SEX is Not a Bad Word

“Sex is NOT a bad word”… I shouted this… in my classroom… to 6, 7 and 8 year old students…. everyone froze, but only for a flash.  So, I had to shout it again, with just a bit more volume and conviction.

Moments earlier a concerned child told me that a classmate found a bad word in one of our library corner books. ‘Oh, my!’, I said… and I went to take a look.  Being unable to find the word myself (or the book), I instead, found the finder.  They were not going to talk and would not utter the word found, but they did point to a book that was a class favorite.  It was one of our heaviest hardback books, about 12″ x 18” and over an inch thick… a child’s encyclopedia of animals.  It really is a beautiful book, full of colorful, realistic drawings and photographs of all animals from amoebas to humans… it has tons of interesting facts and quite a few scientific words. My students pour over its pages, showing interesting pictures to friends.  It would not be uncommon for three or four students to be gathered around this book oooooing and aaahing for a whole reading period.  I grabbed the offending book.

A buzz was in the classroom, because everyone knew that our class favorite had a bad word in it, most of them had been shown the word, and the book may be put away behind the teacher’s desk (a veritable black hole of confiscated crap and stacks of books and papers) never to be seen again.

Here is how this went:

“What was the bad word”

“I don’t remember”

“You do, what was it?”

“I am not going to say it.”

“You can tell me, what was it?”

“It is a bad word, I am not allowed to say it.”

“It is okay to tell the teacher, you can tell me the word. You are not in trouble.”

“My mom said I am not allowed.”

“Okay, let’s find it in the book and you can show me.”

At this point he turns to an easily found page towards the beginning of the book (he had obviously become an expert at finding it from showing the rest of Room One the offending word).  It was the page on protozoans, sponges, or maybe some other basic sea creature and had a beautiful diagram of one such animal, labeled with all of it’s parts… Right there at the bottom of the page was the word, with a line connecting it to a blob inside the organism… SEX cell… There it was.

Okay… here’s what happened next…

“Ah, I see. That is not a bad word. You CAN read me that word.”

“No, I can’t.  My mom said it is a bad word and I am never allowed to say it.”

“But you can show it to everyone in class? Hmmmmm. I think you can read that word to me, because this is a science book in our classroom and I am asking you to read it. You can do that.”

…. we sat in silence for a long time… My student was set on not reading the word, I read it, I explained what that word meant in the book, and finally, in frustration, I shouted out “Sex is not a bad word” – twice… And then “Everybody stop what you are doing and meet me on the rug! Now!”

Quick as a wink, there they all were, staring at me as I held up the offending book.  We had a big discussion about what that word meant in that context… That humans are born to be either the male sex or the female sex, we all have a sex, and also sex is the word we use for how animals reproduce… then we talked more broadly about words and how many words can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how you use them and who you are speaking to. Words like stupid, hate, ugly, pig, rat and more can be used in a good way or a bad way… It was a deep lesson for young children, but our favorite book was back on the shelf and we have not had a ‘bad word’ incident in a while… No shit. 😉

Disturbing Visit

It may not have gone unnoticed, but it hasn’t gotten the response it deserves.  The very first school our president went to visit was a private Catholic school.   This should have made headlines, drawn criticism from the National Teachers Union, and the separation of church and state should have been part of the discussion around the CNN newsdesk.

I am not against private school or private religious schools. If parents want something different than their local public school and a non-secular education based on agreed upon standards and curriculum, they can pay for it and make that choice.  They have the choice to take their child to a public school out of their district out of their area and still have that education paid for. That is very different than our government paying for private schools. His  visit sent me, a public school teacher, a clear message. Our president is going to follow Betsy DeVos’s lead and work to funnel some of our meager education dollars into private religious schools. Where is the separation of church and state?

