little black dog in cage 36

As is very clear by Ian and I’s social medias, a new addition was recently made to the Gregory-Graff family… our puppy Bentley!  Although pet ownership is an extremely common practice, it was originally something I had zero interest in.  Let me explain…

Ian is obsessed with dogs and had essentially been begging me for one for the entire duration of our marriage (about two years at this point).  I grew up with a family that had dogs, but only outside dogs.  I did not understand the concept of a dog living inside the house with you.  And having access to your furniture.  And animal hair in your house.  All of it was very foreign to me and very unappealing.  I had also noticed myself develop allergies to dogs when I was exposed to them in other people’s houses.  I did not noticed any allergies growing up with dogs, but I assumed this was because the dogs we had were always outside.

The fact that Ian and I lived in New Orleans in a very small apartment for the first two years of our marriage was very convenient for me and the dog predicament.  Anytime Ian brought up the desire to get a dog, it was very easy for me to rebuttal with the “our apartment is too small/we don’t have a yard” response.  It was a very real problem that he could not deny.  Eventually, we made the decision to move back to Lafayette.  This is when my defense wouldn’t exactly work anymore because we knew we were moving into a bigger place with a sizeable yard.  Soooo, I promised Ian we could get a dog when we moved back to Lafayette.

Several months later, we were back in Lafayette.  After settling in, the dog search began. We proceeded to have some really odd encounters with adopting a pet procedures.  We had been told by several other pet-owners that adopting a dog was a piece of cake.  We did not have that experience at first.  I was still under the impression that I was allergic to all dogs, so we were searching for hypo-allergenic at first.  We learned that those are very expensive.   I visited a shelter in Metairie that was highly sketchy, and the dog we were interested in proceeded to use the bathroom on the floor within 1 minute of meeting her.  This sketchy shelter also wouldn’t allow us to adopt a dog unless we lived 15 minutes from the shelter.  We filled out an application with another organization and got denied because we would be at work too long.  We visited another shelter and were told by them that they didn’t keep dogs on the premises.  Ian felt very defeated and I agreed that things seemed hopeless.  Although I actually didn’t care for a dog, I also didn’t want to deprive my husband of something that he really wanted.

Separately and together, Ian and I went to three more shelters.  At each one, there was a dog that one of us was somewhat interested in.  We didn’t want to take any of them home at first meeting because one of us felt the need to think about it.  After the three meetings, we decided we would like to adopt one of the dogs, but we still weren’t certain on which one.  We also realized it wasn’t guaranteed that they would still be there when we went back for them.  However, we knew we wanted to adopt one of them, so we needed to actually get pet things so that our house was ready for a new puppy.

Here began the meltdown in Petsmart.

I was already VERY on edge and anxious about having a pet live in our house with us.  We both had different opinions about where it was going to sleep, where we were going to allow it to go, how often it would be outside…We had kind of discussed setting up a pen, installing a doggie door, etc., but none of it was fully decided.  When we got to Petsmart to start buying things, we both had different perceptions of what we were there to buy and how much money and investment we were willing to put into this.  The Petsmart trip ended with us having a frustrating disagreement in the kennel aisle, and walking out with only a pet bed and a leash.

Fast forward to after we took a few days to decompress, got advice from our friend Emily about how we should set up the house, and we finally came to a decision.  We wanted to go back to the Opelousas shelter to adopt the “little black dog in cage 36.”

All we knew about this dog is that he was the sweetest little pup when he first met us– he came right out of his cage and snuggled up to me and sat on my lap.  He walked up to Ian and licked his hand right away.  He was so sweet with us, and even the shelter workers were in awe of how much he liked us right away.  The things we were originally concerned about was that he was filthy, obviously had fleas, and he shed like crazy.  We also weren’t sure if he would give us any expensive medical problems, and we weren’t sure how he would affect my allergies.  One of the things Emily helped us with was assuring us that even the sketchiest dog can be fixed right up with a vet visit, the right shots, and a flea pill.  This super helped us in making our decision, because “the little black dog in cage 36” was by far our favorite.

