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Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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There are five school day wake-ups left this year. I am not sad.

This has been a rough year for behavior. My own students’ behavior has improved greatly over the year, this has been a goal, but they’re still not where they need to be. We’ve been working on basic things all year long, like being respectful, not putting hands on other people, and raising hands when there is a question as opposed to just shouting things out. The exception is my first hour. They’re pretty awesome, for the most part. Of course, there are many great kids in my other classes, it’s just an uneven ratio this year and I’m exhausted. Not from the teaching, you understand, from everything else.

The students who aren’t mine, who pass in the hallway, enough of them are ridiculous enough to mentally drain me almost every day. You would not believe what happens in the hallways of a middle school sometimes.

Seriously, this is the most difficult job I’ve ever had, and I’ve been through a few since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Babysitter, waitress, hostess, retail worker, historical presenter (on a historic farm), carriage driver, educational programs presenter, and administrative assistant, just to name a few. Those people who think we have it easy because we have a few weeks off in the summer (when we attend workshops, trainings, and mandatory meetings) can take a long walk off a short pier; this job will kick your butt, which is why so many new teachers don’t make it the first five years. I took a break a couple of years back, which was a really good thing for my mental health.

At work, I have to be the adult, I have to set the example. That’s part of my job.  Sometimes, I’m not a great example when I’ve been pushed to my limit. When I screw up, I apologize, not for being angry, but how I handled it. Since I became a teacher eleven years ago, I’ve probably been called every name in the book, in a few different languages, no less. It gets to you, especially when it happens on a daily basis. Not an excuse, my skin is a lot tougher than it used to be and I’m constantly working on it. Sometimes, I really wish people could see how their kids really act at school, but like my brother said, those parents would probably blame the teachers.

So, at the end of this school year, I’m not looking for accolades, pats on the back, or anything else. I just want peace and quiet for a while. I want to not be called names and talked back to. I want no one to laugh in my face. I no one to blatantly lie or cheat and think I’m stupid enough to not notice or figure it out. I want to be myself for just a little while, to go to the bathroom when I want to, and to not grade. Not. One. Single. Paper.

Teaching is not for sissies.

Happy Summer!

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Disclaimer: I swore off political posts a few months ago and have stuck to that, but in that time, I have seen things get worse and worse in this election season. This is not a post about politics; I am not politically savvy and have never claimed to be. This is a post about humanity, not political issues.   There are only two days until the election and I can’t understand why Donald Trump still has any supporters at all. I’m so disheartened by the willingness of people to let him slide by for the truly awful things he has done in the name of a political party or because they don’t want Hillary Clinton to become the president. His words and actions make me sick. I simply have to get this off of my chest before I explode.

In raising my children and as a teacher, there is one thing that I have tried to teach over and over again, both by example and by helping them work through it: When you’ve made a mistake, when you’ve messed up in some way, admit what you did without blaming it on someone else, apologize to who you’ve wronged, and work to fix it. I think that’s an important life lesson, one that I learned the hard way growing up. The older I got, the more I realized that it was tough to earn the respect of others if they couldn’t believe you. It was hard, really hard to bite the bullet and admit the truth of things, especially when you really screw up, but as with many situations, the more I told the truth, the easier it got. Being honest is a quality that inspires other good qualities, including integrity, humility, and a heightened BS detector. I want my own kids and others under my care to grow up with this, instead of learning to skirt around hard truths so that they can grow up to be trustworthy people. I even had a poster hanging in my classroom for years that said, “What You Do Shows Who You Are” and we talked about it all the time.

Donald Trump is a man who has never learned that lesson. For almost two years now, from the time that we mistakenly thought he was a joke candidate until the frightening scenario before us today, he has consistently shown that he cannot tell the truth, even when confronted with the evidence from his own lips. He constantly deflects blame onto others, offers pathetic excuses for his own reprehensible behavior, and acts in a way that I would never have tolerated in my very youngest students, much less a grown man who wants to become my president, representing America to the rest of the world. Many of his supporters echo that behavior. Crude and crass t-shirts and signs are normal at any one of his rallies. He eggs it on, encouraging them, riling them up almost into a frenzy. This is the man people want to be the leader of the free world?

