Stop Looking Up and Start Looking In

Many of us have heaps of criticism about the daily (often hourly) assaults on our moral sensibilities by the president.  Yes, he is horrid, racist, misogynistic… and at least five more labels that go against all that I hold dear… But, many are picking apart, not just what he says, tweets and does, they are picking apart the efforts and commentary of those who oppose him.

Tina Fay did a comedic piece on SNL with a sheet cake… It was great. I loved it.  And yet, here come the haters who didn’t get it. They are critics who suggest that her piece was serious and that it encouraged us to join a ‘sheet cake-eating movement’… Really? They obviously missed the point, the frustration, and the anger of the segment.  If you missed the piece on one of the platforms you follow, here it is again: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tina-fey-sheet-caking_us_599675d0e4b0e8cc855cce85

Instead of looking to criticize people who are putting their opinions out there, we should look at what we are doing ourselves to push back against Trump.  Send postcards, write e-mails, have those difficult conversations where you listen as much as you speak, march, boycott, make a statement, help solve this crisis, resist…. criticizing people who are trying to do something is counter productive… YOU do something.

I am tired of hearing that ‘This is not who we are’ from all sides… sorry folks, it is.  We elected him and WE need to sort this out.  WE need to grow, to listen, to make it right.  I know that this is who we are because we are a country where an angry few can terrorize the many, where one bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch… 20 cars can give me plenty of room when I am out riding my bike ~ it only takes one jerk to buzz by me honking and yelling for me to get off the road to do harm.  Our town is working on improvement but over and over people hatefully complain about what is being done… Our town and our country is being terrorized by hate ~ that is what racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and misogyny are really about… we could say it is fear but that just makes you feel sorry for the haters… we need to combat hate, we have elected hate to our highest office and hate has been given a license to flourish with the protection of the first amendment.  Hate is on the rise and we must rally against it.

So, when you turn on your ‘feed’ make sure you are not contributing to hate… make sure you are being constructive and helpful… and to all of the teachers out there beginning your school year, make sure that you are teaching the most important lessons of our time… teach kindness, understanding, love and peace… let’s raise a generation where hate dies a quick death because it is drowned out by US… let’s become what we wish our country was now… sadly, what’s happening in our country IS who we are, but it doesn’t have to be…

 

 

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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.

 

 

The Gift You Give Your Children

Parenting is not easy… I just looked through about 20 slides of ‘lies you tell your children’.  Each day that we parent, that we make it through the day, that we are able to kiss our kids goodnight, that we are able to say we love them, is a gift.  But part of the tough job is about setting limits and having expectations.  I’ve written, in the past about how one mother’s behavior and lack of setting limits during a band concert was horrible to experience.  But the scope is so much wider than an evening in a high school auditorium.

It is our job as parents and educators to have high expectations and impart to our children how to be a part of society.  The example set by kind caring and thoughtful adults is crucial to that end.  Friday evening my husband and I were at a football game… we were sitting behind a mother and grandmother who were sitting a couple of seats apart from one another.  I am not sure if they were there for one player specifically or just there to support the team.  Our son is one of the drum majors of the marching band and it was their last halftime perform of his senior year… the show started, we began to video, and the women began to have a loud discussion over the music.  After about a minute I gently put my hand on the grandmother’s shoulder and politely said that we were trying to video our son’s last performance… I didn’t even get to ask her to please talk more quietly, or tell her that the program was only going to last another 7 minutes… she was just annoyed and said ‘What do you want me to do?’…. I didn’t even respond and thankfully she was quiet… if someone had said that to me I would have said something like ‘oh, so sorry’ … the interaction just left me feeling that the lack of civility , kindness, respect and common courtesy is at the heart of some of our societal issues.

We need to make these lessons the core of how we raise our children if we want our world to be a better place… teaching our children these things ~ that is our gift to us all.

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!

It’s Only A Game

I sat there in the hot sun getting burnt to a crisp hour after hour watching my kid out on the field.  I was surrounded by parents who were there to do the same, some quiet, some encouraging, and some angry….  Angry, you say? Yes, very…. And out of control and out of line.

They are angry because their team is losing, the kids are playing a bit rough, they don’t think the ref is good, or they just feel like yelling or cursing in a public place is what we do at a children’s soccer match.

One of the main reasons they are angry is because they don’t know the rules of the game… They don’t understand what really constitutes a foul and they think that if their kid falls down or gets hurt it must be someone’s fault.  They are angry because the refs can’t see everything and don’t have time to explain the rules to a crowd of screaming parents.

Last Monday, as I watched my kid on the field an angry father got up and marched onto the pitch… his kid had been bumped and was on the ground (it is a contact sport)… the ref had stopped the game and called a foul… but everyone was yelling at him and at each other… the father was cursing and yelling at the coaches and the ref as he walked all the way across the field to his kid, and again as he walked back to the sidelines.  The ref calmly walked over to the dad, gave him a red card and told him that if he didn’t leave the field the game would not go on.  The man left.  The crowd (from the opposing team) went wild cheering.  The ref went to tell the coaches to talk to the parents… it’s only a game he said… it is supposed to be fun…

I turned to the man next to me… who is your kid out there?  He smiled and pointed, ‘Rose, she’s 9 years old’… who’s your kid?  … I smiled and pointed, ‘He’s 17…he’s the ref’