Too often, in our quest to be 'good' we get too caught up in gaining the approval of others. I once heard a friend tell me she does not post her thoughts about her politics on Facebook for she does not want to 'offend' her friends. Now, that would only make sense if you were politically affiliated with some hate group perhaps, but I absolutely do not prescribe to such set of ideas. I cannot imagine straddling worries about what is going on within me, AND what is going on in minds external to myself; and try to control it.
I find that when dealing with people who may come from very varying paths as one you might encounter on a social media format it's best to be a single way with all of them and allow the balls fall where they may, with a huge emphasis on the word ALLOW. Spiritually, my journey calls for congruence of thought and actions to one's true self. This approach allows all other concerns about external consequences to our actions to just fall away, as if they never mattered at all. And they don't matter. People who may have their doors closed to you might never open them enough to see you as a good, valuable or an even decent person. Therefore, this 'ALLOWING' approach lets you still value your own voice, your own path, your own journey and most importantly, your own understanding.
The quest of a spiritual person should not be to achieve the ultimate set of good graces by others, or being thought of as saintly even. The goal of a spiritual being should be to (1) value their own journey and voice enough to not hesitate being themselves always and through that (2) allow others to also be where they are on their path without feeling the need to change them or reacting to them or their actions. I find this part of my spiritual journey particularly key in keeping me focused. my own journey is ultimately all that matters for I'm the one who has to live with myself.
You will always encounter people on our path who may be rude, aloof, unfriendly, or just plain mean spirited toward you . When this happens, I remind myself that I can only control what I can control and others' preconceptions of me are out of my hands. I have this saying that I think about every time I encounter a person who for whatever reason has written me off before they've even spoken to me. The thought is, "You'd love me if you knew me." Equally, in times when I experience a deep dislike of someone I do not even know, I also remind myself how I do not know this person and maybe once I knew them, I'd surely like them too.
My journey for example, has taken me so many places it would make your head spin. If my own humble path has an amazing story to tell, surely others' stories also carry just as many twists and turns and its own weight in learning experiences. As the saying goes, 'life is stranger than fiction'. You can live life open and allow others to teach you about humanity and yourself or you can live your life cushioned by your preconceptions with a proverbial wall surrounding your true self and learn nothing......the choice is yours.
We love to go hiking. This past Sunday we spent 2 glorious hours in the park. When you enter the park from the Connecticut Avenue south of Van Ness you climb down a very steep set of paths. Once you get to the bottom, there is a small stream and many amazing rocks. You will never even think you are in the middle of DC.Nora and dad snacking on raisins and cereal.
Luke throwing a boulder....so much fun.
Nora on her own.
She found MUD!
Been leading a cooking class for my son's class which makes kids come home and still want to cook...so I let them cook.......check out the very crazy resultsSoy milk and pasta sauce?
I dare you to take a sip...
"No you try it!!"
That was actually good!
I just can't.
When I was searching for a teaching job 2 years ago I ran across a charter in Harlem, NYC that is considered fairly 'successful'. During the phone interview process I was informed about the hours (stay very late once a week and work 9 hour days for higher pay) and the calendar days (July to August; no summers really). I was also informed that I'd be expected to go on a mandatory 4-day or a week-long retreat with other staff member at some campus nearby. I put on the brakes hard and fast and asked, "what if you have a family?, I can't go on a retreat and leave my family, my daughter is only 1". She sounded puzzled and annoyed, and said she would have to get back to me on this one for they have never had that problem before. Never had that problem? Have a staff with family!!? Gee, I immediately wondered if I'd be the oldest person there.
