Sunday, January 20, 2019

Teens are dumb, but adults shouldn't be

I have ALL kinds of thoughts about the march in DC and the Covington Catholic kids.

1. Teens are dumb

The pre-frontal cortex doesn't fully form until a person is 24 years old or so, which means teenagers are primed to make stupid decisions. That is just what they do.

2. Students who do not attend school with a diverse population often have "ideas" about their superiority.

I say this as a person who attended private school my entire life. I was under the assumption that public school was "bad." I thought private Catholic school was "the best." It wasn't until I was getting my master's degree in education that I got to see that public schools often offer more opportunities for students. Private schools might be good for some children and families, but they aren't necessarily "the best."

3. If you're wearing a MAGA hat, chances are you subscribe to some of the beliefs about how things used to be (read as "When white people had all the power, all the time").

I do not own a MAGA hat because I will not financially support Donald Trump in any way. I personally think he's a charlatan. If you think he's wonderful, you are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to my opinion that you are easily duped.

America has, historically, been great for one group of people: white men. Not women, not blacks, not Asians, not gays or lesbians, not indigenous populations. To make America great again means to make it suck again for all those other people who are not white men.

If you leave the confines of your little bubble and go to DC for a march, you should probably be aware that your hat will provoke sentiments in others, and many of those will not be positive. You may be yelled at or ridiculed. That comes with attending public marches (which is why I never attend such marches).

Knowing that these sentiments will not be positive, you should be aware that if you do things like tomahawk chops (and you're not at a Braves game) while a Native American man is near you, it will probably be considered insulting.

If you yell things like "Build a Wall" in the midst of a government shutdown that is contentious at best (look, it's understatement), that might be ridiculed, too.

4. If you're an adult who is taking teens with unformed pre-frontal cortexes to a march in DC, you may want to discuss these things IN ADVANCE and urge them not to wear such accessories that will make them targets in a politically-charged atmosphere.

5. If you're an adult taking teens with unformed pre-frontal cortexes to a march in DC that is supposed to be about respecting LIFE, you may want to consider all forms of life in the respect equation. Not just white, fetal life.

All life is all life.
Indigenous lives.
Black lives.
Gay lives.
Latino lives.
Addicted lives.

6. If you're an adult taking teens with unformed pre-frontal cortexes to a march in DC, you may want to think about and discuss how much recording of events happens at these events and that there is this the possibility that acting foolish will get you a lifetime of notoriety on social media.

7. . If you're an adult taking teens with unformed pre-frontal cortexes to a march in DC and you see something going down, you may want to intervene and GET THE KIDS OUT OF THAT SITUATION so that they don't have notoriety on social media and get crucified by people who think they are smug little shitheads (which they may very well be, but they are teenagers and don't understand the fallout from their actions).

So while I think the kids were idiotic, I am left wondering why the heck the adults who were there didn't put their allegedly fully formed pre-frontal cortexes to better use.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Operation "Make My Hutch Useful"

When D and I married, my parents gave us either $3,000 or $5,000 to cover expenses.

We were very frugal and ended up having enough left over to purchase a hutch/base, table, six chairs, and a washer/dryer.

I have always liked my hutch....until recently.

We have a very large dining room that we rarely use for eating.
I use the space for planning lessons or writing articles.
The boys use the space as a catch-all for their random toys and whatnot.

The walls of the room are travel pictures and paintings. I have always called it my travel room, and it gives me joy to look at the places we've been and to see things friends and family have brought to us from places I may never visit.

I decided that I want to make this room more of a sitting room/office space.

D has his office in the basement, but if he's working in there, I don't feel like I can use it to do my stuff (whether that be scrapbooking or writing or whatever).

So I've been thinking about what purpose I want my dining room to serve.

I managed to find a $15 Bassett chair that I'm going to have recovered in a few weeks, which gives us a place to read if kids are in the basement or living room, and we want to make ourselves scarce.

