A New Family Game in Our Household

I recently purchased the game titled “The Game of Things…” where one draws a card that asks all the players to list as many ideas as possible in the given category.  My son asked to play it tonight before he went to sleep and thus, I feel like using the cards as my writing prompt for this week’s post (I also plan on using this tool with my students during Writers Workshop this year).

Things No One Knows About You (or at least anyone besides close family members):

  • I am freaked out by snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and giant bugs.
  • I can’t swallow whine; just not classy enough and I have some sort of gag reflex.
  • I was always too self-conscious to ever date or even stand next to a guy who is significantly shorter than me, because it vainly makes me feel like a giant monster/ogre.
  • I don’t understand the concept of ripped jeans.
  • I sleep with 3-4 pillows under my head so I don’t feel motion sickness.
  • I’ve gotten motion sickness while being the driver behind the wheel, rather than the passenger in the car,
  • I’d much rather drive to my destination than fly.
  • I will never go on a cruise.  Not so much of ice berg paranoia but I don’t want to be on that cruise ship where everyone has the flu/the toilets and other plumbing malfunctions.  Just thinking about that possibility gives me the hives.
  • I won’t do an out house at this stage of my life.   I’ll hold it until the day is long or find a tree.
  • I will never get tired of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in any capacity.
  • My feet aren’t really the same size due to the gift of aging.
  • I wish I could sing well.   Like record label deal amazing.
  • I wish I had enough ideas to write multiple publish=worthy novels/screen plays.
  • I hope one day to run and win a seat on a school board, state or national legislative office.
  • I think it would be fun to take ballroom dancing lessons.
  • I’ve never understood why people shout into microphones when the whole point of a microphone is to amplify your voice so you, in fact, don’t have to yell.
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A Moxie Moment

As I’m entering into my 17th year of teaching, I sometimes look back at some of the decisions I’ve made and surprise myself.  This summer, I’m screening books for possible read-aloud’s for my high school classroom, but because I’m new to the district and it’s a conservative community, I’m playing it on the safe side in regards to language and content for the 1st semester to feel out my audience.  Thus. it’s been hard to find books that aren’t too cheesy and child-like for my high school audience, but also aren’t going to get me sent to the principal’s office.

Sometimes though, I surprise myself with what I have done in the past, because I’m actually not a huge fan of censorship in literature, yet I have to choose a balance sometimes or restrict my choices since I also like having a career/job.  One of my “moxie moments” in teaching, where I truly just went for it, was year 6 of teaching.  I was a fairly new mother, my son was only a year old, and I taught a class titled “Creative Writing”, but it was also the class that was expected to churn out an issue of the school newspaper each month.  On top of that, our newspaper was distributed at school, but also at the local grocery stores and post offices.  The two towns my school district served combined for a population of about 1,100 people.

For one of the issues my students/newspaper staff decided we should mix up the format and do a creative writing-poetry edition that would showcase work from both the students and staff.  We received a great response of entries and I was excited and surprised to see some of our submissions from individuals who I had no idea even wrote poetry.  One was from a young man, who was planning on joining the military after college and built like a weight-lifting linebacker.  I read the poem, and it wasn’t 100% clear if it was fiction or autobiographical, but the narrator was first person.  If the poem was indeed based on the author’s real life then what the young man was communicating to the whole community was that he resented his dad for being verbally and physically abusive and a drunk.

Again, I wasn’t, and am still not, a big fan of censorship. I was a new parent myself and understood the importance of that role, and I was young and fearless.  I printed it.  I didn’t run it by anyone.  I just printed it.  Here was this tough kid, basically telling the world and his dad, “Enough of me being the victim.”  I thought it was incredibly brave.  I respected him advocating for himself, and I knew printing it wasn’t going to make matters worse, because like the student, I think he had come to that point where he realized he was a grown man himself, physically and mentally strong, and was not afraid of his father.

Some community members and administration made comment. After that day, I had to run everything by my boss in the future…fine.   They read between the lines, and no one seemed shocked by what they were reading/it wasn’t new information to them, but were surprised it got printed.  I simply said, “Not all poetry is autobiographical.  You cannot assume the child is writing about himself.”  To which there was no argument, and no one was brave enough to ask the student otherwise.  It was clear this young man was ready to tell his story and he wasn’t afraid.