The idea that somehow this will make education better, that the students of my little rural school will reap the benefits of this potential change in policy is ludicrous.  Unless the parents of these children are willing to drive  their child long distances each day they will be educated in their local school.  Who are those parents willing to make  that drive? Families who can afford the gas, families who care deeply about their child’s education, and parents who are involved.  Not to say that many lovely families who value education will choose to keep their children in their local school…but there may be an exodus of many of the best and brightest to schools where they can screen out children who struggle to behave, are low academically or demand too much attention from a teacher.

Who will be left in public education? If Trump has his way, I fear for public education, where we will have to make do with less and less while educating an increase percentage of those most difficult to educate.

This voucher system has not been thought through, but someone needs to start doing some serious thinking and stand up for our children, all of our children… and in standing up for all our children we ARE standing up for public education.

This disturbing visit should have sent shock waves through advocates of public education but instead we were freaking out over 3am tweets.  Don’t let him shift our focus on what really matters…if we become caught up in his distractions we may just miss what is really happening…

Yes, certainly…

I love my job.  Every day is something different, a challenge, and often a joy.  Teaching young children I have the power to make a difference in their lives, the lives of their families, and hopefully an impact on society.  If you have read my blog before you know that I have very strong political opinions… I am a liberal, believer in universal healthcare, pro-choice, anti organized religion, LGBTQ supporting, science believing, spiritual, singing, dancing, mother, wife and teacher.  Most of those things I leave at the door.  I do not bring my politics and  other controversial beliefs into my classroom or impose them on my students.  I just don’t. It wouldn’t be fair or right to do so.

When my students cheered because Trump won the election I said that many people were happy and that I hoped he would be a great president.  I try to promote the idea that all presidents wanted to make our country a better place for us all. We wrote our letters of congratulations to President Trump on November 9th, and mailed them off to Trump Towers… it would have been nice to get some recognition that they were received, but oh well.

I am not giving up on what I believe is right for our country.  I am working in my own way to support the causes I feel most passionate about, to write, and to motivate… but I am also wanting to challenge the ideas of the opposition.  If we don’t continue to challenge them, if we just sit by quietly as health care is lost, people are rounded up, and our education system is decimated we will have no one to blame but ourselves…  But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about what we can do in our own towns and communities to create the world we want to live in and to leave to our children.  Sadly, not everyone is willing to do what is necessary… but in my small sphere of influence, I am working to make it happen.  The things I teach in Room One can be a guideline for making a better society… So, this is the beginning of a series of Room One rules that illustrate some core ideas about how to do just that.  Here is just one of my rules and my thoughts about why it is important:

  1.  If you get out of line you can have your spot back.

For years, teaching young children, I would hear ‘He got out of line, he has to go to the end!, ‘He got out of line and now he is trying to cut me!, or (with a bit of a shove) ‘He is trying to squeeze back in!’… I have heard many teachers tell their students that if they get out of line they would have to go to the end. In fact, I used to say that myself.  It just felt sad and sometimes I would make an exception… But now, in Room One, if you need to get out of line because you forgot to grab your coat, get a drink,  tell someone something, or for no good reason, you just need to say please hold my spot.  When you get back to the line you say, excuse me, may I have my spot back and the person is supposed to say (we practice this), “Yes, certainly.” Even if you forget to ask someone to hold your spot you can get it back… That is the rule.

It is not about eliminating conflict or complaining, it is not about where you stand in line or the reasonableness of why you got out of line… it is about treating other people the way you want to be treated.  If you get out of line for any reason would you like to get your spot back?  If you forgot to grab bananas at the grocery store, you might leave your cart in line and run back to get them… imagine if when you got back someone had shoved your cart aside?  You want to be treated kindly. So, in Room One, everyone gets their spot back. It is polite.  It is the right thing to do.  It makes people happy and it is easy.

How can this apply to the world?  Imagine the on-ramp of your local highway, imagine the line at the bank, post office or market… imagine what is the right thing to do and make that happen… we have moved away from worrying about others’ feelings – political correctness has become a bad word – the pendulum has swung – pushed by some very angry people who would never give you your spot back… Time to push back and show what it feels like to say “Yes, certainly”, and really mean it.

