Tag Archives: teaching

Dull Faces

In a moment of subtle voyeurism as the band riffed another joyously happy song I scanned the room. People eating, sipping beer from sturdy glasses, engaging in conversation, a couple of older ladies dancing, some tapping their feet to the live music, some staring at sports on one of the obnoxiously looming screens above. Then my eyes rested on a table of three young men in their early twenties.

They looked no more alive than if they were a body in a coffin or a robot waiting to serve its master. One was staring at his phone as we tend to do these days even while a real live body or bodies are sitting in front of us. God they looked bored as hell.

Perhaps their night didn’t go as expected. Perhaps the band was playing the kind of music they loathed. They were obviously dressed to go out. Built better than any guy I ever knew in my twenties. Hair perfectly styled so as not to look too pretty nor too unkempt. Were they there to meet girls or grab a bite with buds? Whatever the case it seemed they were the most miserable table in the room. Even more so than the woman in the corner who hadn’t looked at her date all night, sipping dully at her white wine.

These young men, these guys of a generation that came after mine, and even my own teenage son, live in a world I really do not envy. The more I watched them the more I felt a bit of sorrow for them and their peers. I don’t mean to sound old when I say this (as I have before described myself as a 12-year-old girl trapped in a 44-year-old woman’s body). I just mean they have access to and so much at their fingertips that instead of looking at the world in amazement a look of dullness has washed over their faces. Not much seems to WOW them. Not everyone is like this, I realize, but it’s kind of just a general ma-laze I see wafting through.

I try to imagine what it must be like to grow up in this culture, where you are constantly in contact with everyone and your personal life can be broadcast like a giant movie marquee on the front page of everyone’s daily newspaper. I mean the same thing is going on with us in our 40s. But we had our time of having to wait in excited agony for our favorite song to play on the radio. To stand by the phone booth until our friend called us back after we paged them. To marvel at things in nature which can’t be accessed immediately by Google images. The list goes on. By waiting and not knowing there was a sense of mystery, of wonder. As much as it might have been frustrating at times I can’t imagine my youth without all this archaic simplicity.

Do others feel it too? Or have I become like every other older generation who thinks things were better in “the good old days.” I worry about the amount of time my son spends looking at various screens. On Sunday nights I pry him away from his nest on the couch and take him across the street to our community pool. We always end up diving and flipping and laughing and snorting like kids ought to do.

The young men soon got up and left just as I thought they would. On to better things I imagined. And after their table cleared and cleaned another group of people settled in. Me and my coworker table-danced to the music as one-by-one our large party left for the night. “Die-hards” I said to her, describing our having closed it down. We are teachers. And we don’t get out that much.

I checked my phone for messages once I got to my car. I’m glad I didn’t take it out at the table, looking on dully.

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Gimmee A Break

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Two weeks into summer break and I already can’t spell certain words. For a moment I almost forgot the word ‘selection’ starts with an ‘s’ not a ‘c’. I guess this is why they have my son doing summer homework.

“How often do you need me to do homework?” he asks.

Given that he has 30 days of math problems, two books to read and answer a series of questions about, and some writing exercises (fun!), I suggest EVERY DAY.

And I have given myself homework as well. Such as reading (I finished a young adult novel in 3 days) and writing (here I am). Of course I will also help him with his homework as long as it’s not algebra.

Brain gets stagnant and dumb if you don’t use it. Or if you watch too much TV.

Everyone deserves a break though. I think everyone should have two weeks off each season to fully enjoy all that nature and other passions have to offer. Alas other types of learning during those times.

But this is America and unfortunately I don’t see this happening. Only in my little dream world where ice cream has no calories and unicorns prance around the streets.

But thank god for summer break. And I am truly sorry for those of you who don’t get one. If it makes you feel any better this school year I had to wipe poo off toilet seats, smell about 35 stinky sneakers every day, observe at least 10 bloody teeth being extracted, act as counselor/therapist/nurse in countless situations, and cried to myself on a few occasions while feeling all the feelings that erupt embarrassing stifled bouts of snot-bubble sobbery at work. And that was just the first three months.

So we’ll both enjoy this break and learn a little something along the way. And for the record I do know how to spell celection selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get the Balance Right

Is it possible to ever get the balance right? Things are off-kilter, ignored, put off, unattainable at the moment, time the ever opponent. My perfectionist personality does not help. Failure is no longer an option and neither is guilt or self-deprecation. It is what it is. And I’m sorry to those of you I have not connected with lately.

