YOU Have To Do It!

You have to do it… not me.  I have tried, but more and more I realize that only YOU can really do it.  You have to create caring, loving, respectful adults out of the children you bring into this world.  I did my part.  I raised two adults who care about this world and treat people with respect.  No, I was not a perfect parent, I smacked my older son more than I should have… I did not want to raise someone who saunters across the street daring cars to hit him, or someone who sits back in class smugly ignoring the teacher.

I am a teacher, and in my class I teach respect, caring, kindness and peace… but I should be teaching math, reading, science, art and music… I can’t get through what I need to because my day is constantly interrupted by children who are unkind or don’t know how to behave.  But, as much as I try, they bring with them what they learn, or don’t learn, at home.

It is, at times, draining, hopeless, and full of frustration.  It is, at times, joyful, exciting, and inspiring.  I alter my plans with each nose that needs blowing, each shoe that needs tying, each scratch that needs a band-aide, and that is how it should be.  But altering my plans because someone is refusing to follow directions, running out of the class, screaming that they hate math, cutting up their clothing, hiding in the coat closet, or throwing a tantrum is not acceptable…especially on a daily basis.   It takes away from everyone else and it takes away from me.

My job has more stress than ever before and I wonder what I should do.  Yes, I love them all as they are when they walk into my classroom, but I can not fix them.  I am not enough, there isn’t enough time in my day, and I have a classroom of other children who also need me.

I am changing things daily, switching up expectations, spending more time on working as a team, teaching how to be kind and caring, and most recently showing Mister Rogers during quiet morning work time.  I have tried meditation with children, self-talk, a peace pole, rewards, behavior cards, soft speak, singing, yoga, special seating, big buddies, and more…  I have exhausted my resources and wonder what more I could do.  But I realize that it must be you.

YOU need to do it.

What is it, you ask? ‘It’ is being a parent who raises children who are ready to attend school.  How?

  1. Get rid of modern tech devices for any child under 6 or 7 years old
  2. Only allow slow moving, kindhearted or educational shows in your house.  (Mister Rogers, Little Bear, Sesame Street, Blues Clues) – but really Mister Rogers is the gold star standard.
  3. Take your child to the library once or twice a week to check out books.
  4. Read to your child often- at least daily.
  5. Have family game nights. (teach how to be a good winner and loser)
  6. Play with blocks and other toys that don’t need batteries or have flashing lights.
  7. Give your child art supplies and things to write with.
  8. Make playdough.
  9. Give them whole healthy food to eat – cook together.
  10. Sing your child to sleep.
  11. Talk to them.

I am sure there is more that could be added… but these are a good start.  YOU do have the power.  I can’t do it alone.

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Mrs. Whitworth is ALWAYS Right

Have you heard?  Mrs. Whitworth is ALWAYS right….  I overhead this said by several of my students to a new classmate who was questioning how things were done in Room One.  They were defending the Room One way, and their teacher, to someone who didn’t quite grasp the obvious.  I try my best to be fair, consistent, and loving in my classroom.  Sometimes I think this is lost on many of my children… but maybe not. When it comes to having my back, my room full of 6 and 7 year olds will willingly let an outsider know what’s what.  It was the best moment of my day.  That, and having one of my struggling readers raise his hand to read aloud to the class AND listening to him read successfully… Yes, there was joy in Room One today.

Oh, and did I mention, Mrs. Whitworth is always right?

That’s Why They Pay Me The Big Bucks

I sat on the floor in the hallway.  An upset child sat with me.  He was not in trouble but had used the word ‘penis’ when talking about where the ball had hit him.  His friend, who he now hated, came to tell me that this sweet little guy was using inappropriate language.  Quickly I told him that the word ‘penis’ was not an inappropriate word, it was the name of part of your body.  There was nothing wrong with that word or that part of the body.

How do we explain that not all families like to use that word?  I tried my best.  ‘That word is something that doctors might use, or that some families use, or ….., hmmmm, it is a word that makes some people worried’… The boy fired back, ‘It is a normal word!’ Yes, it is, but not all families like to use it.  “Like the ‘H’ word?” Yes.

We got through the moment… I told him, “If you are worried about something it is okay to come to me, I won’t be mad and it doesn’t mean that someone will be in trouble. It’s my job, that’s why they pay me the big bucks.”

‘They pay you a lot of money for this?’….’Well, not a lot, but enough so that I can buy good food to eat. Okay?’ Okay….

Oh, my….

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…

 

 

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.