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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

PTSD from lacrosse info session

Prior to N making the field hockey team, I had told her she could only do one sport per year.

Call me a lazy, unsupportive parent, but last year wore me out. She did field hockey from July-October and then began conditioning for lacrosse in November, which continued until lacrosse season actually began in the spring.

At the time, I didn't mind her starting in November because she had never played, and I felt that she had a better shot at making the team if she knew something about the game.

As much as I complain about sports and what it does to my schedule and wear/tear on my car, I'm proud of N for playing field hockey. She enjoys it and is playing better and better. She plays it for the fun of it, and while she doesn't like losing, she isn't terribly competitive.

In the grand scheme of life, a game loss means very little.
For that matter, a game win means very little. 

With her enjoyment and the exercise she gets from sports in mind, I told her she could try out for lacrosse but that we are taking November and December OFF.

So the other evening, I went to the parent info meeting about lacrosse.

It can be summed up like this:

Spend all your money to fundraise for lacrosse between right this second and February, however, we will only have two teams per gender; plan on your kid not making the team. And if your kid expects to make it, they have to LIVE LACROSSE. Family, school, lacrosse---that's it. 

(The family, school, lacrosse thing is verbatim from the coach.)

The coach also talked about how some kids who are now playing fall sports come to the conditioning lacrosse is doing now, after having practiced their fall sport for two hours.

My initial thought was: "Are you fucking kidding me? My kid is not going to another hour-long practice after a two-hour field hockey practice because her body needs to REST." Not to mention her mind needs to rest. Not to mention that her family would like to see her occasionally.

Somehow, by mentioning the dedicated players who come to lacrosse after their fall sports, it felt like the family, school, lacrosse thing was really "ALL WE CARE ABOUT IS LACROSSE AND SO SHOULD YOU!"

I am, personally, a big, BIG fan of MODERATION.

Work, but don't work to the point that you fail to enjoy other things.
Exercise, but don't exercise to the point that you don't do anything else or you develop injuries from it.
Play, but don't play to the point that you don't work.
Read, but throw in some movies and music and art and travel and other things that make you a well-rounded individual.
Eat in moderation. Even too much water all at one time ain't great for your body and can make you puke.

This lacrosse info session did not, to me, seem very moderate.
It felt rather intense, and I'm so intense inside my own head that I try not to add to that intensity outside my head.

I have decided and informed N that
1. these folks are bananas
and
2. she can condition in January and try out in February
and
3. I'm not fundraising until her ass makes the team.

If this makes me unsupportive, selfish, and not a team player, I'm happy to claim that title.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Death by a thousand cuts

Yesterday at the high school, they did a suicide prevention seminar. Students had to complete a sheet of paper in which they marked whether they felt suicidal and felt the need for help, either today or immediately.

I was helping to collect these sheets and sort through them so that students could be seen by counselors.

It made me think about my own suicidal thoughts. 
I am not actively suicidal (by which I mean making plans), but suicidal thoughts are what I would consider "normal for me."
I am, at this moment, and since this afternoon, having suicidal thoughts.
This is normal, even though it is not "normal."

What is not normal, for me, is when people say they don't understand suicidal thoughts or have never had them.
I do not understand how this is even possible.
How strange to live a Pollyanna life.
My go-to when I feel overwhelmed is to think about death, about not being alive.
I don't intend to think about death or want to think about death, but that is where my head goes.

What brought on these thoughts is that G is being put on a new medication, but this is for ADHD and will be in addition to his OCD medication.

On the one hand, this came completely out of the blue.
His doctor said she had noticed symptoms last time but wasn't sure.
However, she felt like it was very obvious and concerning this time during this visit, and she wants to get ahead of it instead of letting it go and worsen.

And yet, this is not out of the blue because when G was 6, and he went through a complete evaluation, I was told he had symptoms that seemed ADHD, but weren't strong or clear. I was told to not be surprised if he was diagnosed with ADHD in the years to come.

Well....color me surprised.
And obviously forgetful.