When we were filling out the paperwork with the shelter, they revealed to us that his name was actually Bentley.  We loved this name and decided to keep it.  They had to send him to the vet immediately after adoption, and we were to pick him up from the vet the next day.  We went home to finish preparing our house for Bentley.

Since bringing Bentley home from the shelter and vet, nothing has been the same.  Having him has taught me so much about animal ownership and what that means.  I understand the concept of having a pet be a part of your family; something I never understood about other people and other families before.  It has taught me how to think beyond just Ian and I– feeding him, walking him, taking care of him when he’s sick.  Learning how to understand his wants and needs by his mannerisms and actions.  Learning his little personality has been so fun!  Also, seeing how happy Ian is to have his own dog is priceless and worth it in itself.

Having Bentley comes with the good and the bad.  It comes with him stealing our shoes, destroying his pet beds, or ripping a harness off of his own body.  It also comes with him barking at a cat outside our house trying to protect us and him being excited to see us when we get home from school.  It comes with him forcing us to go outside to play with him to us trying new places to walk him.  It comes with him biting us and our friends, and stealing apples and potatoes from our pantry.  It comes with him being cute with babies and him teaching Ian and I responsibility.

All in all, adopting a dog was a great decision for Ian and I.  Bentley has brought so much joy and growth in our lives that I now can’t imagine our lives without him.  All the things that come along with us having a Bentley –stolen potatoes, my short-lived rule of not allowing him on the furniture, puppy meltdowns near any form of water, inability to not tear apart your own bed, shedding like a maniac throughout our house (nothing our recent roomba purchase can’t fix), and a 6-foot tall man who couldn’t be happier– it’s all worth it.

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Fifth Year Of Teaching

I have arrived at my fifth year of teaching!  I must still have a young face, because every year, I still get asked by SOMEONE if it’s my first year.  Years 2, 3, and 4, when I responded with the appropriate number, people would respond in a way that was like “yeah, okay, it’s basically like you’re still new at this.” However, I am discovering that for some reason 5 is a much more impressive number! When I answer that I am in my 5th year, people nod their head and continue on with the conversation, either embarrassed that they even asked or satisfied that I am indeed a professional.

For me, year five comes with a new school, a new classroom, a familiar grade level, but new content corresponding with that grade level! I fell in love with teaching Math the last two years, and I became somewhat of a Math expert at my previous school. So much so, that my principal put me in charge of teaching ALL of the upper-elementary Math classes. So, when I was interviewing for a new job because of Ian and I’s moving plans, it was an interesting situation because 95% of all the available job positions were ELA and Social Studies. Zero Math positions. Zero Science positions. And at the time, I would have said my ideal content and grade level would be 4th Grade Math and Science.

It didn’t bother me that much, because I have taught all content areas in 3rd and 4th grade, and also 5th grade Math. I was confident that I would be happy in any content area or any of those grade levels. I did not have a picky mindset at all.

However, most of the principals I interviewed with (I believe I had 7 interviews in all) were HIGHLY CONFUSED as to why I was interviewing for ELA/Social Studies positions! They could see from my resume that I must be an excellent Math teacher because of the way that my principal placed me, they could also see the extensive Math training and workshops I had undergone, and they were reading about my passion for Common Core Math in my cover letter.  Most of the principals I encountered had a deep notion that every teacher has their own niche, and Math MUST be mine.

This all left me in a very awkward predicament. I couldn’t tell them that the only reason I was applying for these jobs was that they were the only ones that were available…  I did attempt to explain that although I did thrive as a Math teacher, I am the type of person that establishes a passion for whatever she is teaching, therefore I have the potential to thrive in any content (which I do believe about myself, especially now). Most of them did not buy that.

I did have a lovely conversation with one principal who was willing to hear me out.  I explained to her that her question was valid; my husband was even confused by my content choices a few years ago. When I originally told Ian that my principal wanted me to teach all Math, his response was “why would you do that?”