This experience made me reflect upon my own charter years. No wonder some charters do so well; it all made sense. They hire young teachers not because they are fresh and vibrant and 'unjaded', but because they can work LOOOOOONG hours and have no family and can commit fully to the task at hand. I use to work for a charter in DC (SAIL) for four years; that was BEFORE I had children or was married. The hours were not as long as the charter above, yet, the expectations were literally blood and tears; and believe me I did bleed and cry often. They did not ask you to stay late, but it was clear that you needed to meet certain expectations to remain. We worked with children with special need and a high number of at-risk kids who often were not succeeding in the public schools, and it was incredibly hard work. I can't deny the energy amongst the teachers about the dire importance of our task was very palpable and sometimes addicting; perhaps that is what kept us going for as long as we did. I actually miss the strong camaraderie we all shared in that environment. it was like bonding in war times. Yet, (and there is always a big YET) at no other job was I spit on, kicked, or expected to restrain out-of-control violent children on a daily basis. This was literally blood and tears. Needless to say, it was a high burn-out situation and i could not wait to get out of there once I got pregnant. The stress level was enormous and not conducive to a long-term emotional stability required for parenting. Most teachers were there for at most 4 or 5 years and after that they were ready to move to a more humane working situation. The people who have stayed behind are of course, not yet married and without kids.
Therefore, of course your kids will do well at a charter. We are practically raising them. They are with us 9 ours a day and sometimes longer, they don't even get to spend summer at home with you. Hey, I would not even be surprised if part of the job description was that parents could call you anytime of the night as if you were a second parent and had no other life but being a teacher. Now this is not a sure solution to our nation's problems, it might look like it is, but it's not. Young overworked teachers who will want OUT after 5 years once they are married or have kids is not a solution to our country-wide public education issues; it is a very weak and small band aid, yet, not a solution by miles. Don't take my word for it, go to any charter school that requires long hours and 3-day retreats and see if you find the majority of teachers to be married with small kids or without kids or with older kids? I bet you will find the majority are teachers who have plenty of time to spare and no small children at home.
My big questions are then,
* What does this do to the teaching prifession as a whole?
* Does experience count any more?
* Does this replace having to actually deal with the social inequitied that create such troubled children?
* Doesn't this mean we ultimately just want teachers to raise our children fully, and what then should be the role of the parent?
Would you rather rule through control or respect?
Let's think about this.
Control gives you power
but it's the type of power
that must be continuously tended,
Plus, if you care what others think about you,
it's not a pretty revelation
to rule by fear
On the other hand, having other's respect versus control may seem less glamorous,
immediately less tangible.
Yet, ironically, it might just bear more power than being controlling could ever muster.
In fact, people will go through great lengths to do your bidding
to please you,
to search your advice,
it brings a rich sense of value to their lives.
When you impassion a fire in others' through your actions
you bring purpose to their lives
make then feel spiritually rich,
and all that is worth it's weight in gold.
Think of it in terms of an abusive husband vs. one you look up to because you think he's super smart.
In an abusive relationship
you might follow one's ideas and commands
purely based on fear.
On the other hand, in a relationship
where you may think your husband is super smart,
you might follow what he says from sheer adoration
I am so into everything natural, from no makeup to natural tones clothes. So when I ran into these shells I had collected at Jones beach in NY I just had to make a necklace with them....I chose water related colors for the beads. the shell is about 2 inches long.
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. ...-Bruce Lee
I am not one of those adults that you meet who gripes about their youth not being a bed of roses. I can certifiably say that I would not want to go back to my childhood, but that does not mean I would want it erased either for such lessons learned from such experiences have opened so many new doors that it almost feels like part of the grand plan of my life; as if it was all meant to be just so.
Growing up, I quickly learned that sometimes the authority figures everyone admires and adores are not the saints they are painted to be. I witnessed these scenarios enough to know that not all truth that is put out there IS truth; not all that we see, hear or told is truth. As a grown woman I could not be more thankful to such experiences for it has allowed me to connect with what we all call 'the underdogs' in every situation. These peaks into the secret lives of seemingly benign individuals has forced me to disconnect from their ideas and beliefs and propelled me to keenly develop an inner world in which I rely heavily on my instincts, my own experiences and own inner voice; but most importantly my own understanding on any given situation.
So when navigating through a political situation for example, there are people who advocate for themselves and ones who advocate for the larger whole. I have come to see that people who advocate for the greater good have often been the 'underdog' themselves. People who take a more humanistic approach to all interactions tend to have experienced hardship and suffering in their lives and have somehow 'worked through it'. I have also come to notice that people who have experienced hardship, and have not proactively dealt with it emotionally fall under the category of the ones who advocate for themselves.