Eighteen hours a day working, sleeping, prepping for the two. Which leaves six for chores, errands, food prep, quality time with little Boo, exercise, meditation/prayer/gratitude, and personal hygiene/beauty. So what has fallen by the wayside? Writing. Creating. Connecting with friends and family. Shaving.

And I’m a horrible phone person. I rarely pick up the phone. I have been reprimanded about this at various times. I don’t love the phone. I can’t read the lips of the person speaking on the other line. Can’t see their body language. Hell sometimes can’t hear what they are saying. And because of the demands of life I am a multi-tasker (like so many of us these days). It is easier to have conversations via text with several people at the same time while doing the laundry, dishes, hitting the can. But yes I am fully aware that an uninterrupted phone conversation is important. And I am calling my mom as soon as I finish this.

I made time to catch the sunset on the beach twice this week. It had been too long. Today I am writing. Tomorrow I will catch up with an old friend.

When little Boo was a baby I knew that phase of our lives would be fleeting. There were days that were long and filled with crying and poop, but in between those moments were the giggles and cuddles and chubby legs learning to walk. Now that baby is almost as tall as me and it happened in the swish of a horse’s tail.

I am forever grateful that I am able to see him daily as I assistant teach in his classroom. This will be a year looked upon with great pride and nostalgia when he is out of my daily sights and starting his own career and path in life.

So when I think about all the things I can’t seem to find the time or energy to accomplish I need to cut myself a freaking break. We do what we can.

I was alone when I viewed this spectacular sunset. Now let’s watch it together : )

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Taken with iPhone 5, west coast FL, no editing.

 

 

 

 

 

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First Crush. Love Bites.

The moment I saw her I knew he would fall for her. She was just his type- quirky with a tad of edge, a splash of artist, and eyes so deep and beautiful you were unaware of time for a moment. They overrode the scars on her face.

Within two days of meeting her he professed his admiration for her. Not to her, but to me. It would be over two months before he would tell her.

My son is eleven years old. And this is the girl he adores. I work in their classroom so I am present in their lives daily.

Oh god I feel for him. I remember the boy I adored in 6th grade. He was in my class and a local model. Well I think he did a jeans print ad and a cheesy commercial for Hills Department Store.

He was going to be the first boy I kissed. I had it all planned out in my head. We would attend the Homecoming game together. At some point in the cool of the fall evening we would duck underneath the bleachers, look into each other’s eyes, and press our lips together in a non-klutzy fashion.

Well that never happened. He didn’t show the slightest interest in rendezvousing under the bleachers even though we were “going together”. Shortly after that he broke up with me. For a cheerleader. Ouch.

I remember longingly watching him at gym class while he jogged the perimeter of the gymnasium. His thin, white legs keeping the pace with the others. Why didn’t he like me anymore? What did I do to make him go away? I felt a pang in my heart and a jab to my pride.

But the crush and the pain eventually slithered away, making room for more crushes and more pain.

My son finally confessed his admiration for his crush during the class camping trip. Somewhere deep in the woods he bared his heart to her. She revealed although she really liked him, it was not in the way he liked her. Ouch.

I tried to console him. But in that moment he wanted to be left alone.

They are pretty good buddies. And there is a certain effortless cadence to their friendship. Later when he was ready to hear my advice I told him it might be better they are just friends, as then they won’t ever have to break up!

But I see the way he looks at her during recess while she sits on top of the picnic table reading her geek girl novel du jour. I can feel the longing. The quiet desperation of seeing something you want so badly and having no words to describe why and knowing you can’t have that very thing you so desire.

One day one of his other friends asked if he loved his crush. There was a pause. And when I saw the look on my son’s face I knew. This was not just a crush. This was his first love. Or the first girl he felt love for. I both celebrated and lamented this in my mind as I so carefully remained unreactive.

Here we go, son. This is the beginning of that arduous, til death, glorious, horrible, wonderfully amazing, despicable, tragic, magnificent journey. Hold on, but not too tight.

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Three-Day Weekend

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I have a three-day weekend. For the time being I’m going to ignore the messy yard, the laundry, the school projects, and the emails I need to tend to. I’m letting the sun warm my body as it blasts through the sliding glass door. I’m going to stay in my jammies til at least noon.

