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Posts Tagged ‘respect’

All across the world today, teachers are celebrating. There are social media posts, parties, a general sigh of relief from almost every continent. Why? It’s Winter (Christmas) Break, our first significant time to rest since mid-August. Thanksgiving was just a teaser; this is the time to let our hair down.

This is not a post to whine about what teachers go through from August through June, although I could quite possibly postulate about that for hours. Seriously, it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had, but that’s neither here nor there. What this post is about is what I’m excited to do over break. If you are a teacher, I’m sure you can relate.

  • Go to the bathroom whenever I want. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, right? But any teacher will tell you that it really is. In most other jobs, being able to use the bathroom when you need to isn’t something you have to plan your day around, but you just can’t leave a classroom full of squirrelly kids on their own, even to take a quick pee. It wasn’t always that way. I can remember my elementary teachers putting someone “in charge” and leaving to do whatever (including taking a quick smoke in the Teachers’ Lounge), but that could never happen today. (Both the smoking in the Teachers’ Lounge and leaving a student “in charge”.) It’s torture sometimes. For the next sixteen days, however, I can drink water whenever I want and will have a happy bladder.
  • Sleeping in. I am not a morning person. I will never be a morning person. I consider having to be out of the house 7:00, okay, 7:10-ish, every morning to be cruel and unusual punishment. These next sixteen days are a godsend and there will be no alarm clock.
  • Reading. For fun. Bliss.
  • Writing. Must. Finish. Book.
  • Not grading on my own time (almost) Yeah… the teacher bag is in the closet until after Christmas. Maybe even New Year’s Day. We’ll see.
  • Being myself. Not my teacher self. Enough said.
  • Not being disrespected every day. Being spoken to without being challenged or argued with will be refreshing for a change. I’m used to it, but that doesn’t make it pleasant. It wears on you after a while.
  • Watching TV. My brain needs a break. Dr. Phil, Say Yes To The Dress, and Long Island Medium are calling to me. Marty is not as enthused about these shows as I am. Or so he says.
  • Celebrate the holiday. I’m actually kind of in the Christmas spirit this year, a change from many previous years. Has meditation helped with that? Or maybe it’s because Marty and I have made it a point to do more “Christmas-y” things together. I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
  • The evil thought that some parents have to deal with their children on their own all day, every day. Slightly passive-aggressive? Yes. And, realistically, most of my students are fine, but, still, there are a few…

These are just a few things about break that are wonderful. Not that we won’t miss or worry about our students, but right now they need a break from us as much as we need a break from them. It’s time to refresh and renew so that we are better teachers when we go back.

To you and yours, have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Solstice, and a very Happy New Year!

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Besides being a mom of three boys, I’m also a middle school teacher. And while I am of the persuasion that kids are precious and still learning and all of that, they can also be incredibly and deliberately cruel to one another. I hear it every day: taunts about weight, skin color, ancestry, hair, financial status. You name it, a middle school student has heard it either directed to them or to someone else. It’s really disturbing, sometimes, to hear what kids can say to each other. Girls are routinely called whores or bitches, boys are called pussies or girls as insults. Even eight- and nine-year-olds say these things. My school is a 4-8 and it still shocks me to hear a tiny 8-year-old tell another one to “shut the f- up.” This is even with all of the anti-bullying programs out there. By the way, this isn’t exclusive to my school, I’ve heard this my entire teaching career, including while subbing, at many different schools.

How we as adults deal with this behavior is really important. The thing is, a lot of times, when a child is subjected to these kinds of insults, adults either tell them to just ignore it or they turn the responsibility on the kid who was the target of the mean comment or action. They’re told to suck it up, “be a man” if they’re a boy (I absolutely DESPISE that term) instead of properly dealing with the situation. This sends the wrong message. I’ve heard boys say absolutely vile things to girls and when I’m confronting the boy, the girl will tell me that it’s okay, not wanting me to do something about it. The boy learns that he can get away with it and the girl learns to just let it happen. This teaches kids to not only expect but to tolerate verbal abuse, to accept it as a normal part of growing up when we should be teaching them to not say those things at all.

I’ve never been okay with that. When my boys would deliberately say or do something hurtful to one another, all most kids do, I tried my best to get them to understand exactly what they were doing, how words, especially, can hurt and for a very long time. I remember a lot of things said to me as a kid (as I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of an odd child by society standards) and I still feel a twinge of pain when I think of them. I wanted them to know that what they say in the heat of the moment can cut deeply. I wanted them to think before they spoke, to make a choice about what to do before repeating what someone else is passing around, and to put themselves in another’s position. Did it always work out in the real world? Honestly, I don’t know because I wasn’t with them 24/7 while they were at school or activities, but I do know that that kind of thing wasn’t tolerated in our house. I hope they remembered what we taught and what we tried to show them, even to this day.

