Posted in Life Lessons, Teaching

If they gain one thing, this is it.

An open mind. I would never expect students to change the ways they think. Instead, what I wish for them is the ability to see things differently. Through the eyes of another person. Maybe another way.

This week has been challenging for me. It has been eye opening in many ways. Things have happened to me personally which rocked me. Then in my classes.

If I am one thing it is idealistic. I never want that to change. It is the foundation of who I am as a person, mom, teacher, wife, and anything else one can come up with. I walk in and want to see the best in everything. It makes my heart hurt when it isn’t there. It upsets me when it falls apart.

I teach argumentative writing, so by default we debate. We were talking about communities in one of my classes. I wondered if our country had ever had or will have the feeling of community. I got a hard, “No.” I am not perplexed by this. Saddened, yes.

There was no further discussion. It seems that even in a room with students from all over the U.S. and a few from outside our borders there is the same sentiment. We are so far divided we can’t ever come back.

Yesterday was hard for me. It honestly broke my spirit a little bit.

Then today happened. Every semester I teach Dr. King and Malcolm X back to back. I LOVE those two pieces. Today was Dr. King’s “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression.”

Starting by identifying each way, this group had the best discussion. We talked about how groups can really be heard. What happens when it is time to make a voice heard? Some of them come from places which are far from safe. Their stories today were eye opening for some of us. However, those students who never say anything is class had lots to say. They were the ones with the ideas and could express what it really means to live under an oppressive rule.

What did that mean for me? They talked. They broke through the conditioning of their societies and came into my little weird bubble. Honestly, it healed me a little. See, this is what makes me idealistic. The fact we can have students who come over here for whatever reason and they end up not only learning themselves but teaching us more than we teach them.

If we would really listen to each other and not listen to respond there could be so much done. This is what happened today. Questions were asked. Real questions. The discussion was amazing. It was productive. It was honest.

I am going to take that into my other class on Monday and do argument games with it. Why? Because. I have students in there with such a closed view of what is and isn’t. How it should and shouldn’t be. Who matters and doesn’t. What equality means.

In the end what I want them to understand is this; we cannot move in any positive directions if we hold onto negative concepts. We must be willing to have an open dialogue. There has to be communication.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenting

Changing our daughters inner monologue

There has to be a way to change how girls are taught to think about themselves.  It is like magically at the age of 10 someone snatched my daughter and replaced her with one that thinks nothing but negative things about herself.

This is what I know about that.

  1. I have a pretty good self image, so I am not the one she hears, “I am fat” from.  If I am not feeling so good about myself, it is not because I am fat, instead it is because I am not eating well, or being healthy.
  2. I know how smart I am.  It took me 20 something years to embrace how cool it was to be a smart girl, so when my smart daughter gets knocked for it, I get pissed.  Seriously, I don’t care how smart someone is…there is a damn good chance there is someone smarter.  Be alright with that.  If you are the parent and you are teaching your child they are always going to be the smartest person in the room, you are setting them up for failure.  Teach them there is always room to learn more.
  3. Not all people who look a certain way can be lumped into one category.  Just because one was a certain way doesn’t mean a damn thing.  The same goes for any other stereotype related to how someone looks.  Never judge a book by the cover.  Some of my best friends are scary looking dudes.  Nicest people you will ever meet.
  4. Stop being sorry for everything.  I am not at fault for everything.  My mother drilled into me that women needed to be ladylike and feminine.  I am neither.  I am tired of apologizing for things that are not my fault.  I am smart, tough, and can handle damn near anything.  I rarely ask for help.  Seriously, I am not a damsel in distress.  I can and will do most everything myself.  Well, except drive a tractor…I can, I just won’t.
  5. When someone is being a shitty friend say something.  It is not your job to fix their issue.  However, 9 times out of 10 the reason they are being a shit friend has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.  It is their insecurities talking and not yours.  If they get offended, that is on them not you.
  6. It is alright to have more than one friend.  That whole besties thing and only friend thing is silly.  It is fine to have more than one friend.  It encourages communication and problem solving skills.  It also encourages cooperation.  There is nothing wrong with it.  Being controlled by friends sets us up to  later be controlled by a romantic partner.  Now, let’s all agree that this is a bad thing.
  7. The more kids are told they are perfect at home and have no consequences, the bigger assholes they are.    Not all of them.  Although, kids who have little to no consequences for shit behavior tend to repeat that behavior.  They also seem to believe they can do no wrong.  Even after they are punched in the face.
  8. Mean girls…enough is really enough.  When one encounters one.  There is no reason to be friends with them.  However, there is every reason in the world to stand up and say something.  Nothing is going to change unless they are called out.

