her.  Mine included a 2:30 am crying session along with my son.  The next morning, we called the vet and set up a time to have her put to sleep.  

It was the longest drive.  We were all in tears and she seemed to know that something was up.  As we sat with her in the examining room, we tried our best to stay composed.  Not an easy task. I kept having second thoughts, but her labored and raspy breathing was confirmation it was time.  The vet gave her a shot that caused her to begin to sleep and then came back shortly after and administered the euthanizing dose.  It took less than a minute for her heart to stop.  I was reminded of sitting by my father's bed, holding his hand as life support was removed.  Honestly, I think this was harder.  

After getting a paw imprint, we wrapped her in a blanket and drove her to our property in the woods. After finding a suitable spot directly across from our deer stand, we spent the next 30 minutes digging her grave.  My wife sat in the truck holding her while my son and I dug through the roots and clay.  I gently laid her body in the rectangular hole, covering her with a mixture of dirt and concrete to keep out any critters.  At three feet down, I didn't expect any, but just in case.  After we had covered her up, I realized that we buried her right in front of a tree with two trunks, making the spot impossible to miss.  We can look right at the spot as we hunt this winter.  

As I got up this morning, it hit me again that she was gone.  Tears flowed as I realized I wouldn't be opening another can of her soft food.  I fed the other dogs and cried as they ate, then spent time loving on them.  I'm not sure whether they even know she is gone, but I like to think so. 

Losing a beloved pet is like losing a member of the family.  I have to give myself and my family time to grieve and heal, remembering the good times we had together.  


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Quarantine Blues

 I hate Covid-19.  For the past two weeks, I've been stuck at home due to the virus.  I don't have it, but my wife does.  She is over most of the symptoms now, but is still fatigued and sleeps about 16 hours a day.  And, from what I understand, that is a fairly mild case. 

Due to her illness and my close proximity (she is my wife), I am required to quarantine.  Which means I don't go anywhere.  The farthest I've been is Walmart to the Curbside Pickup.  The rest of the time has been spent at home.  I've realized over the last two weeks that I'm not cut out for working from home.  

When I first went into quarantine, I decided to try and follow my regular schedule:  Get up at 4 am, pray, read, then plan out the day, start work at 5:30 by listening to the two-way radio and helping when I could, work on admin tasks throughout the day, and then repeat the two-way radio gig from 2:00 to 5:30 pm.  That is my typical day at the office.  Needless to say, that lasted about three days.  I soon realized that I wasn't needed for the morning or the afternoon runs.  And, since much of what I do requires spending time with people and on campuses, I couldn't get a whole lot accomplished in those areas either.  

The second week, my alarm still went off at 4, but I wasn't getting up until 5.  I'd listen to the two-way while praying and planning and then try to accomplish a few things on the computer.  After a couple of hours, I was pretty much done.  Something I would need would be at the office and I couldn't get to it, so I would have to put the task aside.  I'd help my wife around the house, check e-mails periodically, field a few phone calls, and then be done.  That lasted another two days,  

Now, my alarm goes off at 4 and I get up at 8.  If I'm needed, someone will call.  I take my time going through the tasks of the day and do what I can at the kitchen table. After that, I spend time with my wife when she's not sleeping.  

Honestly, this has been a miserable experience.  I love to work and accomplish my goals and that has been extremely difficult during this quarantine.  When things were shut down in March, I was able to go to the office as our department was considered essential. I think that kept me sane.  People tell me they would love to be off all the time.  I find it exhausting.  

I guess I should be glad that no one in my family is seriously ill. Instead, I am just inconvenienced. 

On the bright side, I am only on quarantine for two more days.  And, the following Monday is Thanksgiving break.  At least I won' feel obligated to work over the holidays.  Not that I would get anything done anyway. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Coronavirus- Shining a Light on School Support Services

Over the past few weeks in Texas, schools have been closed due to Coronavirus (Covid-19).  Campuses are virtually ghost towns, teachers go to classroom only when they have to, and students are working from home.  Yet there are a few people in districts who are not stopping.  In fact, a new light is illuminating their importance to the education system.

I'm talking about support services people (Transportation, Food Services, Custodial, Maintenance).  These folks usually fly under the radar.  We often forget they are even a part of the educational system. They are the epitome of "out of sight, out of mind." But, the work they do behind the scenes is essential and invaluable.  The coronavirus has shone a much needed light on their importance to school districts.  

In my district, bus drivers and monitors are now delivering meals and work to students daily.  As they run their route, they are bringing hope to families. Dressed in gloves, masks and maintaining social distance, they bring breakfast and lunch along their routes and let kids know they haven't been forgotten. 

We started with around 750 meals each day and are now up to over a 1000. Someone has to make those meals.  That's where Food Services comes in.  Every day, these men and women make over a thousand sandwiches, pack them with love in old-fashioned brown bags, and sort them for delivery to hungry kids.  They are at work before dawn, making sure the food for that day is ready to go.  Once that is done, they start preparing for the next day.  