 

 

Watch Those Chickens!

I am so very disappointed in the Republican senators… 50 of them voted to put Billionaire Betsy DeVos, devout private school graduate, business woman with a BA from a private religious college, whose children have never stepped foot in a public school, in charge of our national public school system!  I am appalled that they are putting their trust in her and I am saddened that they didn’t have the guts to stand up and say we can do better and we must do better for our children and our education system.

I should not be shocked.  Is it possible that the republican senators who voted her in are worried about the wrath of Trump… they could possibly be the subjects of his next tweets.  These same people have decided that someone with no political experience, no diplomacy and absolutely no decorum will rule THEIR roost… I applaud those two Republican senators who broke with their party and voted against this nomination… but two was not enough to make a difference. It is shameful, but now SOP, for this new administration… we are now ruled by billionaires… November 2018 can not come soon enough.

I wrote emails to Senators.  What else could I do?  I sat and watched the news as our public education system was turned over to someone who does not believe in public education.  Much like Trump’s pick for other departments and agencies, she does not believe in the very thing she will now be in charge of?!?  I am sickened thinking about someone with no vested interested in public education leading reform… I am horrified that someone with no educational experience or teaching degree will decide matters of the utmost importance in public schools.  I am worried that my little rural school will suffer financially because of her misunderstanding of all things that have to do with what happens in public schools on a daily basis.  I am fearful that science will no longer be taught and that the cry for prayer in schools will become louder and stronger.  I worry that good talented teachers will decide that enough is enough and that they will take their talents to another field.

Let’s shake things up, they say.  Let’s put fresh eyes on this issue… A new sheriff is in town… but really it’s the fox guarding the hen house.. .

What is our next move?  A nationwide strike – by parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff?  Am I even allowed to suggest that? If it is led by parents and students would more people listen? Where are my fellow pussy-cap marchers? There must be something that can be done!

Wow, what a crazy time we live in… you better hold on to your chickens!

Check Yourself

Check yourself… I say this in my classroom all the time… and we review what that means… It is my way of reminding certain people without ‘calling out’ any one child.  I teach the kids to ask themselves a list of questions when they hear me sing this out… 1. Am I in the right place? 2. Am I working quietly? 3. Am I bothering anyone? 4. Am I taking care of myself? and 5. Am I using kind words?

As adults, we too need to check ourselves.  Heading into the new year, having survived a tumultuous 2016, we need to remember that the world is changing and it is within our power to shape that change (or even counter it).  We can do that in the words we use, in the things we post and in the comments we leave.  Being part of a different generation is not an excuse for not being willing  to check yourself.   People who insist on holding onto outdated uses of ideas and language, who speak or post hate, who have decided that others’ freedoms take away from their way of life, need to check themselves. For us, for me, here are a few things it means: 1. Am I trying to help or hurt? 2. Am I doing enough? 3. Am I moving forward or looking back? 4. Am I being true to my beliefs? and 5. Am I  open to new opinions and ideas?

This last one is the hardest for many people because it can be threatening.   It requires that you consider the perspective of another,  that you question your own beliefs, and that you pause from defending your own stance to consider a different perspective. As this year unfolds I will challenge myself to do just that… to take a breath and consider… I challenge you to do the same… but even if you can’t get there, please remember to use kind words, that is really what will save us all…

Check yourself

The State of the Union

It has been about 2 1/2 weeks since we elected the most incompetent person ever elected to the highest, most powerful office in the whole world.  His promises lay scattered on the floor of the Trump Tower lobby, he is slowly compiling his team of the smartest, best and experienced people.  He is.  He is surrounding himself with success, with people who have good brains, and people who he trusts to tell it to him the way he wants to hear it.  Because if they don’t, they won’t last very long… we all know how he treats people who disagree with him.  The huge problem is that what he considers success is very different than what it takes to be a successful leader.  He is putting multi-millionaires and billionaires in those positions.  That does not mean they are the most intelligent, well educated or best informed about the position for which they are being chosen… it just means they have money, a lot of it, and they know Trump.   If that is your measure of success then I guess you are happy with the people he has chosen.