So this was the cut #1001
that follows the cut Wednesday, finding out that I have to have a crown replaced but my insurance won't pay for it because the craptastic dentist I had before didn't do it right two years ago (and they only pay for a new crown every 5 years).
that follows the cut from needing to pay the 2K tuition for this grad class.
that follows the cut of M needing another ear surgery in November.
that follows the cut of taking the grad class and all the extra stress it involves.
that follows the cut of Dad having a leaky heart valve and maybe needing surgery to repair?
that follows all the other daily little stressful cuts.

I felt weepy and all out of sorts (which I still sorta feel)
so I went up to G and asked him for a hug.
I told him I felt sad and asked what he was watching.
And this is what he was watching in his room.

The kid I worry about all the damn time watches inspirational videos of kids with all sorts of issues that feel far heavier and worrisome than OCD or ADHD.
Kids who have brain surgeries and can't communicate at all verbally and have super short life expectancies.

It got my head screwed on a little straighter than it was.
It reminded me that mental health is unseen but still a huge struggle that is different from physical disabilities but a struggle nonetheless.
It reminded me that he (and I) have value even in the midst of our issues.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Serious, sensitive, uptight, and sometimes funny.

I have been knee-deep the last 4 weeks in subbing and doing observations for the grad class I'm taking.

I cannot wait until this class is over. I'm nearly halfway through my 90 hours.

Even though I have until December to get done, my goal is to be wrapped up by the second week of November. (If everything goes as I hope, I'll be done by the end of October.)

I'm hoping to sub for an English teacher at N's school after Thanksgiving and through Christmas break.

Normally, because of my cottage school Fridays, I am unable to take long-term sub jobs, but I'll be on break from the cottage school then, and I think it would be a good experience for me.

If there is anything that observing is doing for me it is helping me remember what kind of teacher I am.

I have a theory about what makes a great teacher: it is a special deep-roasted blend of personality, knowledge, and organization.
To be great, all 3 have to be present.
A good teacher has to have two of these traits.
If I have to choose which one is missing, it is organization. Better to be a bit scatter-brained than lacking in basic knowledge of the content or have the personality of a parched hat.
A meh teacher has one-and-a-half traits.
Just one trait and..... well, we've all had a one-trait teacher.

I try not to talk too often about the grad class because it is a bit of nonsense that just makes me clench my teeth.
I've been observed two times by my college instructor and he has given me "tips" like, try the Jigsaw method of teaching.
That in itself is not a bad tip, but the reason I don't try the Jigsaw method is because THIS IS NOT MY FREAKING CLASSROOM, AND THIS TEACHER DOES HER ROOM AND STRUCTURE A CERTAIN WAY, WHICH I FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE MUCKING WITH FOR TWO LESSONS, AND IT IS PLUM WEIRD FOR ME TO COME IN AND DO ALL SORTS OF CONTRIVED GYMNASTICS JUST TO SHOW OFF FOR A COLLEGE CLASS.

(unclenches teeth)
(takes deep breath)

When I did this song and dance nearly two decades ago, I was the dumb "untried" teacher, like the "untried" parent I was before I had kids.
I knew SO MUCH!
I had all sorts of thoughts about what I would do when x, y, and z happened. I wouldn't do this, and I wouldn't do that.
Now, after having experience as a teacher, a sub (and in parenting), I've eaten enough crow to know that I should leave off the criticism and just do my thing.
I'm wise enough to know that I would do things differently not because I know more or am better or someone else is worse but because I am me, and I listen to my own drummer, and I have to follow that tune.

I do not pretend to know everything about everything related to English teaching.
I most certainly do not know everything.
But what I do know about myself is that, considering I haven't had a lick of professional development in 14 years, I know some things about how to make a lesson engaging.
I'm not loosey-goosey and go with the flow.
I'm uptight and mostly serious, but with a funny streak when I feel like it.
But I'm mostly uptight and sensitive and serious.

Which makes me take this grad class way more seriously than I probably should.
And push myself way harder than I probably should.
Countdown to done starts soon.
And my teeth will thank me.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The ambush: "The rest of the story"

Sister girl texted me the afternoon of the first day of school and said her husband is just gonna drive their daughter to school.