I, myself, was not afraid of his father, if he were to storm the school.  Again, it could be a work of fiction (again though, based on the community’s reaction, it seemed no one was surprised to read these details about the “possible” real-life “parenting” that was happening in the home).  There was also a part of me that thought. “Come on down, Dad, so you can explain yourself.  I’d love to talk to you about your relationship with your son and call you out to your face.”  He never called or came to the school.  Doing so would be an admission to something that he didn’t want to claim.

I know my former student has zero regrets for finding his voice and I have zero regrets printing it.

How Hard is it to Simply Follow the Rules?

Yesterday my son was terrified as a hyperactive little white dog was running towards him at full speed, that my son gave chase which snowballed into more chasing, running, barking, screaming, and sheer panic by my eight year old who has never trusted dogs. It doesn’t matter the size of the dog. This two minutes of mass chaos could have been easily avoided if the family who brought the dog to the city’s park (the park has a gated/fenced in area specifically for dogs to run freely as much as they want–but we were not in the dog part of the park, simply walking to our car) if the basic community rule was followed: Keep your dog on a leash/chain or in a fenced in area when in city limits. I think what bothers me even more about the incident was no apology was given, just an explanation, “The dog just wants to play” by the owner. To which, I politely replied, “Well, regardless, your dog needs to be on a leash.” They eventually agreed with me, but yet, no apology.

Many times people behave as if the social rules don’t apply to them or they were granted some kind of “special card” and then when confronted, the knee-jerk reaction is to excuse the behavior rather than own up to it. Some of the most annoying community rule-breakers are as follows:

*People who double-park: The lines are not just random decoration. They’re your BOUNDARIES FOR WHERE TO PLACE YOUR CAR WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN IT.

*Talking on your cell phone in line at a cash register, delaying the transaction and delaying the time of everyone else standing behind you at the store. You’re not on Plant Me. It’s definitely Planet Earth we’re co-existing on.

*Screaming at your kids in public. You’re making your children’s problem everyone else’s problem and most likely we’re not looking for others’ problems, we were looking for QUIET and PEACE. Address it privately somewhere. You’re only adding to the noise pollution and you look ridiculous as the adult in the situation.

*Littering: You’re just super lazy.

If you want to add to the list, please do in the comments below!

Dating is Pretty Overrated

I have a very talented friend who is back on the dating scene.  She is a fabulous writer and is currently running a blog that mostly focuses on the quirks of online dating and/or dates gone wrong.  Pretty entertaining-did-this-really-happen? reads (check it out on htpp://goodlookingwomen.com).  Some of the stories are hers and some from friends.  I never posted, because I’ve never tried online dating.  No judgement to those who have/are, just not for me.  Recently my friend posted on Facebook that she wanted to read a positive story. It’s my non-dating history that I think is much more interesting than my dating history…mainly because my dating history is practically nonexistent.

I have a great story that I could share about my first date-that-wasn’t-intended-to-be-a-date with my husband,  but honestly, how do you type that up and send it to your friend, who is recovering from a break up, without sounding like a stuck-up-my-life-is-so-perfect-la-la-la-jerk-wad?  So, I’m not going to have the focus of this post be about how I lucked out and married a great guy who is actually attracted to weird, dorky, goofy me.  I’m going to try to make anyone who is actually taking the time to read this, laugh over all the weird crap I had to go through before I met and married my awesome husband.

I’ll start with high school.  There was an almost non-existent dating life for me during those four years. I attended two homecomings, because I asked the guys myself.  I think they both said, “yes” reluctantly at first.  At least that’s how it sounded on the phone, like they were hoping someone else had called or wondering if they should gamble and say yes to me knowing that maybe someone better might ring them up after my phone call (yep, too chicken to ask to their faces).  I had fun at both dances with the two guys, but I have a lame memory of my senior year date hitting on one of my best friends, and it being reciprocated at the after party.  Yes, we were just friends, but common courtesy, wait until the next day to make your move and ask the friend of your date out, fellas.  Also, shame on my friend for not having restraint.  Needless to say; it was humbling, but sadly I wasn’t all that surprised, so I will admit, not heart crushing either.