I have been looking for bookcases with drawer storage for the dining room, but I haven't found anything I really like.

Last night, it finally hit me: Get rid of all the unused pretty stuff in the hutch and use it for your books, binders, and crafting stuff. 

So at 8 pm, I began the purge.

I pulled out a set of dishes my mom made 30+ years ago in ceramics that I have used maybe once in the past 21 years.

(Dishes on the table; dishes on the floor, 
none of which ever get used.)

I told myself, "I love my mom, but I never use these dishes. The dishes are not my mom; they do not represent love or relationship or anything. They are plates; I can donate them and not feel guilty."

I am donating a ton of pretty things D and I got as wedding presents that have been sitting in that hutch used for 21 years. There is one item I am keeping because I remember exactly who gave it to me.

I threw away all the random wine corks we had been saving in a bowl (For what purpose? I have no idea.)

I am moving the kids' Santa banks and handprint plates to the Christmas stuff because I always forgot to put these out as decor at Christmas because they are in the hutch and not in with the Christmas stuff.

I have to wait until the kids go back to school before I can purge some of their stuff.
(I move junk to the basement, and when they don't say anything for 6 months/1-year, I know that I can get rid of it, but if they catch me moving it, they remember how valuable and precious it is.)

Image result for gollum precious

This is my 2019 project--a work in progress. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

We've got all the misheard lyrics

My kids probably have some talents, but the one I appreciate most is their ability to totally botch song lyrics.

I keep a journal for each kid of cute/funny things they've said or done over the years, dating back to birth, and I think 90 percent of the entries in the past five years are misheard and mis-sung lyrics.

The king of the mis-sung lyrics is G.

He is heavy right now into Queen, which has produced this:

Pushing down on me,
Pushing down on you,
I said don't stop.

We won't even discuss what Rushot is.
At first, we thought he was singing Russia, which might have actually made sense.
And I guess if you don't know what Rushot is (and we don't) you might actually want it pushing down on you and say "don't stop" when someone is pushing it on you.

G's misheard lyrics dates back many years.

A few years ago, before Papaw died, we visited his sisters in the country.
When we stopped for lunch, we heard Beyonce's All the Single Ladies.
Later, when we returned to the car, G started singing, "I'm a cigarette. I'm a cigarette."

As G gets into more and more music, I'm certain I'll have many more entries into his book.
Music lyrics and their bastardizations have become a bit of a tradition and source of wonderful memories for our family. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Why I don't understand New Year's resolutions

I don't dislike the new year; I just don't care about the new year.

If other people want to celebrate it, then good for them, although I have to make a small little snarky remark about its arbitrariness and the fact that most people set ridiculous goals for themselves that they will almost immediately decide are too difficult to actually attain.

It's not that I don't like goal-setting.
I actually do like to set goals, but I think it is better to set goals for things I actually enjoy doing and want to do.
Like reading and traveling.

I've also learned that setting goals sometimes has adverse effects.

A couple of years ago, I set a goal to read 50 books during the year, which sounds like a great "make yourself a better/smarter/more well-rounded person" goal.

The problem was that by September, I was reading books, not for the sheer joy of reading books, but
with the "50 BOOK GOAL" hanging over my head every second.

I did make my goal but it kinda sucked, which I hadn't anticipated.

That was the first and last time I set a quantitative goal for myself related to reading.
Since then, I've set a 1-book goal, selecting a book I haven't read but think would be good for me to read.
Last year was Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.
This year, it's another Pulitzer Prize-winner: Gone With the Wind.
I'd like to finish it by spring break, but I've got the entire year.

I don't set lofty goals to do things I don't want to do, like go to the gym.

My goal is to make it to the gym one-time per month since I would be willing to shell out $15 for an hour at the gym if I could just show up and pay-as-I-go. If I end up making it to the gym twice in a month, I've reduced my cost for that hour to $7.50.

