Not bad for a fat girl

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The Corona Virus and CQC

Don’t I mean CDC? Well, no. That’s not my department. I’m not a health expert, but I am pretty knowledgable about fourth graders, and what makes them tick. I’ve found that CQC is a valuable practice to help teachers and students feel valued, appreciated, and supported. Oh, and it’s free. It just costs time and patience.

I’m not sure where I first read about it, but CQC has become a treasured part of my classroom routine over the past two years. What is it? Nothing short of magic, in my opinion. But that doesn’t explain it, so here’s what I know about CQC.

First off, it stands for Celebrations, Questions, and Concerns. Every Friday morning I set aside time for CQC with my fourth grade students. They know it’s coming, and they value this time. In fact, on the very last day of school last year they begged to do a final CQC, so we sat in the shade of an old tree on the playground and shared little pieces of ourselves for the last time as a group.

What CQC does is give us all a platform where we can see and be seen by our community. We listen to each other, and often we find that others have experiences similar to ours.

During CQC we all sit in more or less a circle, where we can all see and hear each other. I go around and ask each child if they have something to say. Kids who are a little more shy will often respond if they are directly invited into the conversation, but nobody is forced to speak. Kids say their bit, and I respond.

It’s not exactly a class discussion. It’s generally a short exchange between the student and me, where everyone else is invited in to listen. I model appropriate responses, respectful listening, and fairness.  Later, they can have conversations with each other about what they heard during CQC.

We always start with the positive. Celebrations frequently involve birthdays (our own, our mom’s, our hamster’s…) but there are lots of other celebrations too. We’re particularly proud of achievements, as we should be. We’ve had kids earn belts in martial arts, conquer difficult math concepts, learn to do skateboard tricks, and complete 5K runs. Kids score soccer goals, finish long books, learn to dive into swimming pools, complete massive Lego models, and finally beat their older brothers in a video game. These are important moments to kids, and they deserve to have their moment. Who doesn’t want others to affirm us?images-1.jpg

Then we move on to the questions. Oh, the questions. Many of them are personal questions for me. I always reserve the right to tell kids if a question is too personal (which rarely happens). Usually they ask things like, “What’s your favorite animal?” And usually someone else already knows the answer, because it’s been asked before.

Then there are the questions meant to stump me. I simply tell them I don’t know. These are usually questions of theology or science. They don’t really want the answer, they want to know what I’ll say. Often I’ll say, “I don’t know. That would be an interesting question to discuss at home with your family.”

And naturally there are also the real questions. Often these are school related, about schedules or field trips or why we do things a certain way. These are good for me to hear, so I know what kids are wondering or have misconceptions about. Often kids just want to understand why things are as they are, and this gives me an opportunity to help them understand. Sometimes they ask a question that makes me rethink something we’re doing, and sometimes I make a change based on our discussion.

After the questions we make time for concerns. As an educator you have to be very careful with concerns. You have to listen objectively, and reassure kids in a way that is caring, and nonjudgmental. You also have to let kids know you’re there to help them if they need help, but sometimes they might want to share their concerns privately. You are, as an educator, a mandated reporter if a child reveals to you that he or she is in danger.

The concerns they share most are concerns about pets. I listen. I affirm that what they’re saying sounds concerning (unless it’s something mild, then I tell them I believe it’s mild), and I usually tell them to ask an adult at home about it. Often the situation is already being dealt with, so I can say, “I understand why you’re concerned. It sounds like your parent (caregiver) is taking care of this situation.” When pets die, and they will, I tell them that I’ve felt the sadness of losing a pet too. I also tell them that it’s normal to feel sad when someone or something we care about comes to the end of their life, and how it sometimes feels unfair that their lifespans aren’t as long as we would like them to be.

Some of the concerns may make you feel uncomfortable. One of my students last year had an uncle who died by suicide, and she was devastated. I had spoken with her mother, and had private conversations with her, but she didn’t speak to any of her peers about it. At least not until about a month later. Then, at CQC, she told her classmates that he had died, and that he had taken his own life. Every child in that room felt for her. There were tears and hugs and that child felt how much we loved and supported her as she worked through her pain and grief.

Why do I do CQC? I do it so every child feels heard. We learn about each other’s strengths, each other’s achievements, and each other’s worries. We learn to trust one another and we have a safe place to share what’s on our minds. We lift each other up, and we become so much closer as a result.

One thing I will always remember about this Corona Virus pandemic is the fact that it was a topic of CQC long before schools closed. Even before the first fatality was announced in the United States, I had a little girl who was concerned about it. Each week, for several weeks, she brought it up. It seemed far away, and not very likely to have much effect on us, but still I addressed her concerns with care, each time she shared them.