Proms. My buddy junior year asked me two weeks before the event.  There was probably five dresses left on the rack by the time I realized I wasn’t going to be staying home, watching movies with my parents that night.  I managed to find something, had a great time with friends, and can say it was more fun than my original plans with the ‘rents.  Senior year? Once again, I had to do the asking. It was a buddy, again, but someone I could trust who was fun-loving.  It was a pretty hilarious evening.  On the way to the dance, he did some weird leap into his car and exclaimed,”Yeah, I just ripped my pants.”  We drove to his house and his mom assessed the “situation”.  Decided the best option was to call Mrs. ______ to patch up the pants…..Mrs._______was the mother of his ex-girlfriend.  Now, we weren’t dating,  but I was his “date” to a dance that he just attended last year with their daughter so I remember thinking, “This could be awkward.”  I had no idea.  When we knocked on their door, Mrs. _________was happy to help and took my date downstairs to her sewing room to get to work.  I was left in the living room with ex-girlfriend’s dad, chilling in his pajamas and robe watching the Cub’s game in his living room (which he has every right to do).  We didn’t say much to each other. The longest 15 minutes of my life.  I may have even said, “Sooooo….those Cubs, eh?” and gotten a polite grunt in return.  By the time we got to the dance, the story of the pants had gotten around and we were welcomed with boisterous woots and applause from our peers, which was actually pretty hilarious.

Looking back on it now, I THINK (I was too immature and lame to really conceptualize “dating” anyway) guys may have shown interest towards me in high school, but I was too goofy and weird to even detect the signs most of the time.  One guy delivered a Christmas present to my front door out of the blue, one was constantly holding doors for me and sitting by me, and  another wrote me a freaking poem attached to a necklace and I think I was so convinced that I wasn’t much for girlfriend material (and I can’t explain it, but it wasn’t because of low self-esteem, it was just a philosophy that I was pretty comfortable with) that I honestly thought, “Oh they’re being really nice and funny towards me….and that’s it.”  Yep, I was a total idiot.  The one time I did acknowledge I was going on a double date with a guy I had liked for two solid years and my very outgoing, and vocal friend pretty much set us up, I froze and didn’t say hardly anything during the whole date….you can accurately assume there was never a second date.  I remember walking into debate class once and a male classmate had drawn a picture of me looking like a female Tarzan with “Femi-Natzi” written above it.  Everyone got a great laugh, but it sent the message to me that, “High school guys don’t care for high school girls that are strong, opinionated women that could easily kick them in the junk if the girl ever felt she was being objectified or degraded by a guy, like my dad raised me” so I kind of just assumed the “dating thing” probably wasn’t going to happen anytime soon and I wouldn’t worry about it.  The new mantra? Make friends and have a good time with a wide variety of personalities in my school.  And I did just that and loved it.   Yes, I did “date” a nice guy for a month my senior year, but I think I was again so weirded out by playing this role as “girlfriend” I ended it as soon as it started, and that was that for an actual relationship beyond being friends.

I teach high school students now who tell me about the drama of dating and I simply tell them, “It’s overrated.”  Every once in awhile in high school, I used to wonder if I was missing out on something.  Now the answer, I know, is: absolutely not.  There is the minority that marry their high school sweetheart and they’re a perfect match, but I’m convinced, even with rejection, disinterest, and invisibility with most of the males at my school–I missed out on nothing.  The friendships were so much more in terms of quality and content.

In college, it was pathetic.  If I walked into a social scene with friends, they were typically drawn to my cuter, more flirty, or tinier/thinner friends.  I was the “buddy”, “funny/weird/goofy” girl, or big-boned side-kick that may have received a friendly arm punch or chin up “Hey” from a guy in the group….but that’s about it.  It was safe though and I got really comfortable in that role.  There was zero awkwardness, pressure, etc.  when you’re just pals with everyone.  College guys weren’t hitting on me, and this time it wasn’t because I was oblivious to the signs, like in high school.  They REALLY were not hitting on me. That’s not to say I wasn’t getting hit on by non-college men.  For some reason the middle-aged to silver foxes thought I was quite a catch at 18-23.  That was super awkward.  They really went out of their way to try to make it seem like hitting on someone they could have fathered was socially acceptable.  From a man with a fake accent buying me a flower at a country dance hall, to a homeless man professing his love for me at the Wendy’s ketchup counter, to MANY MANY MORE odd ducks that made me feel so objectified, it’s hard for me to feel bad about finally meeting a great guy my last year of college, that I might add, was NOT my dad’s age.

For those of you single ladies reading this that want to tell me to go fly a kite, because you think I’m being braggish, trust me, the road I took to get to the place I am now had it’s clumsy and typical “Laura moments” too.  For one, the first time I met my husband I was intrigued.  Good looking guy.  Nice.  He does NOT remember meeting me the first time.  I think I’m more of a “Once you get to know her, you’ll like her a lot more” kind of a gal.  We were friends for several months before we even thought about evolving into a couple.  And when we did, I froze and tried to back out of it.  I was so used to being that dorky girl/pal that I didn’t even think I was in a position to be anyone’s girlfriend.  Luckily my now-husband was patient enough to explain to me that there wasn’t some criteria list I had to live up to.  I was going to continue being me, because “being me” was what brought us together in the first place right?