Think about this: Would you leave him alone in a room with your daughter, sister, or wife for half an hour? Five minutes? What is a good amount of time to leave a loved one alone with an admitted sexual predator? Even without the heinous allegations that have come out about him concerning groping and other forms of sexual assault, HIS OWN WORDS AND ACTIONS have shown what a rude, misogynistic ass he is time and time again. And he’s proud of it! If tweets or recordings of President Obama had come out like that back in 2008, he would have been crucified for it and his political aspirations would have been over. Done. Finished. Say what you will about his presidential actions and politics (again, this is not a political post), President Obama and his family have been nothing short of a class act from the moment they stepped into the national spotlight. It makes Trump’s behavior even more shocking and embarrassing on the world stage. How will you explain it to your daughters? How will they take that message as they grow into women?

Donald Trump proclaims, falsely, that he will “Make America Great Again”, whatever that means. Turbulent as these times are, we have achieved things that wouldn’t have been thought possible 50 years ago. Things aren’t perfect, but there are huge efforts to improve race relations and equality in the workplace. My family and friends who are gay cannot legally be discriminated against for their sexual orientation anymore. The old class structure is being shaken up and, sure, there are a lot of people who don’t like it, but it’s time. Equality for everyone should be a priority, not an afterthought, and we aren’t quite there yet.

His own campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, can’t answer the basic questions that are thrown at her about his disgusting words and actions without deflecting to Hillary Clinton’s emails or Benghazi. She absolutely can’t give a straight answer. To tell you the truth, I feel kind of sorry for her, having to defend someone like that. She’s someone that I would like to have a glass of wine with when this is all over with and talk about why she stayed in that job. She constantly looks exhausted, and no wonder. The woman has chutzpa, that’s for sure, trying to cover up for his stupidity on interview after interview.

This is not a post for Hillary. To this day, I’m not sure about her. I don’t trust any politician as far as I can throw them and that’s what she is. Politicians lie and stretch the truth to show themselves in a good light. The sooner you understand that, the less disappointed you’ll be. Politics being what they are, there is no way that we can know the absolute truth about any candidate, but this is what I do know: she has publicly admitted to screwing up with the email situation, many times. She has publicly apologized over and over and over again. She was investigated and nothing incriminating has been found. Is she corrupt? Maybe. She continues to be investigated, even now, two days before the election. If something criminal is found, she should be prosecuted, end of story, but so far, this has been a wild goose chase.

Benghazi was a terrible thing. A horrible thing. Americans needlessly died. But here’s what I don’t understand. This has happened before!!! American embassies and Americans have been attacked and have died under almost every other administration, under almost every other Secretary of State in the last 70 years, yet she is being blamed for this particular instance as if the entire thing was her decision. Where was the rage then? Every death, no matter the nationality, by terror is a tragedy, absolutely, 100%. By comparison, she’s done no better and no worse than those who went before her. But when Donald Trump openly criticized a Gold Star Family, his supporters excused it, no problem. When he claimed to know more about ISIS than our generals, his supporters stuck right by him. Lies, oh, my gosh, lies, one on top of another, and still they stay! (Oh, and by the way, Hillary cannot take your guns away. That requires an Act of Congress and many years of arguments, so just stop. Look it up instead of reposting Facebook memes.)

I’m afraid. I am truly afraid. This is not a normal election. This is ugly and scary. The worst of human nature is coming out to support Donald Trump openly and proudly. He’s been endorsed by the KKK. He admits to groping women, meaning that, if he wins, we will have knowingly elected a sexual predator, whether any other allegations are proven or not. As a survivor of not only sexual abuse, it sickens me that people are able to overlook that and make it no big deal. He claims to be a Christian but eschews any Christian principles. There is no amount of rationalizing that makes it okay for this man to be President., not on account of his politics, but on the basis of his thoughtless, disgusting, rude, sexist, bullying, and even criminal, behavior.

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not anything. I think that aligning to a party is limiting and buys into the sheep mentality. I have voted for several parties in the past and feel no allegiance to any particular one. Hopefully, in the future, we will have more than two realistic choices. The closest we came to that was in 1992 when Ross Perot threw his hat into the ring. I would welcome that in a big way. This year, this is a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, that much is clear, and I will be voting for Hillary on Tuesday. Not in the name of politics, but in the name of decent people who should expect to have a leader that knows how to behave like a civilized person with self-control.