As I am writing this, a young man is cleaning my office.  He is not only emptying trash and sweeping, but is doing the extra job of disinfecting work surfaces.  Custodial staff, like other support persons, often fly under the radar.  We don't notice them unless something is not done.  When they do their jobs well, we rarely know they are even there.  During this outbreak, their services are even more important.  Who know whether their disinfecting is keeping someone from contracting the virus.

Finally, I can't forget the district maintenance crews.  They are quietly keeping the buildings operational, doing summer projects, and ensuring that anything that breaks gets fixed expediently.  With them on the scene, students and teachers can return to stellar facilities ready to support learning.  

I hope that, once school resumes, we don't forget the invaluable work of our support people in school districts.  Without them, the district could not function effectively.  The coronavirus pandemic is just making this more obvious.

If you know someone who works in a support service in a school district, please take time to thank them (but remember to practice social distance when you do).  

Friday, January 3, 2020

New Year

 This holiday season,  I realized that I've strayed from some of my core principles.  One of the main ones is to focus on essentials and let everything else take a back seat.  In my work, I'm doing well on that, but not so much in my personal life.  At work, the essentials are discipline and morale.  I've been able to focus in those two and make some pretty impressive moves forward.  In my personal life, I realize that I've not truly developed essentials.  I've been flying without any real direction. 

For that reason, one of my main goals as I enter the new year is clarify the essentials in my personal life.  I cannot do the most important things if I don't know what they are.  So, this weekend, I will develop the essentials for my personal life so I can have a direction to go in.  Only then will I be able to make progress in the right direction instead of being scattered in a hundred different directions.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Bus Drivers: The invisible cog in the wheel

Bus drivers might be considered an invisible cog in the wheel of education (no pun intended).  They drop kids off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon, but are usually not on campuses.   But, the bus driver has an impact that extends well beyond the walls of the bus.  For many, bus drivers are the first school related face a child sees in the morning and the last they see in the afternoon.  Their approach to kids can make or break a child's day.  It can also affect a campus as kids who get off the bus upset or wild carry that demeanor into the school. On the flip side, kids who leave the bus orderly and with a pleasant ride bring that calmness into the building.

Drivers often carry fifty or more students at a time and must both safely drive the bus and maintain order.  This is not an easy task and requires strong student management skills. Effective bus drivers have developed routines for their buses and built relationships with their kids.  Just like a classroom teacher, they teach the kids the expectations and routines early on in the year and reteach as needed. They know the kids by name, set up seating charts, have consistent rules and consequences, and hold kids accountable.  These drivers know the impact they have on students.

Another thing bus drivers see daily is where students live.  This gives them a glimpse into the lives of kids that other educators often do not.  If you are wondering why a student has suddenly started acting up, ask their bus driver. They may be able to give you a glimpse into the child's world that those at the school cannot.

For those on campuses, I encourage you to find the time to ride a bus at least one day a year.  Call your Transportation Director and ask how to set that up.  I promise that it will change your perspective on the role of the bus driver and may even help you see your students in a different light.

Monday, July 15, 2019

In Process Part 4 - New Position

As of July 24, 2019 I will officially be the new Director of Transportation for my school district.  This was not a position that I sought out, but one I do feel that I am supposed to be in.  While I won't be in the role by contract until the date above, I started several weeks back.  As I moved into the position, the first thing I knew I had to do was get to know the drivers.  I did this by riding bus routes twice a day for two weeks.  Since I am learning to drive a bus myself, I asked the drivers to tell me what they were doing in the different stages of the drive.  I not only learned their personalities, but I also learned a lot about driving a bus.

As the new director, I've been tasked with helping to reduce the number of discipline issues on the buses along with parent complaints as well as help build morale among the drivers.  Fortunately, I have a supervisor working for me who has been on the job for years and can help keep things running while I focus on these priorities and learn the various aspects of the transportation program.  I've also joined the state transportation organization and been to their conference and training.  It was quickly apparent that transportation people are a strong group who are willing to help a newbie like me.

As I transition into this position, I know it will be challenging.  It already is.  But, I know I'm where I need to be and will continue to make a difference in the lives of kids, albeit in a different way.

In Process Part 3

Please note:  This was written in June 2019, but I chose to wait to publish until July.

For the last several days, I've been sharing about a new opportunity that has opened for me.  It is far from anything I've ever done in the past.  Still, it feels right.  I will be using many of the skills I have acquired as an AP just in a different way.  While this is not the path I would have chosen for myself, it is the one I know I am supposed to be on.

They say that when you start something new, you have to leave other things behind.  I will miss the day to day action of the campus and interacting with teachers and students.  There will be opportunities to do this, but not in the same way.  I will, however, be able to impact many of these kids both directly, but more importantly, indirectly through the staff that I serve.  In this new position, I will be leading a group of people who interact directly with children and help start and end their day.  I have ultimate responsible for ensuring the safety of kids.  My work will indirectly impact social and emotional growth by increasing positive interactions with kids on a daily basis.  Interacting with parents to help their kids be successful will play a role in this position.  I must learn new skills, new systems, and be able to put new ideas and processes in place.  The learning curve for me feels like a wall.  But, I've climbed that wall before and I can do it again.