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We’re 15 days into the COVID-19 craziness since everything started shutting down here in Michigan. Some thoughts I have.

Good Things:

  • Sleeping. Marty are I are working Monday through Friday and putting in longer hours than we do normally, just because everything has to be answered and checked online instead of verbally. Every student gets feedback and that’s tougher to do this way, but I don’t have to be up at 6:00 anymore. I can wake up and post things in my pajamas. I am already used to this.
  • No Student Behavior Issues. This is a fabulous thing. I haven’t had to yell at anyone in more than two weeks. I had one kid act up on a video conference and I just deleted him from the chat. Now that they know I record video conferences, everyone is on their best behavior.
  • Writing. I have time to write! In fact, I’ve almost finished my next book, a sequel to Traveler.
  • Yoga Pants and Leggings. I haven’t worn any other kind of pants for two weeks. I am comfy.
  • Gardening. As I wrote about last week, I’m making a Shakespeare garden and I’ve been able to get that all dug out, plus, I’m enlarging another one of my gardens and making it a spiral garden. It’s going to be awesome. Marty is still scared.
  • Music. Youngest Child regularly serenades us with beautiful piano music. He’s doing well under the circumstances and is channeling some of his cabin fever into music. It’s pretty awesome. (The music, not his cabin fever.)
  • Carry-Out. We are supporting local restaurants twice a week with carry-out. This is wonderful because not only does it get me out of the house and support a local business, I also hate cooking most of the time. It’s a win-win.
  • Deep Cleaning. This is a sort of good thing. I do not enjoy cleaning, but I do enjoy getting rid of clutter, which is necessary. This means that we won’t have to go through quite so much stuff when we move to London, whenever that is. Again, Marty is scared.
  • More Meditation Time. Very necessary.

Bad Things

  • People Are Dying. Seriously, scary amounts of people are dying from this, alone in overcrowded hospitals. Yes, I know that there are people who are recovering as well, and that’s awesome, but we also have never faced anything like this virus and the numbers jump higher every day. Yes, people die from the flu, but we have medicines and vaccines to help with that. We don’t for this virus that kills, percentage-wise, many more people than the flu. Don’t fluff this off.
  • Social Distancing. A necessary evil. I’m introverted, so I don’t regularly go out just to hang out with people, but I do enjoy going places, being out and about. Even my favorite trails in the woods are closed. Picking up local carry-out has become very exciting, even though people in line are standing very far apart and only one person goes into the restaurant at a time. It’s kind of a weird experience.
  • No Theatre/Church. Self explanatory. I miss my friends. I miss their hugs.
  • Scared Students. Kids are nervous. They miss school, they miss their routine and their friends. Hug your kids tightly, they need it.
  • PEOPLE WHO WON’T STAY AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE. Seriously, there are still people gathering in places and not paying attention. God forbid, they spread the virus to someone who will die from it. I get that they may not be worried about themselves, but really, how stupid can you be? People were having a full-on PARTY by my sister/cousin’s house a few days ago. C’mon. We’re all bored, we all want to  get together, but this is where maturity (or lack of) kicks in. Idiots. Batman Slapping Robin Meme - Imgflip

I hope all of my readers around the world are safe and sound. Wash your hands and stay home. If you’re any kind of essential worker, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are appreciated.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts with me. This is a global thing; let’s stay connected. Love you all.

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It’s a cold, snowy day here in Michigan. Schools are closed because the roads are treacherously icy, so I had the luxury of sleeping in, although I do have fifty author projects from 7th graders on Google Docs to grade. There are fifty more projects waiting for me back at school, but that’s for another day. I’m feeling nostalgic right now.

On days like this, I say a prayer for those who work outside. I didn’t always get “snow days” off, but I’ll take them. I remember what it was like to work outside: in the cold, the snow, ice storms, pouring rain, tornado warnings, scorching hot heat waves. I did that for several years in my twenties and early thirties. I loved working with the farm animals, especially the horses, and people who take care of animals don’t get snow days, or heat days, or any other weather days. Animals need to be fed, watered, their stalls cleaned out every day, no exceptions, and I took pride in being “tough enough” to do it, although there were some pretty miserable days. Those days taught me a lot about work ethic and about myself. I had some pretty awesome mentors who were incredibly patient with me.