So much for standing up for the working class and little guy.  These leaders have never been the ‘little guy’ and up until this point they have worked to amass wealth for themselves, their shareholders and their families. They have fought to make the guys at the top stronger and they have stood against unions.  Unions are what give the working class a voice, strengthen their position and try to ensure good working conditions and wages… Unions are for the working class and those coming into power now are against them.  They are against teachers and public schools, against science, and against treating people who are different than you the way you want to be treated. Draining the swamp? They ARE the swamp!  Your child’s school will not get better under a Trump government… they will lose money and good people.  You think it is the teachers that are ruining education?  What is ruining education is not what happens in the classroom, it is what happens at home, and no penalty or threat of privatization is going to change that. A lack of respect and value for today’s teachers, by ordinary citizens and people who govern, is what is hurting the students of America… It doesn’t matter how many times a week you say the Pledge of Allegiance, or if you say it at all, that will make your child a successful student or patriotic American… that is on you.  If you think that school choice is someone standing up for the little guy, you are wrong.  If you think that doing away with the Common Core will somehow save education, you really have no idea about what the Common Core says, you are just buying into more b.s. by the biggest b.s.-er of them all. He has made outrageous promises to people who have no clue about why they really are in the situation they are in.  So what if he is surrounding himself with successful people…that does not mean they are the best and brightest in their field.  Just because you watch football every Sunday doesn’t mean you are ready to suit up and step onto the field.

We as Americans are more divided than ever before.  I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since the election.  One day feeling hopeful because Trump has walked back many of his most offensive promises, the next feeling angry over his behavior and tweeted statements, and finally scared by some of the people Trump is choosing to surround himself with.  Those advisors are really scarier than Trump himself… those advisors are going to have Trump’s ear, they will not have your best interest at heart.  They know that their time in power will be short lived and  throughout their careers they each have had two goals in mind… how to amass their wealth and how to spread their form of hate/control on the most people. In the end it will be the little guy, the working class and our children who will suffer if we don’t wake up and speak up.  Facebook posts are just the beginning… they are where we may start… they fuel the flames that lead to financial support, speaking out, political action and eventually change.  Where will your passion take you?  Be the change and be the action you want to see…

And So It Begins…

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  But for me, and many of my friends, it began almost three months ago… It began the day we said goodbye to last year’s class of children. Because, believe it or not, we were already thinking about the year ahead, what new things we wanted to try, what worked, what didn’t and the chance of starting it all over again.  As we put away curriculum, cleaned up corners, washed desks, and threw away junk, we also ordered new workbooks and curriculum, tested markers, and put in maintenance requests to prepare for tomorrow.  We spent the summer going to workshops, buying stickers and shopping for bargains on-line and in line.   We made list upon list of what needed to be done… and had more than one dream (nightmare) about not being ready on the first day of school.

This last weekend of summer, while you camped and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine, we were there, at school, working on our days that we could have been with our own families.  We were there because we know that tomorrow morning we will be starting a new family.  We will be spending almost 30 hours a week for the next 40 weeks with some very special people.  Your children will once again become our children…

And in this coming year we will spend countless hours doing everything in our power to help them grow and learn.  We will worry, cheer, sweat, and maybe even cry over their successes, challenges and stumbles.  We will wipe tears, hand out band-aides, give high-fives, and more.  We will try to be fair but kind in all things… Just as you try, we will try… It may not be perfect – in fact, I promise it won’t – but it will be good

When you say goodbye to your child in the morning, think of me… I will be doing my best all year long for my new family… in a weird way, you too, are part of my new family… Welcome!