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Archive for December, 2015

I’m jumping on the review bandwagon for the end of 2015. My train of thought won’t be terribly long, just a little recap of this year.

2015 was alternately awesome and difficult at the same time, although many of the difficulties had a role in pushing some of the awesome things forward. Let’s start with the not-so-good, shall we?

Crappy Things About 2015:

  1. Depression. This was a bit of a tough struggle this year. I think a lot of it had to do with my current job situation, but a supportive family and an awesome therapist got me through the worst of it. Depression is no joke, though. If you can’t shake feelings of hopelessness, self-loathing, or defeat, if you have a case of the blues that is just not normal, or you have a desire to hurt yourself, please set up an appointment with your doctor immediately. He or she can point you in the right direction for you to get some help.
  2. Job Frustration. There are a lot of good things about the place where I work, it’s the line of work I’m in that brings me down. Much of the parenting I see makes me fear for the future. Don’t make excuses for kids’ bad behaviour. Have them acknowledge their mistakes, fix them, and move on. Stop looking for someone else to blame. Hire (or watch) Super Nanny to build some parenting muscle and to put accountability where it belongs.
  3. Religious Extremism. Yeah, ISIS (or ISIL, or whatever you want to call them) is a top contender here, but so are religious groups closer to home. It horrifies me to see people who identify as Christian call for violent measures to rid the United States (or the world) or people who practice a different religion, who come from other countries, or who are just different in general. That isn’t what Jesus preached and that’s not what I stand for. Do we need to get rid of the bad guys? Yes, but the wrong people are being targeted. Maybe we need to review the First Amendment instead of being so hung up on the Second Amendment. We may be one nation under God, but the right to practice any religion is protected here. Anything else just divides this country even more than it already is.

Really, those were the worst parts of the year, at least for me. There were only three major categories, but each of those was enough to negatively affect my life. Now on to better things.

Awesome Things About 2015:

  1. Italy. My mom took me to Italy last June and it was fabulous. Hot. Very, very hot, but fabulous. We learned a lot of valuable things, such as the gypsies throughout the country make the pan-handlers in Detroit look like amateurs and that they don’t take kindly to being told off. The traffic in Rome is deadly and Italians are extremely patient with foreigners trying to speak Italian. The gelato, REAL gelato, is amazing, as are the wines.

337We saw priceless works of art that made me cry for the sheer beauty of them (La Pietà, the Sistine Chapel) and walked where the apostles did. It was an experience of a lifetime that I can’t wait to do again someday, except the next time I go, I will spend more time with my dear Italian friend Sabrina.

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2. New Career Opportunities. More on this in another post. Good things are happening!!!

3. Oldest Child Went to College. I miss Oldest Child. I miss him terribly, but he is very happy where he is. College life agrees with him. He has always been independent and he’s had a fairly easy time navigating dorm life. A parent wants a child to be happy and he is. That makes me happy, in a bittersweet kind of way.

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4. Theatre. I love my theatre, the Players Guild of Dearborn, to be precise. Last spring, I got my first non-musical role in To Kill a Mockingbird and was able to be the assistant director for The Miracle Worker this past summer-into-fall. My theatre family is wonderful, patient with me, and I’m so lucky to have found them. I’m looking forward to 2016.

5. My Family. I’m a lucky girl. Next week, Mr. Marty Man and I will celebrate nineteen years of marriage. We have three boys who never cease to amaze us, even if they can frustrate us now and then. (Or more than that, depending on the day.) We have our health, we have jobs that take care of our family, and we love each other. That in itself, my friends, is a reason to celebrate.

 

Happy New Year to you all!

 

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There are things in this world that I don’t understand. There is pain, there is hate, heartache, and fear. There’s racism, intolerance, violence, and death. I’m tired of it. I want to be an informed citizen, knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world, but it wears on me, this constant unrest. I want peace. I know it won’t happen, there are too many people in this world who only know how to communicate through violence, but that doesn’t stop me from yearning for it.

I don’t know the answers. I have my opinions, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. There are so many mitigating factors in the situations happening in our country and all over the world that I won’t even pretend that I know how to solve them, and neither does anyone else, no matter what they say.

So, what to do?  Here’s my plan.

I will be kind to others.

I will apologize for my mistakes, because I will make many, and sincerely try to learn from them.

I will try and see things from another’s prospective.

When I disagree with someone, I will express my opinion in a civil manner without getting ugly.

I will live with integrity.

I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I can do my part to make it a better place. In this time of celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring peace, it is the least I can do.

Spread love this season.

 

 

 

 

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As a teacher, I see and hear a lot. I mean, a lot. I know things about my students’ parents that would make those parents cringe. Children see and hear much more than you know and, boy, do they like to tell teachers all about the weird stuff that happens at home. Most of it is humorous, some of it is heartbreaking, and, thankfully, a very small percentage turn out to be matters of real concern.

This topic that I’m addressing today, something that teachers hear a lot,  isn’t a matter of concern in the sense that authorities need to be involved, or that we need to have a conference, but I encounter this situation every year and it seems to be getting worse. Something needs to be said. Here goes:

Parents:

Stop telling children to get As or they’ll be grounded.

Stop telling children to get 100% on tests or they’ll be punished.

Stop promising exorbitant presents and/or cash for good grades.

Stop setting kids up against each other, comparing them to siblings, cousins, or friends.