Moms as a whole have to help with this.  I know I have mom friends who have no problem calling my daughter on her negative talk.  I love that.  I want that for her.  She needs to hear from other strong women that it isn’t alright to tear herself down.  We have to hold our daughters up and build them up.  Not over inflate them, but give them confidence.    It is time.

 

Posted in Teaching

So, it isn’t just mean girls but asshole boys too…goodie.

Seriously, my thought process on how little boys behaved was way off.  Like WAY off.  Which has really made me wonder and draw some conclusions.  I am not a boy, but I hang out with boys more than girls and always have and I grew up with brothers so I have a little insight.

Raising boys is competitive.  Just as or maybe more competitive than raising girls.  I really haven’t come up with a great term for it, but trust me, I will.  Just give it a little time.  The terms I have tossed around in my brain and with my husband are really not very nice at all, then again, neither is the behavior of these boys.

So, I am wondering if the same thing I think about mean girl culture starting with mean girl mom cult applies to boy culture as well.  I am really starting to believe it does.  If you are easily offended, please stop reading.  Actually, you should not be reading my blog if you are easily offended anyways.

 

Now, if we have different types of mean moms and mean girls it would make sense that we have the same thing in the dad and son side of the coin.  This has been harder for me to nail down since I am not a guy and I don’t live it everyday.  I am seeing this as a mom, wife, and sister.

I have come up with four types of negative dad and son relationship after some careful thought.  I know that this is not all dad and son relationships, nor is it the only part of any dad and son relationship.  I am simply talking about how the relationship relates to competition.  I am also very aware that not all dads fit into one of these categories and that moms can absolutely fit into them as well.  I know more than my fair share of moms that fit right into them very well.  So, again, if you are going to be offended, sorry about your luck.

Dad type 1.  “Dude, when I was in high school….” We all know him, he was a super stellar athlete.  So now he pushes his little dude into sports and expects him to be the same as he was.  He brags about him constantly.  By constantly building him up and having his son build himself up, what is he teaching him?  On the playground other kiddos hear how great Junior is.  Maybe they hear how less than stellar they are.  What is really happening here?  What happens when Junior loses for the first time or doesn’t live up to the hype or decides he doesn’t like whatever sport he is in? I don’t have an answer for that.  I do know from years of coaching that burnout will happen if parents push kids (any kid) too hard.  So Junior thinks he is better than everyone and is mean to those who he deems less than him at sports.  HMMMM….wait, I did meet those type of guys when I was in high school.  I wasn’t a fan.

Dad type 2.  “Super smarty pants dad…not so athletic, but my son will be at all costs.”  This one is sneakier.  He is better at blending into the shadows and acting like he is all about sportsmanship and being a team player.  He actually tries to teach his kids to be nice and good sports through his words.  His actions on the other hand do the opposite.  We all know actions speak louder than words.  This dad does things to put his son in a position to one up other kids.  The concepts of sportsmanship and team are really lost on him.  He is in for himself and his child only.  Which in turn creates a little boy that believes that it is alright to do anything to get ahead.  Including being nasty to others.

Dad type 3.  “Intense then, intense now.”  This dad is just too much.  Too much for everyone.  He expects damn near perfection from his little guy.  Think about that for just a second.  Kids are kids and they mess up.  It is part of life.  When kids encounter the push for perfection, bad things happen.  This particular type is not limited to sports.  It crosses over into academics as well.  Problems abound here.  What happens when Junior fails?  Failure is part of life and part of the learning process.  By not allowing for that learning process to occur, this dad is essentially setting everyone up for failure and disappointment.

I am out of dad types.  This is the outcome of these.  Failure, burnout, distancing of relationships, and so many other possibilities.

 

 

Posted in Teaching

It’s the moms too…

My suspicions were confirmed.  Mean girls come from mean moms.  Drama.  I tell you.  Drama.  Then my filter totally broke.  Oops.  Shit happens.  I will catch hell and I know it, but guess what I don’t care.  I try and have tried to be a nice person and be a friend.  For what?  To be there when it is easy?  Nope.  All done.