I suspect they didn't actually do the math prior to the first day and determine that by the time they get to my house, they are nearly halfway to the high school.

If they are gonna drive that far, they might as well go the distance.

I'm off the hook.




Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Reading Kafka and raising kids/teenagers

I'm reading Franz Kafka's Letter to My Father.
It is heartbreaking if you maintain any connection with your "child" self.
I think every parent should probably read it because it will make them think about how they interact with their own children.

Of course, I am a skeptic, and this is only Franz's letter that was never sent to his father.
We don't get Hermann Kafka's letter to his son.
Franz likely had what all people have in bits: myopia when it comes to their own irrational childhood thinking.
I was guilty of it as it concerned my own parents, and it took some therapy for me to come to some realizations.
Parents have their own baggage and anxieties that impact their children, and children often think they are the cause.
They are not the cause, but they experience the effects.

Still, just because a person has children doesn't mean that person knows anything at all about raising them.

I certainly don't claim to know all there is to know about raising children, but I do think my training as a teacher helps, as does reading lots of books about parenting.
Not forgetting my "child" self also helps.

I'm sorta a "kid" magnet, and I've never entirely understood why.
Kids just seem to gravitate to me.

I could say it is because I talk to them as I talk to anybody; I don't talk "down" to them.
I could say it is because I'm funny.
But I wonder if it is because they see something vulnerable in me that they relate to.

I've never quite lost that vulnerability that has seeped through my pores since childhood.
I've never quite worked through the doubt and the uncertainty and the fragility.
I sometimes wonder if kids sense that in me---a kindred spirit, of sorts.

As a teacher and a parent, I do not pretend or claim to know everything.
I am the first one to say I'm not an expert or the single voice of knowledge or the fountain of all that is holy and right about anything.

I try to be as forgiving of children as I wanted adults to be forgiving of me when I was a kid.
Sometimes I fail miserably, especially with my own children.
But I apologize and I explain myself, including my fears, my anxieties, the reasons why I am throwing a fit about whatever I'm throwing a fit about.

I have never liked nor respected the "I'm the adult, therefore you do what I say" logic.
I want explanation.
I want understanding.
Then, I may not like what you are asking me to do it, but I will do it with less grief because I know where it is coming from.

I'm also a firm believer in picking your battles very, very carefully.
If you insist on making every hill one you're gonna die on, you're going to be dying (and suffering) a lot.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The ambush and the drive to school

A friend texted me today asking what my "plan" is for driving N to EHS.

I responded that my "plan" is to make arrangements and then watch them fall apart.

We do not get bus transportation to N's high school in the same way that we didn't get bus transportation to her middle school.
We carpooled with neighbors when N and their son's middle school years overlapped.

There are good things and not good things about carpooling.
The good thing is that you share the driving.
Depending on schedules, this could mean you take entire weeks off.
The bad part of carpooling is that during your week off you get used to it.
TOO used to it, in fact, which means when you have to drive the following week you are out of habit and, perhaps, a little a lot whiny.

Another downside to carpooling is that in your head, you think carpooling means you will drive less, but if your child does activities or if the child you carpool with does activities, you may still end up driving to and fro to pick up your child.

In high school, it is almost certain that whatever you think the plan will be, your child or your child's coach will make a schedule that sucks complete ass and forces you to drive up to the school or make all kinds of weird driving arrangements.

Basically, I think the secret to being satisfied with any carpooling arrangement is to prepare to drive your kid every single day and then be pleasantly surprised on occasions when you don't have to.

Here is a funny story:

My MIL's neighbor's daughter (that is 3 degrees of separation) came up to me one evening when we were at my MIL's to eat dinner in the very early summer, long before I'd even thought about August and carpooling.

This lady, whom I barely know, just came to the back door with her daughter, who sometimes plays with my kids, and stood there.
It was weird.

Anyway, this mom just kind of stood there for a few minutes making small talk and then asked me how I was getting N to school and whether I could give her daughter a ride.

Since I have been in the habit this past year (N's 8th-grade year) of driving her to school, I didn't and don't mind giving this lady's daughter a ride to school, BUT I will not go backward.