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Doing winter chores, whether at the farm or the carriage barn, was always an adventure. I remember my bangs freezing in a solid block from the breath vapor rising out of the woolen scarf wound around my face when the temperature was -5°. I was terrified that they would just break off with a snap. That was also the winter I got a giant lump on my forehead from slipping on the icy platform and hitting my head on the frozen metal water pump we were trying to turn on, fingers and toes uncooperative and numb. Eyes and noses would run in a constant stream from the cold. If any of the cows were being milked at the time, we would fight over who got to do it because that meant putting your hands on something warm for a little while, although it sometimes meant getting hit in the head with a frozen manure tail. On those brutal days, it would take more than an hour for the shivering to stop once we got inside, even with several cups of coffee.

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There were the spring and summer mornings when the tornado sirens would begin to go off, angry black clouds swirling around in the sky, the animals getting panicky. I was still terrified of tornadoes then, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to not let it show. Afternoons when it poured rain, the mud/manure mixture squelched up into our boots, through our stockings, weighing down the hems of the skirts and petticoats or the overalls we wore with sludge. The stains would never quite come out. One spring, the cellar of the farmhouse flooded and I sank almost to my knees in the dirt floor. My work laundry was always done separately from everything else and often had to be rinsed out first.

There were god-awful summer days when the actual temperature would be over 100°, our long sleeves and random pieces of hay glued to us, sweat trickling down every crevice, and people would complain that we weren’t offering carriage rides. My face, forearms, and hands would be a deep tan, but the rest of me was a pasty white.

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Spring lambs

All of these things were great adventures, and I could go on and on for days about all of it. Working in those conditions could be rough, but we bonded with each other over it all and made for some fabulous memories. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for the world, and it makes me appreciate days like this much more.

I miss it, working outside, but I’ve developed Renaud’s Syndrome and I can’t work in the cold for long anymore. My heart goes out to those who are working outside on days like this: mail carriers, construction workers, first responders, and the ones who work with outdoor animals to make sure they’re as comfortable as they can be in this weather. They all have their own war stories to tell, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading mine.

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I’ve been fending off a depression hole for the last several days. Work has a lot to do with it. When a “hole” is sneaking up on me, I’m usually able to distract myself during work by getting into my teaching, but I can’t this time. I have to fight to stay on task during the work day. (That’s a teaching term, “on task”.) I’ve been lucky enough to not fall completely in it, but it’s looming over my shoulder every minute.

End-of-show depression after a really great experience comes into play with this, too. I just finished one of my favorite show experiences ever and I’m in mourning at the moment.

Getting home and being with my family helps. Dinner with my husband helps. My husband is my endless optimist and also a teacher. He understands what I’m going through. Going to rehearsal also helps. I love rehearsing; I love the challenge and being on stage. I love this director, the actors, and producers I’m working with, so that’s my fun, healing, time. Friends help, including Facebook friends. I asked for cute and funny things yesterday after a particularly bad day and boy, did they deliver! Whether they sent images or private messages, it really hit me in the feels. If I mentioned you, thank you so much. Your thoughts and actions mean a lot to me.

Even with all of the good things, my depression is really hard to shake right now. I’m struggling with what to do and what I want out of my life right now. I need to be happy, or at least, content.

I’ll be in Salem, MA in two weeks, a place of several of my ancestors, to do some research and spend some quiet time by myself. (I will also be memorizing lines, so there’s that. Have you read The Glass Menagerie?) I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to a week away from work and spending some quality time with my family. I’m looking forward to opening a new show in four weeks. I’m looking forward to not thinking about bad behavior and data and scores and parents and posting Content/Language Objectives. I need to meditate, clarify. Seriously.  These are goals.

Depression sucks. Be kind.

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I’m so excited to be a guest blogger on http://www.mothersrest.com this week! Click to read my post as well as all of the other great posts on MothersRest, hosted by Ginny Olson. https://www.mothersrest.com/be-good-humans/ I hope to host her here some day soon!

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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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I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing lately. School is crazy and I have a show in rehearsals so I’m a bit behind. I promise to be back with something meaningful soon. In the meantime:

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I love the moon. I love it so much that I have a tattoo of the moon phase on the day I was born. I feel connected to the moon, respect its influence over tides and many other things. It’s a symbol of womanhood, magic, and mystery.

But I hate teaching on a full moon week.

Go ahead, laugh and say it’s nonsense, but any teacher worth his or her salt knows it’s true. The full moon makes kids crazy.

Pray for your teacher friends and family this week.

Seven more wakeups.

That is all.

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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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