I try to do the same thing when I hear students say these things. I pull them aside, if I can, one-on-one, and talk to them about what they said. Why did they say that? Do they even know what those words mean? Would they say that in front of their parents? (In some cases, the answer to that question is a heartbreaking, “Yes”.) What if someone said that to them? To their mother, father, siblings? In other words, I try to not only hold them accountable for their actions, but to do it in a way to make them think about why and to help them understand that there are consequences for their actions. Their brains are still growing and kids do dumb things when their bodies are changing and the hormones are flowing but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plant the seeds of being kind. It also means that we shouldn’t just dismiss it as “kids being kids” or, even worse, “boys being boys”. Shudder. And don’t be fooled, girls can be just as abusive, especially to each other, unfortunately.

Where do they learn it? It’s very simple. Us. The adults in their lives, either in their own homes or in the media, especially social media. Have you ever read the comments section? It’s a freaking scary place. Kids are left to roam online, unmonitored, uncensored, exposed to every racist, sexist, misogynistic thought out there. They are exposed to racism, porn of all kinds, not to mention incels and extremists. The internet is not a babysitter, but a lot of parents treat it that way. You don’t think your kid has seen anything? Don’t fool yourself. They’ve seen and heard more than you know. Even with the protections we took, our kids still managed to stumble on some crazy stuff. This is a scary time to be a parent.

What to do about it? Talk to your children. Learn about what’s going on their lives, who their friends are. Know where they’re going, not only physically, but online. Hold them accountable for their actions, teach them consequences without berating them and be consistent. Above all else, teach them to be kind and to treat others with respect in any situation and not just by telling them, by demonstrating it yourself. Treat others with kindness and respect and make sure your children see you do it, even if the waiter/waitress/customer service rep seems to be having a bad day and gets something wrong or the food is late. Don’t make disparaging remarks about women, men, other races or religions. Change your behavior if necessary and talk to your kids about it. Showing your kids that you can change is incredibly powerful. Be a good example.

Parenting is really difficult sometimes and most of us do the best we can, but we can always learn and grow. Parents are the most important example and influence in their child’s life. They imitate us, whether they realize it or not. The culture won’t change until we do.

Let’s raise kids to be good humans.

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Another school year is beginning, for some it already has. I am in my 9th year of teaching, not counting two years of subbing, student teaching, and several years of teaching classes at The Henry Ford. It’s safe to say that I’ve been working with kids for a long time. There are some things I’ve learned along the way to help you and your kid have a successful school year. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I hate sugarcoating so here we go.

  1. Make reading a priority in your home. I have SO many kids who do not come from a reading background and it shows. Read to your kids when they’re small and continue it as they get older. Reading is so incredibly important in school, so put the electronics away and make them read. Start small and gradually increase the time they spend on a book, it doesn’t matter what the genre is an show them that you read, too. Your example is the most important thing.
  2. Help them improve their attention span. I have middle schoolers who can’t focus for more than a couple of minutes on a daily basis. Do they have ADHD? No, they’ve just never been taught to stick with something. Now, I do have kids with ADD and ADHD who legitimately have trouble focusing, but a lot of the kids I teach don’t have an attention span because they’ve never been taught to have a work ethic. Give them jobs at home that they have to complete until the end, until they get the job done. Life skill.
  3. Teach them to respect. We teachers can handle a lot of things. Your child is struggling in English, math, science, social studies? We can handle that, it’s our job. It’s what we do. But when we have kids who routinely curse us out, I’m talking daily, openly talk back in class for no reason, and shamelessly lie, it makes our job ridiculously difficult. If you allow your child to be disrespectful to you at home and or to other people, they will be disrespectful at school.  Please, please, please teach your child how to speak and act respectfully, not just to adults, but to everyone, including you. I don’t mean that you should teach them to be a submissive little mouse, but if I had a dollar for every time a child openly challenged me at school, I’d be a rich woman. Learning how to treat others and situations with respect is a HUGE life skill. Look, kids are going to test limits, we teachers know that, but when you don’t back us up or worse, you take your kid’s side when he or she has been an absolute brat, you are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse people. Chances are, by the time we call you, we’ve already tried a lot of strategies. I’ve actually had parents tell their children, right in front of me, that they believe their child over anything I had to say and that’s true for a lot of my colleagues, too. That only teaches your kids that they have the power to behave any way they want and won’t receive any consequences. The trouble with that is a boss or, God forbid, a judge won’t see it the same way. Actions have consequences, good and bad.
  4. Don’t blame the teacher for your child’s shortcomings. I had a kid one time, 5th grade, who did not turn in any homework. When his parents came in to see the principal and me about his Es, his father rifled through the mess under his desk, fished out a paper, shook it in the air and said, “All she had to do was look here!” No. One hundred million percent not okay. Students are responsible for turning in their own work. Period. Responsibility is a life skill; teach your kid to own their mistakes. Again, life skill.
  5. Let. Them. Fail. It’s not the end of the world if Junior forgets their homework or forgets to study for the test. It will be okay, they will learn. Stop saving them; it will help them stand on their own two feet. Don’t make excuses for them. I once had a dad who caved and did his 5th grader’s homework for him because he cried if he didn’t understand it. I asked him if he would be doing his child’s calculus in high school. On the other hand, do encourage them! Ask them about school, what projects they have, tests, grades. Ask them about their day. Do you have a kid who won’t talk about it? Email the teacher! We’ll be happy to fill you in.
  6. Don’t take a phone call from your gynecologist and have a conversation about vaginal suppositories during a Parent-Teacher Conference. Seriously. I cannot scrub that from my brain and it’s been about eight years. Just… no. Not kidding.