The child lives in the opposite direction of the school from our house, so I told the mom if she can get the girl to our house, then I will take her the rest of the way.

I told her that if I am subbing, I pull out of my driveway at 6:40 am, and her daughter has to be at my house at 6:35.
If I'm not subbing, I'm leaving at 7:00 am, and her daughter has to be at our house by 6:55 am.

I figure she needs me more than I need her, so these are my "rules."
If she doesn't like them, she can find her daughter another ride.
This sounds heartless, and maybe it is, but all is fair in love, war, and car rides to high school.

D couldn't believe that I had agreed to this madness.
He believes I always think so well on my feet, but I was more or less ambushed by someone I don't know well.
And I don't lie.
(I can lie but I'm very obviously lying and it is just pathetic, so I don't.)

He is worried that he will have to answer the door when they show up late and tell them that I have already gone.
I told him that I know it will be A GRAND INCONVENIENCE for him to answer the front door while I'm driving our kid to school before 7:00 am, but I know he can do it.

Anyway, once we learned that N was playing field hockey and I had her practice schedule, I texted the ambush mom to tell her that I won't be picking N up on days she has practice, which means I also won't be picking her daughter up.

Two days after that, ambush mom texted me asking if I had room for another child.
A child I don't know.
A complete stranger.

Now the honest-to-God truth is that I don't really want to drive this lady's kid to school, but I'm doing it because 1. she ambushed me and 2. I do at least know her child, and 3. it doesn't hurt to be nice especially since I'm not having to backtrack to pick her up in the morning.

However, I draw the line at people I barely know roping me into rides for people I don't know at all.

I almost texted her back: "WTF? I'm not Uber."
I opted to just text back, "No."

Both my MIL and D think this will be a short-lived arrangement, and maybe it will be.

When I told N that I am subbing the first four days of school and will need to drop her off early, she sighed and huffed a bit so I asked, "Are you inconvenienced by having to get up early and be dropped off?"
She said, "A little."
I replied, "I don't know anything about being inconvenienced."

Here's to a new year of fun driving-to-school stories.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Here we go again: A graduate class to make me feel all unequipped

A year ago I did this to myself, and now I'm doing it again, all in the name of being "smart" and putting coursework to good use and giving myself "options" whenever I do go back to teaching full-time.

I will be observing/working with students at two high schools this fall.
Fortunately, I don't have to take a class at the college or read a textbook.
It is basically some reflections and 5 lesson plans (being observed teaching 2 of them).
Totally doable.
And the class is pass/fail, so in order to fail, I think I'd basically have to do nothing and/or kill a child.

I met with one of my supervising teachers the other day, and I'm trying to fight that feeling I get of 'I'm not worthy."
Like just because I haven't taught full-time means I know nothing and have no "real" value as an educator.
The two teachers I'll be with have eight years and 10 years of classroom experience, respectively.
I don't know how this compares, but I think my 3 years of full-time teaching + 6 years of part-time teaching/developing curriculum + 2 years of subbing = something.
And I've got the 8 years of freelance writing on top of it, which hopefully will be of some value since one of the teachers has a journalism class.

Maybe this is terrible of me, but I basically told the teacher, I'll teach anything but I'm jumping through hoops for this course.
I'm only creating lesson plans for what I absolutely have to for the class, which may be a shitty attitude, but it's not like this class is my only thing.
I'm not gunning for an A, I'm gunning for a "pass."

Plus, I think it is just weird to walk into someone else's classroom and be told by the college that you have to come up with lessons that somehow jive with what another person has already planned. It just seems odd (and stupid) to "recreate the wheel" when the wheel has already been created.

That is logistically difficult for both people, so I'd rather not do that any more than I absolutely have to.
It is her classroom, and I'm just a guest.

Anyway, I'll get through it, and I'll complain, and I'll likely have my sense of self-worth shattered because I'm not a full-time"real" teacher, and I'll have to build myself back up again.
But when it's over, I'll have that little add-on to my teaching certificate.
Whoop-dee-do.

It's important to have a positive attitude in these circumstances.