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So, it was brought to my attention that the girls I was learning about are a “doozy”.  Then their mom’s…well that is a whole new ball game.

Our daughters cannot possibly  learn to support one another if we cannot support one another and them.  As mothers we have to be role models for our daughters.  They are young women trying to find who they are.  It is not an easy job.  Remember it?  I sure as hell do and it sucked.  Guess what it taught me?  To fight for myself.   To be myself.  It also taught me that no matter what has nasty things to say about me, I know who I am and who I want to be.

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Now, we have to teach our daughters these things.  It is hard y’all.  It is heartbreaking to watch my daughter cry because of mean girls and their mean mothers.  There is never a reason for an adult woman to to tear down a child to make her child feel better.  This is where bullies start.  At home.  I watch it.  There is a pattern.  I am over it.  We have to break the cycle.

More than anything I want my daughter to be kind.  I want her to keep her spirit and her love of helping others.  I do not want to see that crushed out of her because those around her need to feel superior.  There is no reason to teach any child they are better than any other child.

How do we as mothers help our daughters?  We have to do something.  We have to lead by example.  Be kind.  Be courageous.  When all else fails sometimes you are going to have to tell that mean mom right where she can stick it.  It is coming…

At the end of the day that mean mom and mean daughter will be standing alone wondering what the hell happened.  You can’t have a positive life with a shitty attitude.

Posted in Teaching

Changing the “Mean Girl”Society…

I must not be a “normal” girl.  I do not and never will understand why it is alright to tear other women or girls down.  I don’t care how old they are.  If I think something of you I am going to tell you, but I am not going to be mean just to be mean.

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What I don’t understand is how young girls start this mean girl culture.  It really starts so young.  Now, I was the victim of some profound bullying when I was younger.  The things that were said to me were horrible.  I would not wish them on anyone.  It took me years to believe in myself again.  I do not want to see anyone go through that.

What baffles me is that girls will sit together in a bathroom when they are drunk as skunks and be besties.  Why can’t we always be like that?  Really?  I understand, probably better than you would think, that things are hard for women.  I work in one industry where I am very much the minority.

We can’t always be like that simply because at some point in our lives some of us are taught that all women are competition.  Beware, I am going to royally piss people off here, and I do not care.  If you don’t like it stop reading.  I know for a fact, because I saw it and was the victim of it, that there are mothers and daughters out there that see others as competition.  These mothers teach their daughters that other girls are out to “get them.”  It may be that those mothers are jealous or insecure of something.  So, they pass those insecurities onto their daughters.  Which seriously sucks.  Deal with your own shit and don’t include your daughter (or as a result mine) in your drama.

So what happens now?  Mean girl culture happens.  Moms form a cult of mean moms and their daughters follow suit.  Fun huh?  Nope.  The result goes a little something like this.  Mom doesn’t like so and so’s mom, so she can’t like her daughter.  Little girl goes to school and is mean to the daughter.  Little girl tells her friends to be mean, and a cycle starts.  Often times in this case there is no rhyme or reason to this type of mean girl.

Another instance, one little girl is sweet, outgoing, helpful, smart, and all around nice.  Other girls want to be her friend, she wants to be friends with everyone.  All it takes is one girl to decide that this wonderful, happy, little girl can’t have friends.  The mean girl tells her she can’t be friends with anyone.  I call this the “I can have as many friends as I want but no one else can” mean girl.  We all knew or know one.  Again, I really believe this is a symptom of watching an adult do it.

So how do we heal it?  Or can we?  I really in my heart want to believe we can.  My head tells me I am batshit crazy.  How am I going to heal my own daughter?  With cookies.  And when she is old enough wine.  Really, how am I going to heal her heart?  With love.  As a teacher I know a few things.  Mean girls are mean because they need something.  Control usually.  I need her to know that she needs to be her and be the best version of her she can be.  It took me twenty or so years to figure that out and own who and what I was.  I don’t want that for her.

What I want for her is to know that it is alright to confront the problem.  It is also alright to stand up for herself.  I want her to keep her compassion, her love, her spirit, and her wish to be friends with everyone.  I want her to stand up for the underdog.  I never want to see that squashed out of her.  I want her to know it is a super cool thing to be a smart girl, something that I struggled with so much.  I want to help her empower others.  Maybe, just maybe she will show the mean girls how much better life can be on the nice girl side.

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Posted in Teaching

Sometimes they teach me…

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I did both.  Since I have the luxury of writing my own curriculum I taught what I needed to, and I got to teach my kids.