So as a parent, I want my children to also adopt this unique humanistic approach towards other humans without going through all the same hardships. In order for them to develop this flexibility of spirit and this ability to work past even the smallest of hardships, we ourselves must not define or label ourselves by the pain we have suffered. We also must show enormous flexibility and poise when dealing with simple everyday problems. I once had a student who told me she loved her dad because he volunteers at a homeless shelter. Children have this innate ability to absorb and utilize all situations in their world as learning experiences, share with them all your tools in your toolbox. Before you know it, they will too be brave, speak up for the weak and fully believe they have the ability to change their world.
I was in graduate school when the concept of a 'data-driven schools' began to take hold of the entire nation. The basic gist of this movement is that numbers should be a big if not everything in the conversation on education; a basic input-output model. You test before, then after and the results are calculated and voila, we have more numbers that tell us something meaningful about the kids/teachers/schools and then we work from those numbers to move forward...but only based on those numbers.
yes, BUT (there is a HUGE BUT here)....let's stop a minute. As a mother of two small children in the system I have the right to have a huge say here, and here it goes.
Let's look a minute at why we began this obsession with data to begin with. We wanted to help kids do their best and the right left brain folks in charge thought this was a sure solution, hey it works everywhere else doesn't it...in factories, in wall street' makes total sense. Good intentions, yet the overall move towards testing and placing a number or standard next to each child's experience may have not helped children learn better. Yes, we have more data than you can ever imagine.
But, have we helped children love learning more? Have we inspired them to want to learn on their own? Could this over-focus on numbers change the way we teach? I think for good teachers who follow a certain rhythym and pace, yes, it has changed the way they teach. I think for teachers who want to do more than just teach a set of standards, yes, it has changed the way they teach; and not in a positive way.
I remember the days when professional development days meant we got to learn new creative skills to teach the material. They were a hub of peer inspiration and refreshing all on its own; they were the highlight of teaching. You walked away refreshed, loving what you did for a living, loving your kids. In this obsession with data we have left behind a very important ingredient that has made all the difference to so many before us; the inspiration of the passionate teacher. The passionate teacher is the most dangerous weapon there exists on earth. You can change the course of a child's life with just a few words...and that cannot EVER be measure by some test. Unfortunately, this type of teacher is a lost commodity in the numberzz craze. The amount of control and strict nature required in teaching now makes it unpalleatable to the inspirational teacher.
And now the famous learning standards. I teach them and follow them religiously because it's my job. Yet, let's think about this document for a minute. We all tout the standards as if they have been handed to Moses on a tablet and as a mother who wants my child to experience 'the world' it has a limiting aspect embedded in it that can also deflate the inspirational teacher. You can't just take the kids to the opera anymore without having to doubly justify it with some learning standards. AS IF all that was good and wholesome were encompassed in the learning standards and everything else was complete rubbish. AS IF we taught anything external to it, it would be some horrific error in teaching practice.
As a 37 year old women who has had her life improved and changed many-a-times by things not in the standards, I must say loudly that there are plenty of things in life that can be life-changing, life-improving, life-enhancing that are not encompassed within the learning standards. After all, the learning standards were developed by people, just like you and I, imperfect people as the late Howard Zinn would have you think. So this idea that we MUST contain all school life within the learning standards is a bit comical since we have no way of knowing what will ultimately inspire someone to choose their career path....something as 'silly' as a social justice project might just change the course of history, something as seemingly insignificant as seeing you own work on a wall can also change the course of ones life.
My school experience BEFORE graduate school has always been poor. it was not until I went to graduate school did one professor opened my eyes and allowed me to see that I was a learner. That I was not stupid, but that I just needed to be taught a certain way in order to learn. I waited 28 years to feel like I was smart. Since schools' focus are more and more on the 'bottom line' and grades and scores, we must be ever so careful not to attach a child's worth to their grades. High grades do not always mean monetary success, just as low grades does not translate to monetary success.