Of course my friends were always so accepting with me “being me” that when I did get engaged, their reactions were “different”.  That’s about the nicest adjective I can come up with.  College is usually the time when you start reading about classmates’ engagements in the local paper, and as more names and photos of familiar faces kept popping up in the Saturday announcements section, I truly believe a lot of my friends calmly thought, “Well I won’t ever be the last one to get married out of our circle if friends.  My good buddy Laura will always be my fall back when I don’t have a date on a Saturday night.”  That didn’t happen.  I don’t know if that’s because when my husband came into my life I wasn’t actively looking for a boyfriend (I was actively looking for my first teaching job so I wouldn’t be unemployed after graduation) or because I never had a mental deadline of reaching the marriage milestone (meaning if I never got married or found “the one” I knew I would still be happy, just in a different way) that it caused my friends to say things to me without any type of filter what so ever. Yes, I called them to share the news after my husband proposed, but it honestly was not to brag or one-up them.  I just assumed they would want to know from me rather than second-hand.  Yes, there were some genuine “Congratulations!”, but I also had to endure the following crap comments:

PRESENTING THE WORST THINGS YOU CAN SAY TO A FRIEND WHO GETS ENGAGED TO A VERY NORMAL AND NICE GUY WHO’S NOT A DANGER TO SOCIETY AT ALL, BUT YOU’RE TOO SOMETHING OR OTHER TO BE HAPPY FOR YOUR NERDY FRIEND TO SAY SOMETHING, ANYTHING, SLIGHTLY SUPPORTIVE:

5. “When you hung up the phone after you told me, I got really depressed and cried (not happy tears).  Then I called up our mutual friend _________ who was also depressed (about me being engaged and not them) and then we cried together.” (What the heck are you supposed to say to that?)

4. “Can I just say that you are the last person I’d expect to be married before the rest of us.  Seriously…..didn’t expect this. “(Again, more awkward silence)

3. “You were dating someone?” (Thanks for paying attention)

2. “Already? “(Yes, that was the FIRST thing they said to me in response to the news)

1. “What is the cut of the diamond?” (I tell them, and don’t actually remember now, because I know zilch about diamonds) “Ooooohhhhhh, that’s the cut jewelers use to make diamonds look bigger than they actually are.” (Cue The Price is Right loser sound effect here).

Do I have any dating advice?  No.  If what I experienced can actually be called “dating” I was horrible at it.  All I can assure you is that quality is worth the wait.  You might be thinking, You got married at 25, that wasn’t really much of a wait.  Trust me, I had to endure a lot of weird crap before a freak blizzard on April 6th 2003 forced my now husband and I to go from attending an eventually canceled campus-sponsored movie we were planning to attend as “buddies” to sitting in a downtown coffee shop with nothing but our drinks and conversation to finally get the courage to admit to each other that we both wanted to be more than just pals.  I can’t thank friends for bringing us together, an online dating service, or love at first sight.  It was rather a matter of letting things naturally (literally, thanks to Mother Nature) fall into place.

The Best Lesson Your Students Can Learn ABOUT You is…..

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog, but I think with a semester soon coming to an end and students preparing for upcoming assessments, we need to remind ourselves what is the most important lesson that a student should be learning from you when their time in your classroom is all said and done.  Honestly, the teachers I fondly remember the most were good people, and if you asked me if I liked them, because when they explained photosynthesis I really understood it or the teacher really knew how to instruct on quadratic equations, the answer would be “nope.”.  The teachers I found to be the “best” were the type of character role-models that did the following:

1). didn’t degrade, even when a classmate was behaving at their worst

2). didn’t accept mediocre effort either

3). consistent and didn’t play favorites

4). engaged with their job the whole time students were in their presence (no electronic device interacting over non-lesson based actvities); always in the NOW even during plan time and work days

5). behaved appropriately in their own private lives/more mature than their own students

6). knew all their students’ students names by Day 2/3 of meeting them

7). observed their students and learned each child’s nuisances and personalities

8). never did the same thing in class two days in a row and encouraged discussion, movement and variety in a lesson

9). behaved as if they actually enjoyed coming to work and genuinely enjoyed working with youth rather than appearing annoyed or bothered by the human beings they are responsible for

10). chose the teaching profession, because they wanted to TEACH FIRST

Is it our job for students to ace every assessment we give them?  Educational funding requires us to feel pressured to say “yes”, but if your student body can say they respect EVERYONE on the teaching staff, find them all approachable AND professional, then I think you have the best school in the country regardless of your test scores.  Not all geniuses are good people or positive contributors to a society, but great character is just that.  There are no negative side effects.