I didn’t tell her don’t worry about it. I didn’t tell her it was nothing. What I told her was that I had heard it was pretty bad, too, but I didn’t think it was currently a problem in the United States. Even so, I said, I am not able to predict the future. I also told her that it was a good idea for all of us to make sure we’re washing our hands appropriately, coughing and sneezing into our elbows, and wiping down our classroom regularly. No panic, just action.

Well darned if that little kiddo wasn’t right to be worried. And I can tell you, every single one of my students knew ahead of time that it was something bad and it was likely heading our way. Why? We talked about it. Not with hysteria, but with the facts as we knew them. Knowledge gives us power, and I’d like to think my students were a tiny bit more able to handle the subsequent school shut down as a result of those talks weeks before it happened.

Now we’re online, and it’s Friday again, and this morning we did CQC. It’s somebody’s grandma’s birthday, and they’re going to do a drive-by. Some else is missing out on a trip to Disneyland. Another is feeling sad for his brother, who will be missing his high school graduation. The celebrations still exist, but they’re different. The questions have a lot to do with when school will open and what it will be like and whether they’ll be prepared for fifth grade. And the concerns? Well, they’re not so different from yours and mine.



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Oh Those Jeans

Today I wore jeans to work. It’s Friday, and it’s ok to wear them where I work, in fact many of my colleagues wear jeans regularly. For me, it’s more of a special occasion kind of thing.

I was actually excited to wear them, since a few months back I had surgery that totally shifted my bulk around. After my surgery, even my biggest pants were a no go. I could only fit into elastic waists, which, like any fat girl, I already owned. I was less than thrilled with this prospect, but until the end of June I just accepted it. After all, the surgery was early in March, and it took a while to recover. In fact it took a long while. Longer than I expected.

jeans-clean-airDuring that recovery period I started to feel really discouraged. Sure, the surgery fixed the original problem, but now I had a gaping surgical wound (ew, I know), a new weird body shape (to replace the old, weird body shape), and limited ability to do even simple tasks.  I was fortunate though; I was surrounded by people who genuinely cared about me. A dear friend (who happens to be a  nurse) was actually excited about assisting me with my wound care, and my other friends at work insisted on aiding me with all sorts of tasks. They barely let me lift a finger. The children I taught were sweet and cooperative too, making my job as easy as possible.

Eventually, I healed, but it was  June before I finally got fed up. I was physically able to move more, and I had the time to devote to finally repairing more than just a belly scar. This blog was born, and I shouted to the world that it was time for me to move forward.

At the start of this process I could hardly button my biggest jeans. They are in the banner picture. Yes, that is really me. Well, today I wore those jeans to work. And it was awful.

You see, those jeans just don’t fit me. They have become too large. They sag and droop and all day long I felt like they were in danger of plummeting to my ankles. I was adjusting them and hiking them up all day long. Down they would droop again, hems dragging across the floor. They had turned into a great big annoyance. I couldn’t wait to get home and take them off. They dropped right to the floor, to be quickly and happily replaced by their next size smaller counterpart. Ok, maybe they squeeze a little more at the waist than I would like, but they don’t sag, droop, or fall down. I think next Friday they may make their work debut.


Thinking Twice About Fish Fry and Pet Bears

my_pet_bear_by_sebreg-d2yj4nf It was a good week. A very good week. But it was also a tiring week so by Friday at dinner time, when it was just me and my sweetheart, neither of us had the energy to concoct something from our odd assortment of groceries. We decided to go out.

The conversation took longer than usual, as we couldn’t quite pinpoint where we wanted to go or what we wanted to eat. Finally we hit upon Fish Fry. Yum. Ok, I know. Fish Fry is the culinary equivalent of a pet bear. It seems awesome, but it can do some serious damage. Of course, hungry tired brain wasn’t thinking that way. It was just focused on the awesome side of the equation. And that Fish Fry was awesome. Completely delicious. Golden battered filets, tangy coleslaw, perfectly seasoned steak fries, the works. FishSandwichPhoto_new

I savored that meal. But then something odd happened. I got full.  But there was still food on my plate. Delicious deep fried nutritionally vacant food. What a strange feeling. I took another bite. Nope. I didn’t want it anymore. Now granted, I should have ordered broiled fish with steamed vegetables and a salad, I know this, but still, I choose to focus on the small victory of NOT cleaning my plate. This, however, was my only small victory.

Remember that pet bear I mentioned? Well, it doesn’t always hibernate. Sometimes it wakes up and does its bear thing, which may not be pretty. My fish fry was like that. A short while later at home I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was bloated and thirsty and just kind of uncomfortable. I was paying for that Fish Fry with discomfort. Sure it was awesome at the time, but at what price? The good thing is that today is a new day and I get to start over. Salad, anyone?