But as we turn schools into business-like systems there is less and less room for natural flow of anything. child-led anything has gone the way of the dinosaurs and it's now all serious. ....hence they have the right terminology coined with education such as "race to the top". "tough on education." It's now a war and all involved are super serious; especially non-educators.
On any radio or TV conversation on education you will NOT see a teacher represented, instead a rich person or a business person will be invited instead to express his militaristic views on why education is failing....and of course we all know why that is......, say it with me, bad teachers!! (I'm being sarcastic). Teachers are shut out of any and all conversations on education and rules and regulations are handed down like manna from god. Why is this? Why are we not part of the conversation? is it because it's a woman profession and we can't possibly be trusted to have answers? Notice how the people on the very top resemble a CEO or the head of a bank, lacking all people-skills, warmth or human qualities. I just saw a televised firing of a principal by Michelle Rhee and was sick to my stomach. it's no wonder there are no people like me in education. I have feelings. It's a clash between a woman's way of doing things and a man's way. Teachers need to stand up for themselves and speak up and lead the way on their own battleground. You can't just sit there and be twisted around like a pretzel, complain to each other and do nothing. it is a battle, we were not invited.....but hey, it's happening in our own stomping ground so who cares if you were not invited.
In the end I am a great teacher I know it. I see myself 30 years ago in every one of these children and everyday ask myself what is most important? I teach to inspire others to become brave, thoughtful, thinking and self confident human beings. There is not one aspect of my day that has not been purposefully crafted. Not one word out of place. I look t each child in the eyes and see them, acknowledge them; stop to hear. In the end, the best gift I would have ever given them is how they were made to feel in my classroom.....no left-brain standardized test or evaluation can test the power of life-changing inspiration or words. You feed the spirit with inspiration and that has the potential to change the world.
let's just hope that enough great teachers are left standing once this numberzzz craze has long faded. in the meantime, stand up, and value your own journey enough to speak up too.....
We only have now,
I look into your eyes,
Smell your breath as you come in for one of your ever-so-soft princess kisses.
I drift off thinking about the woman you will be one day,
I know there is so much more to you than your 27 pounds
attempting to taking it all in
Not drifting to the past or the future
feel a tinge of anxiousness
struggling to focus you while also trying to secure the future
and bring back the past
On the picture on the wall I see you smiling back at me
only a few months old,
how did we get HERE so fast?
I fear I may blink again and you will be graduating
or moving out
or getting married
I take in a deep breath and again focus on your perfect tiny face
Ironically I missed half of what you said while worrying about missing 'this'
Ultimately, all we DO have is now
I take another breath and this time I am here
with you my most precious gift
no one else exist but us two
I'm listening to your humorous voice, taking in your smile and breathing in your soft hair.
Aside from getting a Masters in early childhood special education, it took me being a mother to see that teaching early childhood is not just a dumb-down-version of teaching older children. It has a world of its own, a language of its own and MOST importantly, a pace of its own. Small children do not conceptualize anything at a young age, so everything they learn needs to be concrete and tangible and applicable to their own immediate world and possibly connecting with their imagination as well. Knowing this, I can spot bad practice a mile away.
Now having taught young children for over 13 years, having earned two Masters in childhood education and most importantly having two young children under age 5 you bet I have very clear and strong ideas of what works and does not work for children. After all, these are my kids that will ultimately be affected. Which brings me to my son's class.
I just attended open house for my son's kindergarten class and was absolutely in awe of the amount of thoughtfulness and application of early childhood principles I saw there. The teacher focuses the children heavily on class cooperation and working together as team members to solve problems. As a mother of a particularly shy and homesick boy this was very reassuring.
The constant and consistent exposure to core ideas, principles and experiences was planned and very deliberate; every experience seemed to be utilized as a learning experience. I could not have been happier. In addition, my son has become much more confident in himself and eagerly looks forward to his weekly sharing times.
I love this agreement. It has everyone's signature on it. Again, why can't we do this in our own adult world? How often are adults breaking these rules? wouldn't that be fantastic?