Why I Can’t Stand Robin Thicke and Others Who’ve Bought a One Way Ticket on the Crazy Train

 

Last summer Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was downloaded on my iPod, I would crank it up in my car if it came on the radio, and one of my favorite Jimmy Fallon clips is The Roots playing the song with Robin Thicke via elementary school music class-type instruments.  Now, I just think Robin Thicke is another tool in the giant pool of tools that aren’t meant to invite/lead anybody into a serious/committed relationship or marriage.  Does it completely surprise me that Robin Thicke’s celebrity marriage to actress Paula Patton is currently in disarray, because he’s not a loyal guy?  No.  Am I disgusted with the fact that he not only cheated on his wife but also their son?  Yep.

You’re probably thinking: Who cares, Laura.  Let their train wreck be what it is.  Coincidentally enough, I have had friends and family over the last couple of years talk to me about their cheating and/or dishonest significant others, and (once caught of course, they certainly didn’t just one day volunteer this information) their methods of begging for forgiveness: from poetic novella-length apologies to material gifts, etc.  Whether the friend, family member, or partner cheated, lied, was downright disrespectful or all of the above, the act itself of buying back someone’s affection or brainwashing them with words is irritating from my outsider’s perspective, but I’m also wishing those who have been the hurt person in the relationship keep themselves from getting hypnotized by the rare bursts of good.  It doesn’t make them a good person, because they created some good memories. It only proves they’re dysfunctional. If the one bad memory is bad enough then you don’t need them.

In the last few months I witnessed (and not between husband and wife) but someone say incredibly horrible things over and over to a group of people and the next day they tried to gloss it over with donuts/cookies/sweets for the people they just barked at the day before.  Ummmm……what?  That’s not an apology.  It’s just weird.  As is this newly released Robin Thicke video, the “forgive me” flowers. the groveling text messages, the ringing of the doorbell and begging on the other side of the door, etc.  I think many of these actions simply shows the d-bag/jerk selfishly wants the person they hurt to tell them, they’re not actually as awful as they really are.  They’re not really begging for forgiveness, but begging to be enabled/permission to not have to live with their guilt.  What people, like this, need is not a quick forgive.  They need help.  Mental help.  The reality is the abuser in this relationship always felt in control/had the upper hand and someone finally said, “Enough”, “Get Out”, “It’s Over, “You Took It Too Far”, etc.  Power is now out of the abuser’s hand, or they have less of it, and they’re out of the comfort zone, working like crazy to get that control back.  It’s all for self-serving purposes.

The Robin Thicke Example: I’m simply beyond irritated with his latest endeavor–writing a whole album dedicated to his separated-from-wife.  Making it everybody’s business.  Profiting through sales by publicly exploiting their troubled marriage in a video/song release called “Get Her Back”. The video opens with Thicke looking at the camera with these super sad puppy dog eyes….and not wearing a shirt.  Isn’t the fact that you can’t seem to keep your clothes on part of the demise of your marriage?  I’d be surprised if this approach gets your wife back since this is the approach that attracted a bunch of selfish women to fall at your feet, not caring how this would affect your son’s and wife’s future mental stability. There’s screen shots with blood on his face too, which ads to my further annoyance of cheaters that try to turn it around, playing the victim.  Mr./Mrs. Cheater: You’re clearly the antagonist.  Get over yourself.

If you’re one of those individuals who saw the Robin Thicke video or listened to the song and thought, “If my significant other ever cheats on me he/she better write a song about it.” then you’re crazy too.  Raise-the-bar.  Don’t put the apology to the high standard, but their level of respect for you to begin with.  And if you’re a member of the Robin Thicke tool/jerk association, don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t give you a warm reception no matter how much effort you put into your greeting/approach.  Bridges take a long time to repair and they’ll never look like the original. The kicker with Thicke?  At the end of the video there’s a message on the screen that’s meant for his wife stating, “This is just the beginning.”  I’m not sure how his wife feels about it, but my thoughts on Thicke broadcasting more of these videos for the whole world to see is: (sarcastically toned) “Great….just, great.”    Might I also add that I’m grateful my husband is nothing like Robin Thicke.