We are talking about what makes a good reader and what they can do to be better readers.  So, I need to know why they think they are “bad” readers to begin with or why they don’t like to read.  Every semester I ask this question and every semester I hear the same things.  AR, they picked books that were boring, I didn’t understand and they told me to read it again.  This one size fits all model we have for classrooms doesn’t work.  Even the one size fits all model we have for some special education classes doesn’t work.

Why?  Let me break this down.  You have a classroom.  What is the first thing some of those kids need to have in order to be successful?  I am going to bet that lots of answers are things like pencils, chairs, books, paper, and other things along those lines.  Now unless you are teaching in an area I have never been too, you are dead wrong.  They do need those things, but they also need some other things.  Food, water, clean clothes, love, understanding, and they need you to love them.

Most of all they need you to love them.  Ask my kids, I loved them, even when they didn’t love themselves.  Some of those kids don’t know what love is.  They have never seen it.  They damn sure know what hate looks like though.  They see hate, violence, disrespect, and we can only guess what else on a daily basis.

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This is so true.  If you could glimpse into the lives of some of your students, you would sob.  I teach in the mid-west and I know what many of my students saw because I heard about it.  I was their safe place.  I embrace that even to this day.

So back to your classroom and mine.  Today we were talking about reading and why it is so hard to teach comprehension to kids who struggle.  I told them it is hard because there is no one cause.  There can be so many reasons.  It can be an ADD/ADHD thing, dyslexia, some other learning disability, or it could be they were forced at an early age to read stuff they hated and stopped reading.  That right there.  If you force a child to hate to read in the early primary grades you are going to cause a problem in high school and college.

Students who are forced to stay inside a box that a teacher sets for them in terms of reading and writing are going to shut down.  Yes, you have to be able to spell and write correct sentences. Yes, you have to be able to find the topic, main idea, and supporting details.  Guess what?  Those things can be taught in the context of a class.  All while you, as a teacher, let students choose books that are interesting to them.

What about reading and lexile levels? Well, has any student ever been harmed by challenging themselves intellectually?  No, I don’t think so.  If anything it is going to do them good.  Encourage that.  Do you really think my first grade teacher thought I could read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Probably not.  Thank you Mrs. Bonowitz for believing in me and letting me.  Those levels are just that, a label.  We all know how much I love those.  If we think about that, To Kill a Mockingbird has a reading level of about 4.9.  I don’t really think any of us are going to hand that novel to a fourth or fifth grader.

As we were talking about this, my class asked lots of really great questions.  I have two that want to be teachers.  It was a great class and very eye opening for all of us.  Most of all, we talked about how they had to make learning personal.  It is not a one size fits all.  It never will be.  I can give them all sorts of tools and tricks.  Things that have worked for me, for my own children, for others I have taught.  In the end, they are going to have to use trial and error to find what works for them.  I did tell them, the best way to become a better reader is to simply read.  And that all the English teachers that told them they had to get the same things out of literature that everyone else did were full of it.  Sometimes it is just a bunny along the path…it doesn’t have any meaning.

 

 

 

Posted in Teaching

Middle School Called…It Wants Your Drama Back…

Seriously, last time I checked we were grown ass women.  I am not down for the petty drama that y’all are bringing simply because of a choice that was made to do what is best for MY kids.  Guess what??? I fought tooth and nail to get them, not you.  So, that means that I get to decide what happens in their lives.  Their education needs to be a good one.

So, if our decision causes you to unfriend me on Facebook (oh the HORROR!), or to give me dirty looks, or to talk smack, please by all means come do it to my face.  You haven’t asked me why we are doing what we are doing?  Huh?  Funny?

Those that have asked us how it is going, thank you.  I have happy kids that love school again.  That is worth its weight in gold to me.  I know how bad the financial situation is in small schools, guess what, I have been a teacher for a very long time.  Guess what else, I still teach and I see the state funding get cut.  However, holding on to a bad teacher because it is the easy way out is not the way to go.  I am not always the best teacher.  I know that.  There are days I am barely passable.  At the end of the day, I love what I do and I love my students.

My own kids have never deserved, actually no child for that matter, to have an education that is failing them.  They do not deserve to have a teacher that doesn’t see them each for what they are.  Now, they have what they need.  I know that everything in education isn’t perfect.  I am a pretty smart lady.  I also know that kids learn best when they like going to school.