We know your kids aren’t perfect, mine definitely aren’t. Youngest and Middle Child had some “fun” school moments last year, oy, but we learned from it. In my case, I need to check ParentConnect more often. Teachers don’t expect kids to be little angels, but for a child to have a successful year, we need the cooperation and help from you, the parents. It’s a partnership.

It’s more important than you’ll ever know.

Have a great school year!

 

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During a conversation with my husband the other night, we happened upon the topic of change. It came up because I’m going to Detroit Pride this weekend to join up with Free Mom Hugs. For those that don’t know, Free Mom Hugs, a group which also includes dads, gives free hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and encouragement to LGBTQIA individuals who have been rejected by their families. I’m totally stoked about being able to show a bit of love to someone who may just need it, lord knows we all do from time to time.

I reflected on how this was not what I was raised to believe, and how people can grow and change.

I know because I changed.

I was raised in a very conservative home where I was taught, especially in church, that being gay, or at least, being in a gay relationship, was a sin. It was never really an issue, just one of the countless sins we were told about. I didn’t know any better until I actually met people who were “out” in high school and in my first year of college. Listening to their stories really made me question the belief system I had been taught. Why were people being judged and condemned for how they were born, for who they were, for who they loved? The more I reasoned, the more my views changed and I struggled with what my religion said vs. what I knew in my heart to be true.

My brother came out soon after. He had been raised with the same teachings, I know he didn’t choose to be gay. Why would God make him that way if it was sinful? Why would God make anyone gay if it went against what He wanted? It didn’t make sense. I started reading more and researching, not only personal stories, but articles and studies on religion to see what was actually being said in translations and realized that I didn’t agree with the interpretation that had been preached to me for all those years. I was soon completely convinced: people don’t choose their sexuality, it’s hard-wired from the very beginning.

With this realization, I made it a point to be an ally. We’ve raised our kids to be accepting of everyone. We’ve also been very fortunate to belong to a church where everyone is welcome, no matter what, with no agenda to “fix” people. One of our pastors even risked her job to marry two wonderful men a few years ago and we became an official Reconciling Ministries church the year after. The current pastor and his wife are all in, letting the rainbow banners fly. Our denomination is in a struggle right now to officially adopt a policy where gay marriages can be performed without penalty and I’m happy to say that there has some progress made on this. It looks much more hopeful now than it did a few months ago. We have wonderful new members who came to us because they have faith, but have not felt welcome in other places. There is still much to do.

Faith is important to a lot of people and it makes me sad that being gay is a reason for some to shut others out, no matter what the religion is. Do the homework, not just “research” from the conservative side, but objective research from real science. Talk to gay Christians, or gay Muslims, or gay Jews. You’ll find many. There are plenty of gay atheists, too, in case you’re not religious. Get their perspective, and really, truly, listen to them without judgement. Listen to religious scholars on the other side with an open mind and pray for understanding.