Stop. Just, stop.

You’re crushing your kids. I’ve held them as they’re sobbing when they get an 89% on a science test, absolutely certain that they’re going to lose computer privileges or won’t be able to go to the birthday party that weekend because of a B+.

Let me repeat that: Because of a B+. A grade that’s considered above average. They crumble into my arms, convinced that it’s the end of the world, afraid of taking that paper home to you. A B+.

Parents, not every child is an A student. Not every child is a B student. Some even struggle with being C students. Most students do, instinctively, want good grades, even the ones who would rather be out playing a sport instead of studying. They want to please you, they want to please me. Few elementary students have the foresight to truly understand that good grades eventually equal a better job, but they constantly hear it from all of the adults in their lives, including my fellow teachers and me. Getting good grades, for them, means parental approval. No matter how old they are, children want their parents to be happy with what they do, to be proud of them. When they hear from their parents that anything below a 90% is unacceptable, the pressure can be too much for many of kids.

Does this mean that (gasp) teachers don’t want kids to get As? Absolutely not. Any teachers I know simply want our students to do the best that they can, to love learning, and to understand the value of learning for its own sake, not for the grade. Sometimes, their best is a B- or a C. For some kids, learning and schoolwork come easy and we push them to do well. When they study, they easily earn good grades. (Notice that I said study and earn; we’ll come back to that in a minute.) For others, getting a C+ on a test is a major accomplishment. School is hard for them, whether because of a learning disability, problems focusing, or they are just not naturally inclined toward academics. They know it, I know it, and I celebrate their successes with them, especially when I see how much time and energy they have invested in studying.

I have students who cannot do grade-level work on their own, but whose parents expect them to get As, or rather, expect me to give them As anyway. When they have homework, it comes to me perfect, in complete sentences, every answer correct, because they have lots of help at home. They cannot duplicate that work at school, either on tests or in their classwork, because they struggle with the material. If these students earn a subpar (in the parents’ eyes) grade on a test, I hear it from their parents. I didn’t give a good enough study guide, I didn’t review enough (two days isn’t enough?), the test was too hard (it was taken directly from the material), or, as a last resort, can they take the test over again? (No, not unless it was a fail.  A C is not a fail. Neither is a D. An F is a fail. And even then, they can’t have their original test back and they have to take it the next day.) They are convinced that their child should get an A, even if they did not earn it. Too many parents make it all about the grade, not about what their children are capable of achieving. The struggle to teach these kids how to be independent in their work is real. The student ultimately learns that they cannot achieve acceptable grades on their own merit. This both appalls and scares me, especially during standardized testing time.

Are some kids capable of achieving better grades and just don’t because they don’t study or work up to their full potential? Yes, absolutely! I have a few of them every year. Their idea of studying is to try and remember what we talked about in class. (For the record, that was mostly me as a kid. I had more important things to do, like band and theatre.) Those kids probably need a parental push. The kids that I worry about are the ones who study their hearts out, to the point where they are so nervous about a test that it affects their whole week, the same ones who collapse in tears at any grade short of perfection, the ones who don’t get as good of a grade as their brother/sister/cousin in the same class or the same grade.

I guess part of the reason that this upsets me is that I don’t have that background. I don’t know about you, but my mother simply expected me to do my best, not to get an A every single time. She pushed me when I needed it, but I never broke down in tears in front of a teacher because of a grade that I earned, even in the subjects that truly were difficult for me and I had to actually study, like trigonometry, pre-calculus, or physics. (I still hate the idea of an imaginary number.) My schoolwork was my responsibility and that concept taught me about personal accountability.

I know some people will argue that we should push our kids, that good grades should be expected,  and I would agree with you, to a point. But when parents are using the strategy of threatening children with punishments for not getting perfect, or close to perfect, grades, it may backfire on them in the long run. The key is knowing your children. Are your children serious about school? Does it come easy for them or do they struggle with every new concept? Are their lives balanced, or are they spending hours studying every day? Are they happy, or are they constantly living under the stress of the next test?

As a teacher, I can tell you this: Encourage them to do their best. Their best may be all Bs, or even Cs. Pay attention to how their work is going, but let them be in charge of it. Check to see that their homework is done, but don’t fix it for them. Let natural consequences happen and see how they respond.  If they need a little extra help at home, go for it, but don’t do the work for them or demand that they achieve perfection. As a parent, I know, it’s really, really, hard to let that happen. For example, Middle Child is a HUGE procrastinator on everything from regular homework to major projects. We ask him about deadlines, and it scares me to death that he won’t turn things in on time, but somehow, he always manages to pull it off on his own. His grades are on him and he does very well. (There, Middle Child, I wrote about you.)

I know this won’t change everyone’s mind about the amount of pressure to put on kids and most parents don’t do this, but, as I pointed out in the beginning of this piece, I see this more and more every year. This week, I just had a very nervous 5th grader ask me if a 90% was a good grade to get on a history test because her mother said she had to get an A. Knowing this student, that she studied on her own, I hugged her and said that I was proud of her. As a bonus, her parents were happy, too.

If you’re not sure if you’re pressuring your children too much, ask yourself this: When your children are grown, what will they remember about their school years? Will they remember never measuring up, never being good enough, or that they were encouraged to be independent and to push themselves to be their very best? Things to think about.

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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