My Son Will Never be a Super Jock and That’s Okay

I haven’t blogged anything since March and now that school is out, I have been waiting to come up with a decent topic whether school-related or not.  It dawned on me a couple nights ago, after my son (age 7) was getting ready for bed and asked, “Mom, what’s a black hole?” what my next topic would be: my son.

My son has shown interest in different occupations over the last couple of years whether that be an astronaut, race car driver, scuba diver, etc. but at some point during his 1st grade year, he offered up an idea that was not only realistic but broad enough that it could honestly encompass the majority of his previous ideas, “Scientist”.  He loves Science.  I am thrilled.  When I drive by baseball fields and see parents coaching from the bleachers for their marathon of t-ball, slow-pitch, and fast pitch tournaments (yep, they already do tournaments the summer before 2nd grade) I don’t envy them or feel deprived that my son decided after a couple of summers he’d rather not play baseball.  

My son tried out soccer and baseball; it was something we thought he should at least try for socialization and to work on motor skills, which fortunately did happen.  This is what he also remembers from it: lots of parents yelling, lots of kids crying, lots of mass chaos.  My child was more interested in the type of airplane that just flew over the field than if the bases were loaded.  Luckily, the parents on my son’s team last summer (I couldn’t always say this about the parents on the opposing teams) were pretty laid back and supportive, recognizing that all these soon-to-be-first-graders were incredibly awkward, even their child, in their own way.  Only one dad helicoptered and his attendance wasn’t consistent so that helped, but when I discovered that this summer tournaments would start I knew we were only going to continue if my son genuinely wanted to do it and guess what?  His interests have strayed to something he enjoys more.  Science.

Since he loves Science, he approached us about Cub Scouts. I had my reservations based on the national news reports of this organization, but I decided as long as his leaders were of sound character we’d support his interests. He loves it!  The first night the leader explained they’d be doing a nature walk (the boys chose to run) around a nearby lake, and you would of thought my child was going to Disney World.  Everything he does within this organization is almost related to hands-on/Science activities and he feels comfortable.  

He’s taking private swimming lessons this summer and has asked about what he needs to do to race/compete for medals.  When I explained he’d have to swim the whole length of the pool, be able to dive off the edge, etc he turned into this fish and is accomplishing a lot in the pool.  Does this mean I might end up having a calendar full of swim meets rather than baseball games to attend?  Maybe.  And I would be very supportive as long as my child was enjoying himself.  Did I pay for private swimming lessons so my son could be the next Michael Phelps?  No.  I wanted my extremely-tall-for-his-age son who can now ride on all of the water slides, and can no longer contain his excitement for being tall enough to do so, to not sink to the bottom of the pool and the fastest way to do that was one-on-one instruction.

When I was in elementary school and we were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up I remember 90% of the boys stating they wanted to be a professional athlete…and none of them are.  I think sports are great for kids, and if it helps you pay for college, I say, go for it.  I am a Husker fan and I attended UNL.  I saw first hand what some of my classmates/neighbors had to go through to meet the requirements of their sports commitments and maintain a decent GPA. What I’m trying to communicate is: I just hope parents aren’t only fostering the athletics but the academics too.  And I don’t just mean telling your child, “Go study” or “We don’t accept anything less than a “B” in this house.”  I really hope you’re setting aside the same amount of family time talking about academic topics as you do sitting in a lawn chair cheering your child on at a sporting event.  

I didn’t come to this realization on my own.  My son has done that for us.  I’ve become a student again.  I didn’t have a passion for Science as a kid.  When Eli asked me, “Mom, what’s a black hole?”  I knew a little, but it forced us to research together the correct facts and answers to his great question.  We both learned a lot.  Conversations at the dinner table or car rides usually involve topics like:new planets being discovered in our galaxy, the engineering that went into building that structure we just passed, etc.  Do we still talk about “regular” topics too?  Yes, my son can bring up Saturn’s rings and quote Sponge Bob in the same sentence.  I in no way assume I gave birth to the reincarnated Albert Einstein, but my son knows that we support his interests.  Will I be crushed if next week my son decides he wants to be something else instead of a scientist?  Not at all, but I do know that if he never wears a jersey, but rather tries his personal best in whatever he enjoys while still being a person of sound character, then that’s wonderful.