There’s another reason I think this is an incredibly important topic. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24 and LGB youth seriously think about suicide three times more than heterosexual youth. (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00001dqohxj19xof4dx2kuf9llet1) They would rather die than deal with the pain they feel from being rejected by the world, their places of worship, even their parents. That should say something to even the hardest heart. Think about that. Children would rather take their own lives than subject themselves to the humiliation heaped on them by those who think they are less than. As someone who has been on that precipice, that decision is born out of desperation, not attention-seeking. The methods used to change children are bogus, as proven over and again. Conversion therapy is cruel and it doesn’t work. You can’t “pray the gay away”, you can’t beat it out of someone, and you can’t change their mind. That’s not how it works. Again, do the research. Hear them.

LGBTQIA people are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed. Like everyone, they need to feel loved, they need to know that they are accepted, and treated with dignity and respect. I thank God, those long-ago high school and college friends, my brother,  and my sister-cousin, for being brave, for opening my eyes, for opening my mind. My life is richer and fuller for that, for the friends I have, for the love I am shown daily. I shudder to think of what my life could have been like if I hadn’t followed my heart.

Growth is often uncomfortable, because you often have to fix stuff, but the rewards are wonderful. When I see anti-gay protesters, so angry, waving their vile signs, it’s difficult to not be angry myself. I want to jump in and defend my friends and family so badly, but getting in someone’s face rarely changes their mind. Instead, I try to love. I try to set a good example. I try to stand up for what I know to be the right thing. I teach my students that using the word “gay” or “queer” as insults is not acceptable when the situation pops up, besides teaching acceptance of all as a norm.

I’m also still learning. As I mentioned, I want to be the best ally I can and I want to do it right. I make mistakes sometimes (I still have to make myself think of and say correct pronouns for the gender fluid, just because it’s a habit) but that’s part of growth and understanding and I welcome it, even when I screw up. I can do more.

So, Happy Pride Month. Much love to my family and friends who are celebrating and know that I have your back, always. May God bless you always.

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I realize that I’ve been quiet for a while. There have been many things that I’ve wanted to write about, but I haven’t been able to figure out how I want to approach them without offending people. Hopefully, I’ve chosen the right course. One of my favorite movie lines, I’m a total movie line geek, comes from 1776. While debating what provisions should be taken out of the Declaration, a frustrated John Adams exclaims, “It’s a revolution, damn it, we’re going to have to offend somebody!”

I wish I could be as self-confident as John Adams. I wish I could speak my mind and not feel so completely vulnerable and attacked when having to defend my position, but I don’t. I wish I had ultimate wisdom, like Solomon, and could tell people what was truly best for this country, but I don’t. I wish I could understand why people hold the positions that they do, but I don’t. I’ve tried to understand, I really have, but I just can’t. So, I’m letting go. I won’t be posting anything on politics for the remainder of this election season and I’m not going to engage in any political discussions. My life is composed of so much more than one day out of the year and I don’t like the anger I was feeling every time I heard or saw ridiculous behavior in the news. This is absolutely the last thing I have to say about politics in this election season.

Notice that I’m not advocating or vilifying any particular political party. That’s on purpose. I’m not going there. I don’t affiliate with any political party anymore. I was born and raised to think that Republicans were the Christian party so I voted that way for a while, mainly because I am pro-life, but then I began to realize that the other principles that many in the party stood for did not, in my opinion, work toward the common good. I’m still pro-life, and pro-child, too. I believe there’s a soul from the beginning. There’s a LOT of work to be done to educate, though, to make free birth control available, to support struggling women who want to keep their children but are in bad situations, and to support children who need it, but that’s a blog for another time. The short answer is that I won’t vote for someone because they say they’re pro-life. The big picture has to be looked at, character and policies must be evaluated, and I have voted for Republican, Democrat, Green Party, and Libertarian candidates if I thought they would do a good job. I’ve not always been happy with my choice. I must confess, though, that I lean toward the liberal side of things. I have friends and friends from many different backgrounds and walks of life: white, black, Asian, Arab,  gay, straight. I want their rights to be respected and protected.

I’ve been through several election seasons, but this is the worst I can remember. There’s a lack of class, dignity, and respect. It’s ugly and I can’t let it eat at me anymore. All I can do is hope that people see, really see, what they’re voting for. I’m doing my homework for my vote. Quietly.

 

 

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You can disagree with someone and not call them names.

You can disagree with someone, not understand their position at all, and not call them names.

You can be screaming in your head at the position of another person in an argument, voice your disagreement respectfully, and still not call them names.

You can disagree with someone politically and still be their friend.

You can disagree with someone politically and still love them.

You can feel yourself getting angry during a disagreement, online or in person, and walk away to calm down because you don’t think as clearly when you’re upset.