Again. I love all the emphasis on social emotional skills. The kids get to share every week. They get their own day and each child gets to be heard. AND AGAIN, as adults we could too benefit from days of sharing. how many people do we work next to who might have amazing stories but we are too wrapped up in our lives to open up and listen. Remember listening is the best gift we could give anyone....try it....don't interrupt, interject, correct.....just listen....it's therapeutic.
Math center. I am buying these for my son as we speak.
I think we all would be amazing at math if we were able to use manipulatives for as long as possible.
Respect. Kids get to save their creations for some time. When I saw this the first thing that went through my mind was, "why not?"....and "how respectful"
concrete math....relevant to their lives.....
love this.....just respectful....simple, about their lives.....
I could not imagine having kids without having pets. Pets help my kids get an immediate sense of love without the use of words. It's uncomplicated, immediate and simple love; and on the spot. We have 2 sibling cats and a female African Grey parrot named Nugget who talks beeps, laughs, burps and farts nonstop. Obviously, our parrot is not 'cuddly' but she is absolutely a part of our family in every way. She provides an essential comic relief at times when we might be scolding one child, the parrot would barge in with the same exact words we are saying. But the fact that a parrot is saying them allows everyone to take a brief moment to laugh and lighten up the mood.
I read somewhere that a school district (not far from DC) hires 'fresh unjaded' teachers. When I read this article I laughed out loud. 'UNJADED?, FRESH?'. I knew what these were code words meant but it did not surprise me one bit.
13 years ago, I too was a 'fresh, unjaded' teacher. I did not have the priority of a family. I worked until 7pm daily creating my 'model' classroom. And although I only got paid to work until 3pm, it felt wonderful to put in all that effort into making everything impeccable; it was my life. In addition, back when I was a fresh, unjaded teacher I also did not question policies, ask questions or dare shake the boat. I did not even know what the teacher union's role was despite the fact that I paid into it monthly.
Just to demonstrate how absurd this whole idea is let's apply this concept to any other profession for a minute. What is your hospital presented their surgeons as FRESH and unjaded? Now that does not give me much confidence. I'd take a chance on seasoned surgeon any day no matter how jaded they might be. Would you rather have a seasoned dentist or a fresh one? Would you rather have your c-section be performed by a fresh midwife or a seasoned one.
Only in teaching does the idea of a seasoned teacher presented as jaded and the idea of FRESH hailed as more important than experience. Anybody with an ounce of common sense will know that MOST seasoned teachers are not unjaded. Teachers that have been teachers for years have found a way to not allow the everyday troubles from affecting them in any way that depricates their quality or energy. Yes, there are some teachers who might not be as effective as others (as in every other profession), yet, 'jadedness' is not a common affliction of a seasoned educator.
But having a family has changed the way I see employment. As the popular phrase goes, I use to 'live to work', now 'I work to live.' I absolutely love my job and would not want to be doing anything else than teach art to young children. I dedicate 120% of me while at work. I do more than is humanly possibly within the 8 hours I am there. But beyond that, I do not feel my job deserves my entire life in order to do it right. Plus, I have two children whom we chose to have and vowed to actually raise ourselves. Which translates into dedicating a lot of hands-on time in building them as human beings; making them know they are worthy of our time.
So next time you hear a district or a local article tout "fresh, unjaded" teachers as the next best thing since sliced bread, raise an eyebrow or two. Ask yourself why only in the education field does experience count against you and in every other profession it's a positive attribute.
While I was pregnant with my first son who is now 5, my husband confessed to me that until our pregnancy he has never noticed one pregnant women; itwas like they had never been in his radar. I first did not believe him. "A fully grown man? never seen a pregnant women?" Surely that was not possible. But he was dead serious. It's no surprise that new life experiences ultimately open up new types of relationships and social possibilities as our pregnancy did for him. Suddenly, he saw pregnant women everywhere; in the market, in the elevators, next door, etc.
Similarly, after being the first woman to get pregnant in a teaching staff of fairly young single colleagues, I too noticed new types of people that I had not even noticed before; younger mothers, older mothers, and even grandmas. Having a 'family' opened me up to all new types of people and new ideas. It was the Renaissance of my life....a deep soulful awakening to all of humanity.