 

Teaching Students that Come from Dysfunction

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I know there’s a lot of workshops and published books that we have all read through our years of professional development that focus on teaching students of poverty, but I think our at-risk students possess a common denominator that doesn’t always involve a lack of adequate funds, and that is the broader term “dysfunction”.  The crazy train can be created by the adults in these students’ lives who make very little money or make two to ten times more than myself.

Dysfunction in a home can look a lot of different ways, but most of the time it stems from the immaturity of the adults in the students’ lives.  Sometime a mom or dad brings in a revolving door of men or women into the home, drugs and/or alcohol are frequently being used/consumed and/or shared with the child, parents are constantly fighting in front of their children, education is not placed as a high priority, and food, clothing, and shelter is insufficient.

I am saddened when I can smell my students from across the room, because the standard for clean clothes and bathed bodies is not being modeled or required (and yes there is hot water and soap in the home).  I have students who are being asked to stay home from school to take care of their younger siblings who might be sick (a.k.a. parenting when they’re not a mom/dad themselves), excusing their student from school just for having the sniffles, and parents are making a social-life mockery of themselves in public.  

If you become a parent, there’s a certain standard of responsibility that must be upheld.  Your Friday nights should no longer look like your 21st birthday celebration.  Why not spend time with your children instead?  Bring back the movie and board game nights.

Also, you should want more for your child than what you accomplished in life.  Push them to be the best person they can be.  Push them to contribute to society.  I had seventh graders in the past who could explain to me in detail the in’s and out’s of welfare and “working the system” so they could do “as little work as possible” when they became an adult.  

Never teach your child or instill the idea in your child that Learning is a passive experience. Learning is life.

The Best Way for a Bully to Learn is to Drain Their Small Pond…or Just Throw Them in the Ocean.

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Over the past several months, I’ve not so much been the victim of, but have witnessed quite a bit of bullying.  As a teacher and a mother, it’s probably not a surprise that I’ve seen bullying recently, but most of what I’ve had to watch, read about, or hear about, is less of kids bullying other kids, but adults bullying other adults and even adults bullying adolescents.  GROW-UP.

The common denominator that I’ve noted with most of these adults, who possess the mentality of a big child and still can’t get past the fact that they are not 16 years old anymore and the glory days of earning respect by flexing, laughing really loud, and or belittling someone else with unintelligent and derogatory remarks are over, is that they never seem to leave home or go very far from home/where they graduated from high school or if they do move away from home, it’s to a very small town where their occupations allow them to be at the top of hierarchy ladder in terms of annual income.

There are plenty of nice, wonderful human beings who stay in the community where they were raised, because they feel pride and loyalty to the town and want to continue to make the community great for their children, and I respect that.  Honestly though, when I reflect on the individuals who’ve been downright mean and obnoxious to my family whether it was a classmate, boss, relative, any type of peer, the majority of them fit into the denominator explained above.

There is that minority of bullies that do turn it around.  These are the individuals who were bullies as teenagers, leave home, realize no one gives a rip in college/real world if you were prom king, on the dance squad, had an impressive ACT score, etc. and they do change, but those are the ones that left the small pond they were capitalizing on and thus were humbled about what they learned about themselves: that being a jerk for the rest of your life is a pretty sad and pathetic existence.

I get that many bullies are actually really unhappy people, but do not expect me to feel sorry for them, especially the adult versions I’m focusing on today.  Again, GROW-UP.  Sadly, it seems to be a never-ending epidemic.  A solution?  I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking: Stop always pointing out the problems, Laura, and offer a solution.  To be honest, this problem is so incredibly bizarre to me, that right now I don’t have too many ideas for fixing it, besides walking up to the person and telling them to their face how much they suck….which could be interpreted as bullying and thus making me a massive hypocrite.  Wait….there is one thing…..

I have learned a lot from my parents, who work their tails off, and have gotten where they are today because of hard work.  Period.  Like them, I’ve never schmoozed, connected with any type of “inner circle” at work or socially, nor have I participated in any type of pseudo sorority rush.  I’m happy with what I’ve managed to accomplish so far, even though I was never a royal candidate for anything in my life, and it’s because of hard-work, but also treating others around me like human beings and never feeling like I was entitled to anything simply because I have a pulse.