You can wait to type a response to an inflammatory remark until you calm down or choose to ignore it because that relationship is important to you.

You can make your stand and let your opinion be known without looking like a jerk.

You can ask the other person why they feel the way they do to try and understand their position. It doesn’t mean that you need to change your mind; it’s to gain a better understanding of where the other person is coming from. Sometimes it’s a crap reason, other times will surprise you. Listen and learn.

Check your facts before spouting them. Don’t get riled up before you do your research. It just makes you look silly. We’ve all done it.

Don’t hurt other people on purpose.

Love one another, whether you’re liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious, a religion different from yours, gay, straight, Wal-Mart shopper, farmers market shopper, recycler or hoarder.

Self righteousness doesn’t look good on anyone.

Change the world for the better today.

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So, the website, Ashley Madison has been hacked. Thousands of names have been released, pointing direct fingers at the cheaters, including Josh Duggar, eldest child of the now-infamous Duggar clan of TLC fame, among others. For those who haven’t seen the news in the last week, Ashley Madison is a website that matches up people who want to have affairs. Yes, the internet has made it even easier for cheaters to cheat. Yay. Not that it wasn’t easy for people to cheat before, but this website has contributed to breaking down families and enabling bad behavior.

Now, a website, as despicable as its premise is, is not to blame for people cheating on their spouses. Cheating is a conscious choice, a CHOICE, not an accident, and the person who did the cheating is in the wrong. But I have a huge problem with those who see nothing wrong with cheating and who create technology not only to enable it, but to make it easier. Really? Let’s think about this.

People go into marriage with the romantic, but stupid, idea that it will all be happily ever after, that things will be perfect, that he will settle down, that she will grow up a little, but that isn’t ever the case. Realistically, marriage takes work in order to be successful. It gets boring at times. Your spouse will annoy you. You will annoy your spouse. After almost nineteen years, I know I drive Marty Man absolutely crazy with my OCD about the house, the way I leave the hose out after watering the lawn, or my big dreams of the future. He drives me nuts in a variety of ways, including when he makes five graham crackers with peanut butter instead of nice, even, numbers like four or six. (Seriously, why not an even number???) When things get boring or frustrating, we grow together as a couple, by communicating and trying new things or by giving each other space. It took us time to learn that, we went through lots of growing pains and it brought us closer together, but many allow those situations to drive them further apart, sometimes into the arms of people outside of the marriage, and that’s a shame. Look at it this way. If you are legally married, you spoke vows of some sort, in front of witnesses, to love, honor, and cherish, not to sneak around behind your spouse’s back and have a fling because things get boring after a while. If you are in any kind of committed relationship, you owe it to your partner to be honest. Having an affair means lying, whether by omission or deliberately deception. You lose all credibility and intergrity in that equation.

If you are married and unhappy, there are some choices to make. If your marriage or relationship is simply unbearable or there’s abuse of any kind, you need to leave. For your health and safety, get out and get yourself some help while you’re at it. If there’s a chance of fixing your marriage, there are a variety of things you can do. See a marriage counselor, take time alone with your spouse, read some books about the subject, do some introspective soul-searching, whatever, but DO NOT CHEAT ON YOUR PARTNER! Cheating breaks every vow, every modicum of trust and respect that your spouse has for you. The effects can be devastating: broken families, unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and having to sneak around on a daily basis. Affairs always get found out, maybe not right away, but somewhere down the line, something will slip. Why would you want to give your life partner, someone who you claimed to love above all others, that kind of pain and suffering? I love what Dr. Phil said about marriage. I’m paraphrasing, but basically, he said that if you wouldn’t do something without your partner standing right there, you shouldn’t be doing it. That’s something that has stayed with me for years.

The point is this: don’t cheat. I am glad that Ashley Madison was hacked, if only for the simple fact that it strikes their myth of “discretion” down. People are being held accountable right now and, yes, there are people hurting right now. It sucks. How do you want people to remember you? That you acted with honor, dignity, and respect, or that you were a liar who broke your vows in order to satisfy a selfish urge in a moment of weakness?

I hope that the owners of Ashley Madison and other sites like it see the light someday. I hope that they understand the damage that they’ve done and try to make amends, but I doubt that will happen. The almighty dollar is worth more than our integrity these days. As long as people have weak moments, they will continue to seek satisfaction elsewhere, when they really should be looking inside themselves. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to be better than that, to put those sites out of business, to think twice about pursuing that person that looks so exciting, and to remember what’s really important: our loved ones.

Love each other.

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