I do need to take the Praxis to finish up my high school certification, so I've set a deadline of March. I guess that is a goal, but I've given myself three months to get it done because I'm not eager to do it.

What I don't understand about New Year's resolving is that people seem to forget that THEY ARE STILL THE SAME PERSON with all the idiosyncrasies and oddities and quirks and hangups they had at 11:59 pm.

None of that changes in one minute.

It often feels boring and like I'm downer Debbie being a realist, but there are times, and New Year's is one of them when I'm really rather glad I don't look at the coming 12 months as something amazing and wonderful and dream-fulfilling.

There will almost certainly be moments when it feels like that, and those moments will be surrounded by chores and bullshit and aggravations and boredom and worry. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

It is finished....what to do

I completed what I consider a very successful long-term sub job on Friday.

The kids learned.
I learned.

My classes also ended up coming in 2nd place for can collection and 3rd place for cash collection for a major school service project for the community.
I had to go up during the school assembly and collect the prizes, while my junior students screamed and cheered, which was pretty stinking awesome.

N said she even cheered, "THAT'S MY MOM!!!"

(You might be a rock star if you're own kid gladly and loudly identifies you as his/her parent in front of the entire student body.)

While I'm not a sentimental person by nature, my heart does squeeze a little having to say goodbye to these kids. (Some of them are actually truly sad to see me go.)

Yesterday, I happened to run into a former teaching colleague who I was on a team with 15 years ago. I see her when I sub at my former middle school, but we got to catch up more than you do in the brief hallway flybys.

She is one of the folks who regularly asks, "When are you going back full-time."

I explained that if I went back full-time, I'd have to give up my freelance writing, which I enjoy and do well.
I tutor, which I'd have to give up.
I teach at the cottage school, which I'd have to give up.

I'm also investigating (with a book club friend) developing a podcast, and if I was full-time, I wouldn't have the time or energy for that.

Next month, I've promised a 2nd-grade teacher at my kids' school that I will come in to teach some writing lessons to her students, and full-time would mean I couldn't do some of the neat volunteer things I enjoy.

I've got plenty "to do."

Saturday, December 15, 2018

My thoughts on late work in school, teenage brains, and wholeness

Up until recently, I had never turned in a freelance assignment late.

If I even suspect I might need a few extra days, which is mostly because I frequently having trouble getting sources to schedule an interview, I always request an extension. I end up turning in the assignments by or before the deadline, but I figure it's better to state my issues up front than be begging or apologizing on the backend.

This semester, however, with my subbing and cottage school and graduate class, I completely missed the deadline for an assignment.

By a week.

The only reason it didn't blow up in my face is that my editor also completely forgot she had assigned me the article.

When I realized my mistake, I emailed her, apologized profusely, and told her I would get it done that day. (And I did).

I have been thinking a lot about my experience during this long-term sub job.

Different teachers have different late-work policies for various reasons, and I understand and appreciate the reasoning behind these.

Teachers have so much grading to do anyway that to allow late work means they are in a constant state of adding grades. It makes it hard for a teacher to put any assignment "to bed" if they are constantly having to go back in and add grades that were turned in late. Accepting late work also makes the students who do turn work in on-time feel like they are working hard for nothing: Why am I busting my butt to turn things in on time?

Especially in high school, having a no late work policy makes sense for students who will be heading to college. I don't remember a single college professor who allowed late work (although I always turned things in on-time, so maybe they did, and I just never knew).

I think when I taught full-time I had a late work policy whereby I would deduct a certain amount of points for a certain number of days. After 2-3 days late, I didn't accept it.

Even if a teacher doesn't accept late work, he/she almost certainly has students with 504 plans or IEPs who, at the end of the semester, are playing catch-up. And if a teacher has a 3-page list of students with failing grades at the end of the semester, he/she will likely allow some work to be submitted late to appease parents or administrators (to check the box that they are "intervening" on behalf of the students).