Yesterday afternoon was a bit of a train wreck at work. One kid in particular was wearing my nerves so thin I actually had to pause and put my head down and regroup lest I pull out my hair or turn into my version of The Hulk. I had a day where I felt I hadn’t been a great teacher. I wasn’t getting through to some of them and my voice was a mouse fart against their elephant trumpeting and T-Rex stomping.

So I believe I deserve a three-day weekend. Reboot, please.

Sometimes three-day weekends put a lot of pressure on you, though. If you don’t have a trip planned (which would have been nice) you are immersed in your surroundings and all the things you know you should do since you have an extra day. Rest and relaxation is on the agenda. But wait, that bill… that email… the yard… the kids… my creative projects.

Maybe I’ll just pretend I have to work Monday. So Sunday night will be a grand surprise when I don’t have to set my alarm for the next day.

I’m half-joking about the pressure because I believe everyone should have three-day weekends all the time. Or at least three days off per week. People will ask less time off from work because they will get all their doctor appointments, etc. covered. More time with family and friends. More time for exercise. So in turn less time at the doctor’s office. One day less of work commuting so better for the environment. More productive at work because they are refreshed. More balance in life.

That’s my opinion. I won’t get into the reasons why it might be difficult. Let me just stay in my jammies writing, ignoring the chores, and listening to my son have a blast with his friends he only gets to see on the weekends.

How do you feel about three-day weekends? What would you do with that extra day?

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I Think I Like Camping

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One of the “perks” of my job as an assistant teacher is I get to go on chaperone all the field trips. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful to help out with my newly adopted 35 children as well as my own son, as he is also in the class. The two years he was in public school there were very few field trips and you had to be chosen from a pool of volunteers to be able to go. I went only once.

Well there won’t be a rarity of trips this year. These private school people like to party plan lots of events which cost money and loads of volunteer hours field trip. I am now thinking how am I gonna survive the next one?

Our most recent trip was an overnight camping trip. I have not been camping since before pagers/beepers were the form of mobile electronic communication. Luckily we were staying in cabins so I did not need a tent. I own one sleeping bag that my mom bought for my son a few years back for a sleepover or something.

I felt like a pompous high-maintenance ass while preparing my food stuff as I packed my Stevia natural sweetener and my gluten-free cereal. But I threw in my most comfy clothes as I have learned from most other trips that when not at work I want to be as free from confining clothing as possible without looking like a homeless person.

The bulk of my own items were the food and bedding. I learned from the kids and parents who went on this trip the year prior that the beds were “horribly uncomfortable” “hellish” “full of bed bugs and rats” and “make you want to go to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchase a blow-up mattress”. So I brought my old comforter as a barrier and two sets of sheets.

I was the first carload to arrive at the campsite somehow, as I of course made a wrong turn on the way there. When we pulled up the two girls in my car exclaimed how the place looked like a creepy scene from a horror movie. I admit it was pretty rustic but I have slept in worse places.

October in Florida is hit or miss with the humidity and thank god the cabins each had a wall unit a/c. I claimed the bunk right next to it too cause I sure as hell wasn’t gonna suffer night sweats as well as an unwelcome rodent visitor.

The whining and complaining (from the girls, not the boys, who immediately grabbed water guns and started chasing each other around the site) within the first hour was starting to get to me. I told the girls this was high-class camping. We were lucky to have air con and running water. Speaking of-

The bath house wasn’t as bad as the girls made it out to be. I did not once see a rat or roach or tarantula. And the hot water from the rusty shower head flowed beautifully. Until anyone flushed a toilet.

When we took them to the nearby spring for a swim their smiles and laughter replaced the initial moaning and groaning.

Swimming in that crystal-clear, cold spring was by far my favorite part of the trip. We spent hours there both days. Some of the kids tried to catch a crab. Some gathered stones and branches for a fort for their “island” and some were swimming in a spring for the first time in their lives. It was in that water where I saw team-building, sheer happiness, and kids enjoying nature as their entertainment instead of electronics.

There were three things I loathed about this camping trip, however.

Canoeing. I love kayaking and have never had a problem maneuvering one. I’ve kayaked on lakes, tight mangrove trails, in the gulf next to sharks (OK one shark) and jellyfish. But please don’t ever ask me to canoe again. I could not get the whole maneuvering thing down with this bulky 3-seater. My 9 and 10-year-old canoeing partners tried their best to help. We kept slamming into trees, ducking under spider-infested brush, and doing 360’s to get out of tight spaces. I was embarrassed and pissed at myself. And hearing “Man, Miss Jenifer you are really bad at canoeing” from a fourth-grader does nothing for the old self-confidence.