So, my choices for my kids are just that.  Last time I checked, it was me that spent months being a pincushion, then more months holding down the couch just trying to stay pregnant, than through the NICU.  Guess what, even if I hadn’t gone through all of that, no one gets to tell me what is best for them.

Posted in Teaching

Broken hearts and broken bones…

Kids are supposed to bounce.  Nope. Not even a little bit…

We are at four weeks in cast #3.  It comes off next Friday, I hope.  What has amazed me about my son this time is his true love of things.

Of course he broke his right arm and he is right handed.  It hasn’t slowed him down.  It didn’t this summer either when he broke it the first time.  Instead, he has taught himself to write, fairly well, with his left hand, and he has not lost his sense of compassion and love for what he really does love.

Getting his cast off means he can wrestle again.  This is his heart.  I love watching him, but more I love what he is learning about sportsmanship and hard work.  Yes, I know he is 8.  It is never to early to learn what it means to be a good sport and to be humble when you are good at it.  Him and I have talked many times about how we win and lose.

I am ready for him to get out of his cast, it is really kind of stinky.  I think he is more ready.  He is ready to be a kid again.  Actually, I know his sister is ready for him to be able to put the plates away.

Posted in Teaching

It is that time already???

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We got to this point in a hurry this semester.  I am already getting the frantic, “What do you mean that is my grade?”  I mean just that all.  I am super easy to get along with.  Come to class, participate, do you stuff, and guess what…you do well.

Honestly,  I was this kid once upon a time.  It took all of one professor (who I still love dearly) telling me to pull my head out of my ass and get both to class.  It worked.  I learned so much from her.  I learned not only a ton about the class, but about how to be a good student and teacher.

She was one of those professors who care about students as people.  So, when I tell my students to be in class, I really do mean it.  I can’t teach you anything through just the book.  Which, they should all know considering the material of my class.  Learning to comprehend from a textbook isn’t going to work well.

I do want my students to be successful, not only in my class, but life.  So here are some tricks and tips.

  1.  Go to class!  I mean it everyday.  Unless of course you have some terrible illness, cause I don’t want that, be there.
  2. When you are there, be present.  Put your damn phone and head phones in your backpack and leave them there.  Facebook isn’t going to teach you anything. Part of the biggest learning experience is being mentally present.  It is important.
  3. Come see me.  If you have a question, come in and ask.  PLEASE.  All professors are willing to help.  It is our goal to make sure that you understand the material.
  4. Study groups.  Make one, use it.  I swear by them.  I would not have made it through Lit Theory or American Short Stories without one.  “What is the last word in this story and why is it significant?”  It was a real question.  Not only will they help you academically, they are fun and you make friends.
  5. Take a class that is way off your radar as an elective.  Seriously.  You might find you are great at something or you love something you never knew existed.  I took a theatre class and I ended up teaching drama for several years.  It was fun.
  6. Know where you are with your degree.  Check out what the requirements are and make sure you are on track.  Start when you are a freshman.  Last semester of your senior year is way too late.
  7. Talk to your adviser.  They are a wonderful resource.  They not only know what classes you should be taking, they are usually pretty cool.  I had a couple of very awesome ones.
  8. If you are at a 2 year school and are planning to transfer, know the requirements.  It is going to suck if you get to that point and half of your credits won’t transfer.  Check it out.
  9. Make time for some fun.  Yes, you have to study and go to class.  But it is alright to have down time.  College is hard.  Give yourself sometime to relax.
  10. Take care of yourself.  There are going to be cootie germs you have never been exposed to.  Keep your room clean.  Eat well.  Exercise.  It will go a long way in keeping you healthy.

Most of all enjoy this time.  I would be a forever college student if someone else would pay for it.

Posted in Teaching

So…about that evaluation

It turns out that I had myself all freaked out for nothing.   Technology failed me (it usually does) and I did fine punting.  I have always said that a teachers greatest skill needs to be the ability to punt, fly by the seat of her pants, or come up with anything on the fly.  Over the years, mostly because all of my best thought out plans bomb, I have become super at flying by the seat of my pants.

For the first time in my life of “formal evaluations,”  that skill worked for me.  I have an amazing VPAA and it was good.  I might be a little jaded about how evaluations work, simply because in my previous life, they were great…until a parent hated me.

One more to go this year.  I can do it.  I am like the little engine that could.