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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

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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Image result for last day of school memes

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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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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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Sorry I’ve been gone for a while. It’s been a little busy around here with not a lot of time for anything, including blogging, but it’s all good. I’ll catch you up a bit.

First off, I am now teaching for a district, which is a very cool thing. It all happened rather fast and just in the nick of time, as my former job was letting people go left and right with no warning and for no good reason at all. It’s a loooooong story and there are a lot of details, which I will spare you. Anyhoo, I decided to leave before my own head hit the chopping block and I received a wonderful job offer. I love the school where I am. A friend of mine had taught there for years before retiring and always spoke highly of his coworkers and the children, so I felt confident in taking the position. After a month, I am not disappointed. Everyone has been incredibly lovely and the kids are coming along. I think this could turn out to be good fit, once I get all of the new logistics down.

As if beginning a new job and a whole new teaching program wasn’t enough, a few weeks ago, I decided that I could handle everything and go out for a new show, which seems to be going swimmingly so far. I get to play a lovely drunk and couldn’t be more excited, so if you’re in the Metro Detroit area, please come and see Promises, Promises at the Players Guild of Dearborn in November and December.

While all of this was going on, we sent Oldest Child back to college, got Middle Child installed for freshman year at his college, and settled Youngest Child into his new room. (which, incidentally, was his original room when he was born, so not entirely new.) Youngest Child is now entitled to his own room, even when his brothers come home from college to visit. He is also heavily involved in marching band and cross country, so he stays very busy.

I’m choosing to not write about anything political or anything awful that’s happening in the world today, not because things don’t need to be said, but because I’m weary. My heart is sick, my brain is overloaded. I’m confused by how people think, I don’t understand a lot of things, and I know that if I say what I want to right now, there are people who will basically try to put me “in my place”, tell me to stick to writing other things rather than to comment on the travesties of our government and the world. I can’t answer them right now, I don’t have the patience, I don’t have the right frame of mind to deal with such demeaning ridiculousness at the present, so I will abstain from that right now. For future reference, though, I will write what I want to; it’s my blog. Read something else if you don’t like what I have to say.

All in all, everything is fine, just slightly insane at the moment. (Did I mention that I’m married to a saint?) In a few weeks, I’ll return to writing on a more regular schedule. In the meantime, I’m off to study lines, write some lesson plans, and squeeze in some dates with my Marty.

Until then, be kind to each other.

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” ~Henry James

 

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As many of you may recall, I posted a (lengthy) post about a year ago on why I was leaving teaching, and one not too long ago about how I have used this past year to rest my mind and to figure things out.

Long story short: I’m teaching again. I wasn’t exactly looking for this opportunity, it fell into my lap with a message from a friend. When I read the description, I was intrigued and one thing led to another. I will hastily add, however, that I am not teaching in a traditional classroom. My students come from some pretty bad situations. They have a lot of issues and are not living with their parents for one reason or another, so they live at our facility until they can go home or into foster care. Sometimes they’re with us for weeks, sometimes for years and the people who work with them, my new coworkers, are some of the toughest, most caring individuals I have ever met in the short time I’ve been there.

I’m not looking at my new situation with rose-colored glasses, I know that there are going to be some grueling days ahead, but where I am, I can teach for the child, not for the parents or for a test. My job is to nurture and to teach these boys what they need, not push them to impress the state or to please an overbearing parent. My job is to help them trust, to provide boundaries, and a soft place to fall when they need it in addition to their academic lessons. Don’t other teachers do these same things? Absolutely, of course they do! There are teachers I know who have the biggest hearts for their kids, going above and beyond what’s required of them, but they also have those other pressures to deal with that I found unbearable.

There are tradeoffs where I am, though, too. We deal with daily behaviors that are cause for suspension at other schools, but somehow, I’m finding those a little easier on my psyche than the dread of sending home report cards or math tests.

Did I make the right choice? I think so. I’ve given up on thinking that my path through life is supposed to be a straight line. I’m starting to believe that I am put where I’m needed, where I can do some good for whatever length of time, and I hope that’s the case here. My goal is to make a positive difference in these boys’ lives, to be a safe person for them.

In the meantime, send some good thoughts and prayers to land on the boys and the workers who love and care for them, would you? They can always use a little more.

 

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