Mosquitoes. I don’t know what kind of chemicals I have to pour onto my feet and ankles to keep these bastards from using me as their 24 hour buffet. I tried the all natural spray that doesn’t smell like it will give you cancer, the stuff with deet that probably does, and even standing so close to the campfire I think my skin was as hot as some of the marshmallows we were charring. Nothing worked. There is a black hole in the cosmos for mosquitoes. They are free to join the fire ants and roaches whenever they desire.

Feeling responsible for over two dozen children’s safety. By a campfire. In the dark woods. On the top bunks above a concrete slab floor. Jumping off rope swings and being carried off by a strong spring current. Thank god there were other teachers and chaperones. And a coach with a big, booming voice and muscles strong enough to grab said children out of the current. I don’t have the loud voice. My instructions are just suggestions to them. This drives me a little bonkers. I am trying to learn how to be more authoritative without having to blow my top. I am the silent worrier. I did not joke much or sleep on the trip. My mind was constantly worrying. And some of the kids are so relentless in their need for adventure it makes it grueling to have to be the adult.

But I did jump from the rope swing. I dove for shells with them. I tried to scare them in the woods while they played “hidden”. They let me in on their crush dramas. They showed me frogs they caught. They pointed out the stars to me when I hadn’t looked up at the sky once.

Except for the above mentioned dislikes, it was a pretty successful and enjoyable trip. And I learned I can still rough-it. My gluten-free cereal was mere child’s play compared to another chaperone’s electric skillet and organic sausages. And I have to admit my bed was comfy as hell. And no rats visited me in the night. I think they were afraid of the mosquitoes.

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Things I Learned from my Dad

Things I learned from my dad:

Folding the perforated paper on the dotted line, both ways, before ripping it out of the notebook. Invaluable still. Keeps me from wasting paper, cursing more, and making a ragged mess out of a should-be perfect piece of parchment.

Blowing into the edge of the stick side of the (carefully opened) popsicle bag before lifting the popsicle out of said crinkly sheath. Keeps the popsicle pristine and the little ice crystals from sticking to the bag. And red or orange or purple no. 5 from sticking to your hand, which also causes more cursing.

Having a spotless car. Dad drove me crazy with his meticulous top-to-bottom, left-to-right way of washing vehicles throughout the years. But there was never a spot on the El Camino, Datsun, Caprice Estate, Cressida, or ’87 Toyota Pickup when he was finished with them. I wish I could say my Prius is the same. I’m lazy and run it through the automatic. But if I did grab a hose and proper sponge, soap, and tire brush, that girl would look like an Amsterdam black diamond.

Singing in church. Dad wasn’t considered Johnny Cash but he was definitely not tone-deaf. His baritone timbre vibrated around a 2-3 pew radius and his timing impeccable. If I got off track during “It is Well” I could always count on him to steer me back. There was no big screen with a PowerPoint flow of lyrics to follow. It was old school hymnals and Dad could read music good enough to keep that mass of naked voices around us sounding like, well, a choir at church!

Pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. When I was a kid I wanted to be an actor. When I got into high school I wanted to be in the school play. When I told my dad I wanted to act he replied, “You can’t act.” I was crushed. He was usually my advocate. But because I was a shy girl and never liked to put myself out there I guess he thought it was a pipe dream. So I took that lack of faith and made it my goal to prove him wrong. I ended up not only being in the play, but being the female lead. And guess who was in that audience every single night of performance? And with a camcorder to boot.

I could go on and on about all the things Dad taught me. How to gas up and start a lawn mower. How to use an old bed sheet to rake leaves on and dispose of lawn waste. How to do a proper cannonball. How to play “Chopsticks” on the piano. And I could go on and on about all the things he tried to teach me that just did not compute. Using the weed-eater. Math beyond 4th grade. The proper way to pack a car trunk. How to dive.

I hope he knows how much his presence in my childhood and into mid-adulthood means to me. A lot of other kids weren’t and aren’t so fortunate. And I know I don’t tell him enough.

Thank you Dad for not only teaching me things but for being present along the way. You were there for me even when I did stupid stuff. You held my hand and let me know you did dumb things too and everything would be okay.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

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