I think the best way to aid and making this culture of immature, juvenile adults, who would probably cry like a baby if I ever picked them up out of their safe little pond and dropped them in the ocean with all types of larger-than-life elements, is to simply lead by example.  It’s actually pretty comical to see an adult bully get so incredibly uncomfortable because the person they thought they were going to prey upon is calm, undisturbed, professional, and mature.  It’s pretty entertaining, because an adult spitting out the words, “Shut up!” in public, tweeting/posting derogatory words on social media (I recently witnessed this when keeping tabs on the college sports scene), or making blunt/ignorant comments via email or face-to-face with zero research or content to back up what they’re saying,  is only damaging to themselves.  Unfortunately their skulls are pretty thick that I’m not sure an adult bully always comprehends when they’re making a donkey of themselves, but I’m a big believer in karma and have seen many times how eventually, even if it feels like forever, justice/the good person does win in the end.  Let’s get to the happy ending quicker.

Adults: GROW-UP.  We need to model for children and adolescents the right way to speak to people and work with others in productive, welcoming, and supportive settings.  What a waste of our purpose in this moment to spawn more massive ego-bubbles.  Let’s not turn the real-world into a cheesy 1980’s movie (imagine a bunch of Biff’s from Back to the Future running the planet) that ends in a horror film.  I would think being the president, or even a member, of the National Antagonizing Association would be an exhausting and infinitely depressing existence.  Aim higher.  Grow Up.

Our Students Don’t Clock Out at 3:30 PM. Why Should We?

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There are a lot of people who complain about how we, as educators, are underpaid.  I agree that those who are truly committed to the profession probably are.  Rather than open that can of worms (and maybe I already did just a little) I want to focus on the time the education profession requires in order to in fact be a great teacher.

Teaching is not a clock in and clock out, your-work-never-comes-home-with-you type of job.  A lot of professions require “after hours”: medical professions, law, real estate, parenting–the list goes on.  If you can’t make teaching a part of your life, not your whole life, but a part of your life outside of teaching, then I really don’t think this is the job for you.

I know people have complained to me, “I have a life too, I’m not going to stay up late grading every night….” and I get that.  From 3:30 – 8 PM I’m a Mom.  The minute my son goes to sleep, the book bag reopens and I’m thinking about next week.  Why?  Because, I really don’t want to stink at my job.  That doesn’t mean I never have a lesson that doesn’t spark something within my students, like I hoped, but at least I didn’t settle for some pre-made, boring crap of an activity that did nothing more for my students than fill time.

As educators we have a lot of meetings, and quite frankly, you need to be showing up for them.  Yes, they’re before or after our “work day”, but it involves your students, so show up.  I give exceptions if you’re double-booked with another school activity/committee meeting/supervision commitment, but if it’s an IEP or SAT, and you don’t have one of the above commitments listed as an excuse, then you need to be there.  Some schools I’ve worked with require it or suffer the consequences while others are satisfied with the minimum one classroom teacher.  The problem with the latter?  It’s always the same teacher coming to every meeting.

I’ve had colleagues ask me on Work Days (and I am forever grateful for the occasional Work Day), “What are you going to DO for the whole time?”  Why is this question even asked?  I’m smiling the whole time I’m answering their question, and on the inside I’m taking slow, deep breaths while explaining (what I think is FREAKING OBVIOUS), “Grading, lesson planning, reorganizing, editing, polishing, tweaking, brainstorming, etc., etc. (LIKE YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!!!!!!!!!!)”.

The job also doesn’t stop outside of the classroom when you’re out in public in terms of the image or behavior you should be exhibiting.  Again, I’ve heard colleagues in the past (I’ve worked in four different buildings in my career, so don’t assume which school/s I’m referring to) complain about how they should be able to be themselves, be free, let loose, etc. when off the clock.  You’re in charge of children.  You’re the poster person for public education.  If “being free” is becoming extremely inebriated in public, posting photos of yourself on social media looking like you’re trying to recreate Animal House, or simply functioning with limited clothing on, regardless of how trim you are…..then you need to try a different profession.

Think about it.  If I saw photos or first-hand behavior of my son’s teacher, doctor, scout leader, clergy member, daycare provider, friend’s parent, etc behaving like a complete juvenile donkey, I would be ending those relationships and cutting our losses…and I’m not even sure the loss would be significant since we’re supposed to be the professionals; the adults that are supposed to model not only proper behavior, but also model what it takes to positively contribute to this planet.

If you’ve chosen your contribution to be education, then don’t expect an 8 AM – 3:30 PM (approximation) schedule.  Our students don’t get to clock out at 3:30 PM, so why should we?