He did not understand at all why I would want to teach Math, but he didn’t really explain why at first. He just kept asking me why I wouldn’t request the ELA position. My feelings were originally hurt over these conversations because I thought he was making assumptions that I wasn’t a good Math teacher, even though others that taught with and around me could see that I was.  He eventually explained that he associates me with ELA because those are my PERSONAL interests.  My personal interests are reading and writing, so it was only natural of him to think I would be best at teaching those subjects.  What he failed to remember, though, was that I had been intensively trained in Common Core Math! And through that training, research, and practical applications, I had become an effective teacher in that content area.  The same could be applied to my Science instruction.  I do not generally enjoy Science in the regular world… but I excelled at teaching it to 3rd and 4th graders because of the work and research I put into it.

This lovely principal enjoyed my explanation and seemed to understand my perspective.  Although her school is not the one I accepted a job at, I appreciated her open mind to the fact that not all teachers are only good at teaching one thing.

After all of my ELA interviews, I started to get excited about the idea of teaching ELA again!  I had read several books on teaching Reading over the past couple years, even when I was only teaching Math.  Because I didn’t teach Reading, I never got to utilize any of the strategies I learned in the books.  There were several things in my ELA instruction from previous years that I was interested in tweaking, adding to, or changing altogether, and while I was making a decision on what school to choose, I had a mad list going of all the ideas I wanted to implement for the following year!  I was going to miss Math, but it was also exciting to start something new.

I now find myself in a 5th Grade ELA and SS classroom. I teach two sections of students, so about forty kids in all.  Over the summer, I went to some development inservices for my new content areas.  ELA was first, and it was a dream!  We were going to be reading three novels with the kids over the course of the year, and the curriculum we were using was great!  I got so excited about teaching novels again, because I have had such amazing results reading novels as a whole class previously.  I find that reading novels as a class develops community and shared interests in the classroom, and allows students to relate to literature in a feasible way!  The week of inservices got me very excited.

However, the Social Studies developments were quite different.  I had NO IDEA any of the information that we needed to know how to teach… like ancient civilizations, indigenous people groups, value-free societies, the difference between the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs…. I had not been exposed to that information in years, so I was going to have to re-learn it to be able to teach it.  In addition to this, we took some practice 5th-grade tests to basically vouche for their validity.  This was a NIGHTMARE.  Grown adults were full fledge arguing over the answers to questions.  We had to re-do these tests by re-arranging and re-wording questions and answer choices as to not confuse the kids because the questions were confusing us, the adults.  There were some words in the texts that had debateable meanings, which therefore HIGHLY AFFECTED the outcome of the answers students could submit.

I decided I did not like this, and I missed Math. In Math, the questions might be super difficult, but there was ALWAYS a correct answer.  There might be distractor answers, like if the student stopped working a step too early.  But nevertheless, there was never an opportunity to argue on what the correct answer was because it was clear.

This put a scared and negative association in me towards 5th Grade Social Studies.  I was nervous and intimidated by it because I wasn’t comfortable yet.  I complained to Ian that Social Studies was awful, I hated it, it was so boring, I was going to have trouble teaching it, etc.  My first couple lessons with students were pretty boring.  I was bored, and they were bored (but being good sports about it). Then, something interesting happened as my lessons went on… I continued to be bored, but the students weren’t anymore.  They were super invested and engaged in our content.  They actually thought this stuff was interesting! I was a little taken aback.

My students’ interest in the material energized me and gave me inspiration on how to teach this content.  I was so impressed by their engagement, the way they asked further questions, and how badly they wanted to know more.  Social Studies quickly became my most anticipated part of the day.  I was excited to teach it because I knew they were longing for the information and that they would enjoy it, and that made me enjoy it as well.

This entire experience has given me kind of a theme for the year.  I’m at year five.  I have a lot more to learn, but I also know a lot already.  I can use what I know to steady myself, while I continue to push on and expand my teaching arsenal.  I want the kids to be engaged, but I also want to be engaged too!  I want to enjoy our learning experience as much as they do, and I am thankful to teach little ones that inspire me to do so.