Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I haven’t checked into my WordPress account for the past week.  That is good.  It means I have been busy enough to keep me off my computer.  When I logged in to my feed today, I scrolled past the last few days of One Word Prompts.  Today’s word is bitter.  My mind immediately went to several situations at school that are filled with bitterness.  A lack of awareness, an apparent inability to connect, and excuses for inattentiveness have caused intense, intense bitterness.  There are bad feeling amongst employees, between parents, between staff and parents, pretty much between everyone right now.  I keep thinking we have nipped it and moved on and then it rears its head again.  Bitterness is really hard to get rid of.  It lingers, it feeds on itself, and it grows out of control when it isn’t directly addressed.

Was it totally ironic that today’s word is bitter and two days ago the word was better?  Just one letter changed but what a significant difference in how those words make me feel.  So, how do you go from bitter to better.

I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks about taking care of others that might makes things better.

Listening is imperative.  Not just sitting through the conversation but thinking about what the words mean when the come from a certain person.  Finding the source and not relying on the ones who are just fueling the fire.  And knowing that sometimes all you need to say it, “I hear you”.

Being aware is necessary.  Sometimes we learn more by just watching the way others behave.  Observing actions and interactions can sometimes tell you more than a face to face conversation with words.

Spending time together is critical.  Relationships are built on common experiences.  If you don’t make the time to be together, there is no bedrock.  It doesn’t have to be fancy time – just ordinary common experiences; eating lunch together, sorting library books, going through the lost and found pile, going on a field trip.

And finally, emails do not take the place of a conversation, phone calls do not take the place of a hug, and good intentions do not take the place of being wholly present.  Perhaps these are ways we can get better.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It’s Tuesday and I’d like to share what I have been reading.  I received an email from the parent of a student my now 20 year old son went to school with K-5.  She was letting friends know that a book had just been published about her son titled Just Elliot.  I immediately hit the link and ordered the book from Amazon.  (It’s just a little to easy to do that but I was grateful in this instance!)  While I waited for my copy to arrive, I did some searching about how the book came to be.  I found this beautiful blog written by Elliot’s mom.  As I read her story, I was taken back to when we first met their family, when our boys were in 1st grade together.  At the time, the students surrounding Elliot did what many young children do – they accepted Elliot for who he was.  Probably not all of them, but from my memory, Elliot truly was Just Elliot to most of the students in his class.

Just Elliot print cover 9780986374197.indd

I was warned the I might cry when I read the book.  I knew I would but when I did read the book I understood why I had been forewarned.  The character who is Elliot’s best friend is named after my son, my now college freshman.  I cried for Elliot and how many will not have the opportunity to know  him because of the predeterminations they will make of him.  I cried for students in my class who will be prejudged by their behavior and not for who they are.  I cried for all those years of motherhood, hoping that I was raising kind children and finding out that maybe I did do something right.  Or maybe that’s just the way my son is.  He would have accepted Elliot because that is Just Sam.

SOL, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I opened up the NYT on line today and randomly chose an editorial to peruse.  I landed on one that brought up a conundrum that is present in several ways in my life.  David Brooks writes about what makes thick and thin institutions.  Thin are those that after you leave, you may or may not stay connected with.  Thick are the ones that no matter the distance and time, you are connected to others from that institution in ways hard to explain.  When I think about the perfect example, good summer camps, NOLS courses, and spring break roads trips come to mind.

Both of my children are about to make a big transition.  One is graduating from college.  The other is likely going to transfer to a new college or university.  I think this thick and thin is central to both of them right now.  Their college experience did not provide them with anything thick.  They love their professors, they are challenged by what they are learning, they like the students around them, and neither of them is unhappy with their experience.  I keep wondering what the driving force is behind the transfer and behind my daughter’s enthusiasm for getting out of here.  I think it is because there is nothing thick; they have wanted something strong, solid, and thick to hold on to and instead have found something too thin to feel safe.

One description of the dichotomy really stuck with me.

“In other words, thin institutions tend to see themselves horizontally. People are members for mutual benefit. Thick organizations often see themselves on a vertical axis. People are members so they can collectively serve the same higher good.

In the former, there’s an ever-present utilitarian calculus — Is this working for me? Am I getting more out than I’m putting in? — that creates a distance between people and the organization. In the latter, there’s an intimacy and identity borne out of common love. Think of a bunch of teachers watching a student shine onstage or a bunch of engineers adoring the same elegant solution.”

When I translate this to my school and my classroom, I can see through the thinness.  And I have no idea how to go about making it thick.  I know part of it is leadership at a level that I cannot affect.  But how can I make my classroom thick?  I am going to sit on that today.

Tuesday April 11, 2017

My teammates and I have a habit of writing our own William Carlos William poems for pretty much any situation – a messy room, a celebration of good work, a vacation weekend or a boring staff meeting.  It has been our go-to for expressing things when we don’t know what else to say.  14 years ago on April 8th, we adopted our dear sweet Chaco.  And last week on April 7th, we said goodbye.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

 

So much depends

Upon

That fluffy black

Pup

Peering right at

Me

Asking for

Home.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

There are times when I really just want to quit.  And so today, I did.  Not what you are thinking – I didn’t walk away from my job.  I actually took a really big step toward it.  As you may know, I have really been struggling with my class this year for a variety of reasons – all of which wear me down daily.  I have a bad habit of saying ‘yes’ more than I should.  I have the time to do more than more and I like to be able to lighten the load for my fellow staff members.  But I am really, really overextended and getting so little support and appreciation for just how much I offer.  So tonight, I said ‘no’.

In an effort to regain some balance and to get myself back on the track that I love, I will only say ‘yes’ to what directly involves me with my students.  I am not going to help out on building wide planning committees, or take sub time away from my class to view another school’s program.  I am not going to double book meetings on days when my homework club meets.  I am not going to take time away from this year’s students to plan for next year’s.

I am going to prioritize my 29 kids over everything else for these last months of school.  I am going to be wholly present for the tutoring that I do every Wednesday.  I am going to be wholly available to support my fellow teachers during my planning time when my students are struggling to be successful in specials.  I am going to be wholly present to plan for the substitute who will be working next door for the next three weeks as we shuffle staff to meet the needs of a special student.  I am going to be wholly present for my students.

And I am going to tell myself that it is ok, sometimes, to say ‘no’.