You have a choice on Tuesday. You may not like Hillary,  but I’m not asking you to like her. You may even hate her. But, really, look at them both. One of them will be the President of the United States. Voting for Donald Trump validates all of his bad behavior as normal, every bit of it. Who do you want representing you, an American citizen? What can your conscience live with?

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Dear Mama,

I’ve been your child’s teacher for a quite a while now. He has been at this school since he was small and the staff knows him well, for all the wrong reasons it seems, mostly.

We have talked, day in and day out, about his behavior. About how impulsive he is, how disrespectful, how unfocused he is. He gets sent back from special classes because he doesn’t listen and because of his incessant talking.  His card gets flipped constantly for disturbing the class. He is, in fact, a difficult child. We agree on that, you and me. There is no question about it.

“What can I do?’ you plead with me day after day and I, with a heavy heart, really don’t know what to tell you. I manage to say that every day is a new start, that we will try again and hope for a better day, that I will praise him for his good choices and remain calm during his bad choices that make me want to scream with frustration or anger over his blatant disrespect and disregard for anyone’s feeling but his own, but, honestly, I don’t know how to fix this.

I’ve been teaching for several years, and even though I know each child has an individual personality, I also know what children his age are typically like. They’re able, for the most part, to follow directions, to control the urge to bolt out of their seats and to not have stomping fits almost every day. They’re generally able to learn from their mistakes and are able to understand why they received a negative consequence. Your child can parrot back all of the rhetoric, but can’t put it into practice. He’s not able to see that he is responsible for his own actions, blaming his poor choices on others, sometimes to a ridiculous extent.

I know, in my heart, that here is something amiss with this child that I cannot change, not even with the most patient of teaching skills. This child needs something more, professional help, and I try and hint that to you in ways that will keep our relationship from falling apart, that will keep me from being perfectly blunt because I see the pain in your eyes every single day and I don’t want to be the one to twist that knife. I’m also not sure what I’m legally allowed to suggest to you, other than perhaps you should take him to see his pediatrician and describe what’s been going on for years. Please don’t keep asking me for a diagnosis, I can’t give you one. All I can do is gently try to make you see that his behaviour will soon be beyond anything we can help him with at school.

I know this isn’t what you planned on. I’m a mother, too. I know the joy of learning that you’ll be bringing a new life into the world, of dreaming what that child will be like: beautiful, intelligent, perfect in every way. Your plans were no doubt like my own. Your baby would excel in school, be the perfect combination of nature and nurture, win the love and admiration of everyone who met him. Spending countless hours with the teacher and the principal conferring about that sweet baby’s bad behavior is not something that was on your list of hopes, I know. All new parents soon realize that parenting is not easy and that the little prenatal angel that they had envisioned is capable of being stubborn and naughty at times, but I don’t think it enters any new parent’s mind that their child would need professional intervention down the road. I know that hurts, I know that’s hard to digest and nothing I say is going to make it go down any easier.

I haven’t had to go through that with my own kids and I’m not going to pretend that I know what your pain is like. I don’t. I don’t know what life is like at home behind closed doors. I don’t know what caused him to be this way. I can guess, I can speculate, (and, honestly, I do think about it on those days when he’s giving me a run for my money), but that fact is that I just don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise, nor is it my business. My business is educating my classroom full of children, all of them, teaching them what they need to know, giving them hugs when they’re feeling sad, listening to their problems, doing my best to help them be happy and secure with themselves and, believe me, I try my best. But I’m realizing that I can’t give your child the kind of help he really, truly, needs.

Please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t feel ashamed. I know that those feelings are hard to avoid, you tell me almost every time we talk. But I see determination in your face, too. I know that you love him, he is your precious child and the most important thing in the world to you, as he should be. He’s lucky to have you. I’ve seen similar situations where the parent is not so involved and the child knows it, but you tell him and show him that he is loved, no matter what and that is what touches me the most. I am convinced that you will get him the help he needs to be successful. Don’t give up on him, he needs you.

Whatever you decide to do, we’ll make the best of it, together. I know you have a rough road, but you were chosen to be his mama for a reason. I admire your strength.

Sincerely,

The Teacher

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