Ultimately, even if you have a zero late work policy, in some form or fashion, you are dealing with late work. Students who have an excused absence are allowed the number of days they missed plus one to submit late work. Late work is simply the nature of the beast in education.

The other night, while attending N's orchestra concert at her school where I have been subbing, I noticed a kid in one of my AP classes who performs in the "top" orchestra group. This kid is a polite, nice kid who also happens to struggle with turning things in one time (I don't know him well enough or long enough to know if this is a normal thing or what). His mom introduced herself to me (since I had made contact with her via email).

I could look at this kid as "lazy" or "irresponsible" or "scatter-brained," but seeing him perform in the top orchestra group (for which students have to audition), reminded me that seeing him for 50 minutes each day doesn't sum up his entire personhood.

It reminded me of the fullness of these teenagers. They aren't just one class or one grade. Even if their grade is garbage in one class, they have other classes and other responsibilities. Many have jobs (where I'm pretty certain they are learning the value of doing things on-time) or sports teams (where showing up on-time is also critical and where there is a penalty for not being on-time).

I have noticed the danger of zero tolerance late-work policies, which is that students may just stop trying, or they may cheat in order to turn work in on-time.

I have caught at least 6 students cheating because they forgot an assignment and were given the answers by a friend. I didn't give them zeroes, but I made them do the assignment again on their own.

No late work also makes kids give up if they even think they are going to be late. It encourages them to take the path of least resistance, which is not to do the work at all. If they think they'll be late, what incentive is there to do the work if it isn't going to count for anything?

So I have had to think to myself, "What is my goal in the classroom with them?" and my goal is for them to 1. Learn and 2. Do the Work On Their Own.

The truth is that I don't actually begin grading their work the day it is assigned, so why should I be a hard-ass about a due date when it may take me an additional 3 days or 5 days or 7 days to even find the time to look at the assignment?

It is probably too loosey-goosey, but I figure if it is turned in by the time I grade it, then it is on-time.

The benefit of extending grace to these kids is that on the occasions when I might need to be a hard-ass, they might be more willing to remember the grace I extended to them and think, "Ms. ___ was flexible with me so I am going to be flexible with her."

As the parent of a fairly responsible gifted-and-talented teenager in a stable, upper-middle class, high parent-involvement home, I am well aware that even the most responsible kids forget or get distracted or have a week in which they have just.too.much going on.

This necessitates I think about the non-G&T kids who are more irresponsible in unstable, non-upper middle class, low-parent involvement homes.

I also have to remember that these kids' pre-frontal cortexes aren't fully formed yet and won't stop forming until they are around 24 years old. The PFC controls executive function---including decision-making, working towards defined goals, determining consequences, and predicting outcomes.

Sometimes I think what we ask of these kids is nearly impossible given what their brains are actually capable of.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I'm still alive (Day "I don't even know" of the long-term sub stint)

This long-term sub position has been a great learning experience.

I have learned so much about rhetorical analysis from throwing myself into it and finding ways to explore and explain it to my students.

See, I even call them "my students."

I really, really, REALLY enjoy working with them. Even the turds (who usually only seem like turds because they need more hand-holding than what can realistically be given to them in a class with 28 or 31 students.)

I really, really, REALLY hate grading 150 papers a week (assuming I've only assigned them one thing to write, which is a joke. English teachers assign many more writing activities).

I might actually be drowning in papers as I type this.

I've had two in-person parent conferences.
More parent emails than I can count.
Emails to and from counselors and ECE coordinators.
Times when I've let kids come to the classroom to work on stuff during lunch.
Times when I've let kids come to the classroom after school.

I've written tests.
I've planned finals.
I've created lessons.
I've produced my own examples for kids to use as models.

The other English teachers tell me I'm a great teacher.

I know.
This long-term job has helped me realize that I am choosing to be a part-time teacher, but just because I'm part-time doesn't mean I don't kick ass.