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Confessions of a Cooped Up Teacher

Day One: March 16, 2020

I don’t want to stay home, and yet I want nothing more than to stay home.

I’ve been home for a week. It was spring break, and five glorious days off school were mine! No big plans for me, just some work and some r & r and some time with Mom, doing the mother daughter things: lunch, shopping, movies. The week started off just fine. Yes, there was some rain, but that only made staying in doing nothing that much better. Then it cleared up some, and Mom & I got together and did our thing. It was great. That was last Saturday. On Tuesday we got together again, this time we went to the movies. We had a terrific time and planned to get together again on Thursday. Then all hell broke loose.

1200px-Pandemiclogo.svgWatching the news and reading articles left me with a sense of dread and doom. I did not want to be a part of that, so I switched off my social media and got off my behind. My sweetheart and I did some grocery shopping, made sure we had tp, and planned to lay low. I called Mom to see how she was doing and if she needed anything. She was fine, and said she did not need a thing. Then I told her our plans Thursday were going to have to be delayed. I was not willing to take my eighty-something year old mother into a crowded place just so we could have a nice lunch. She was disappointed, but claimed to understand my reasoning. I think she was just trying to be agreeable.

Since then schools have been shut down in several states, my own included. It was a weight off my chest when the announcement was made last Thursday that our district would close. The entire state is now closed at least until March 27, but between you and me I don’t think schools will be ready to reopen that soon. I keep getting snippets of information, like everyone else. One friend in New York has told me what her district is doing, another friend, who has a daughter in Seattle, has shared some of her experiences. Getting these first and secondhand accounts is powerful. These are REAL people, not alarmists.

Each day I recommit to staying away from people, but it’s so difficult. When my 21 year old called me and asked if we could go to the grocery store together (clearly he was low on funds) I, of course, said yes. And when my brother, mother, and niece asked me to join them for a family St. Patrick’s meal, well, I said yes to that too. But that’s it. I’m not going anywhere after that. Unless I have to.

As of right now, I don’t really know what I have to do. I’ve been gathering some resources for teachers and parents, but honestly, there’s simply too much to sort through. I’m so grateful to all the children’s presses, publishers, authors, bookstores, and curriculum websites. You’ve been so generous with your time and resources. The only issue is that there’s SO much that it’s overwhelming, even for someone like me, who is familiar with much of it (unlike parents). How are we going to pare this down to its most impactful elements and share it equally? How are we going to reach and engage our students when we’re all living in a shared state of disbelief?

I’m sure some guidance will be forthcoming, at least in regard to work. For now I’m grateful that my loved ones are all healthy, and we have what we need. I hope you can say the same.

 


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Learning Patience

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How do we learn patience? How do we learn that sometimes things don’t happen as quickly as we would like them to? Is patience a trait that can be taught or does it develop naturally?

Infants, of course, have no patience. If they’re uncomfortable, they let you know. In return we take care of their needs. I think it’s natural that asĀ  kids grow they still have their needs met by adults, but perhaps not as quickly. Does that teach patience or just lead to irritability? I think it can go either way.

If I want your attention but you put me off brusquely I will probably feel hurt. If you tell me that you’ll give me your attention shortly, I’m likely to be satisfied. Does it work that way for kids too? I suppose it depends on a lot of things, like who the kid is, what they want, and what’s going on around them.

I’m thinking about patience because of our state testing. Can kids who are nine or ten years old patiently go through all of the questions and possible responses and evaluate all of them before choosing? Can they be expected to sit quietly for multiple hours at a time? How much patience are they supposed to have?

Some of my students are quite impulsive. Some of them are extremely high energy. Sitting quietly doesn’t come easily to them. They’re trying, though, and for that I applaud them.

I do think it would help kids learn a little more patience if we didn’t drop everything to cater to their wishes. I see it a lot. Out at the mall a kid whines about being hungry and out comes the bag of Cheerios. At the restaurant there’s a wait for the food and out comes the technology. A student leaves a paper at home and a parent drops everything to run it over to school.

I know this rant sounds all old and “in my day,” but I assure you my mother never carried around sippy cups and snacks, and if I forgot my violin or my homework? Well, that was on me. It would never have occurred to me to ask her to bring anything to school (or even to call her from school–only the nurse did that– and only if I was throwing up).

But did I carry snacks around when my son was small? You bet. We’re much more mobile now. My mom and I didn’t go far when I was a kid. Maybe to the grocery store, or the bank or the beauty parlor or the dentist. Wherever it was, we always went home afterward. We didn’t live out of some rolling second house on wheels complete with snacks, communication systems, and entertainment. Jeez, in those days there weren’t even cup holders. Can you imagine? Barbaric.

I’m not suggesting a return to the dark ages (I love my cup holders), but maybe we could use a little more patience and try to teach it to our kids. Maybe we can take our time on a project and not expect instant results. Maybe we can engage kids in something that isn’t instant and takes work. How about planting a garden or building a backyard obstacle course or writing and illustrating a book? Maybe even just reading a long book together, one chapter at a time. There is value in delayed gratification, and there is value in persistence. I wish more kids had opportunities to experience both on a regular basis.

When our kids mess up, we have to let it happen. No, I’m not suggesting you allow your child to set the house on fire, but you paving the way so that your child never experiences any discomfort is a disservice to your child. I know you want your child to be happy. I know you don’t want him to be uncomfortable. But do you want him to be independent? Do you want her to be resilient? Do you want them to be self-reliant? Or do you want to fix everything for them for the rest of their lives?

The “pay to get my kid into the college of my choice even if the kid isn’t qualified” folks don’t. Their message to their kids is, “Whatever you might be capable of on your own isn’t good enough, and you need me to step in so that you can have success as I define it.” Ouch.

Maybe it sounds cruel to a modern parent, but the phrase, “No, I won’t play with you right now, go find something to do, without technology,” can be a loving response to your child. Let kids explore and use their imaginations, and they will discover worlds that aren’t found in any app. Stop trying to fix everything for them, they will be okay as long as you let them fail from time to time. Being uncomfortable in the short run can have great benefits in the long run. And parenting isn’t instant. You have to have patience.


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South of the Border

download.jpgMy kid and his friends have gone on Spring Break south of the border. These college students have piled into a van and taken a road trip, something that millions of college students have done for generations. This time is different, though. This time it’s my kid.

He’s a good kid. Actually he’s a great kid. He has good friends, makes good decisions, and hasn’t gotten into any trouble in his life. Okay, so there was the writing on the table in first grade incident, but that was a long time ago, and he insists he was erasing what the other kid wrote. I kind of believe him. He works hard, studies hard, and keeps his nose clean. His friends, from what I can gather, are similar.

Last year these boys took a road trip to California for Spring Break. They camped in Malibu. I didn’t even know you could do that, but you can, and they did. This year they decided to go international, with a trip to Mexico. It didn’t take long to get there, they left this morning and he already checked in. Of course we went online to see the place where they’re staying. It looks nice. Steps from the beach.

I’m glad he has friends. I’m glad they’re going on adventures. I’m glad he’s in a lovely place. But, truth be told, I’ll be even more glad when he returns.