I am not surprised therefore when there are people in my life whom I see daily for over a year and choose to not address me in even the most mundane of pleasantries. I get it and do not spend a minute chewing it. For I too use to be there and know it's not an intentional type exclusion, but a purely experiential consequence of of a young mind. I too use to see and read the world through my own vocabulary and ignore all the other 'life' that revolved around me. It's what youth is all about in America and that is what we do as a 'modern' culture.
The fact that two people lack social or familial situations in common use to not be an impediment for social connection. Yet, in America it seems to be a huge and almost impenetrable wall for most. Although I know better than to take this situation personally, I find this a very sad and unfortunate consequence of an ego-centric American culture which emphasizes competition and cheap leadership based on pushing others down in order to elevate the few. Each generation misses out the gifts and expertise from the last generation and exists absolutely disconnected from one another. In addition, each new fresh generation dispossesses the last from its most valuable gift, experience, by simply ignoring it. YET, by doing so also sets in motion how they themselves will be treated when they too become 'old and wise.'
I live with my family in an 850 square foot apartment. This is what my living room looks like when I get home from work every day.You could say she definitely has her own style going.
Every night we take them all apart. Put all the pieces back into the crates and like a worker bee she's at it again the next morning.
And, no...it's not in the side somewhere where it's not in the way....it's right in our pathway. I know there will be a time I miss this....I am absolutely enjoying it in all it's glory.
My daughter, who is three has been very obsessed with her princess dresses these days. There is literally not one day where she does not wear one of her pink, purple or white cake dresses to run the simplest of errands. One can no longer just 'slip something on the kids' and run out to take out the recycling. No!! Princess must not only put on her huge taffeta dress, but also buckle on her sparkly red shoes.
Regardless of the fact that she is only 3 years old and her reasons for wanting to be a princess are as pure as mountain water, I have been getting some very colorful reactions to her choice of dress. I have had people smile huge smiles and extend a few words of warmth her way as we pass by, and on the other hand, I've had people comment about how 'distorted' it all is; insinuating somehow that it's an imbalance and an unhealthy dependence on looks that could do nothing but damage the child in the end.
Having attended an all-girl's high school and an all-woman's college I am no stranger to all the rhetoric behind what a 'progressive' woman should and should not do to escape the fangs of oppression. I had once, in college, even subscribed to a strict 'feminist' ideas of not shaving my legs, refused to wear makeup and dresses. But it was very soon after that I realized I did not need to do or cease doing anything to prove I am a 'modern woman'. I can still shave, wear makeup, cook dinner. The very freedom to choose what lifestyle is the goal we all should aim towards as a mature and free society. Being aware of oppression towards woman does not require one to abandon womanhood as spelled out by the mainstream society. It happens that not only liked, but I LOVED to shave my legs, I loved wearing eye makeup and dresses and skirts and I did not feel an ounce of oppression from following my choices.
Therefore, when I see my daughter wanting to wear a dress that looks like a cake every single day I allow and openly encourage her CHOICE to do what she pleases with her body. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her following her own creative ideas of what beauty is and trying to match it through her wares.
I am not in the least worried about her princess obsession possibly causing any imbalances in her life. Ultimately, the MOST important factor in raising children successfully has nothing to do with clothing or makeup but the amount of quality time dedicated to the parent-child relationship by the parent. Kids know they are loved, wanted and of value the more time a parent dedicates to them. You could give your child millions of dollars, or give them everything they could ever ask for all the way up to a free college education. But it's only when you put in some hard time with this child that they KNOW they have value. It is the golden gift and only a parent has the touch or the ability to give it.
We are sure that one day she will be a strong woman with very clear sense of her own strengths physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically because daily we prioritize spending time with her (and her brother) over anything else in the world.
Nothing else is as important as "us" functioning as a family, and they know it. All other factors are water under the bridge.
Complaining, complaining, complaining.
How useless it is to complain, UNLESS..... Yes there is a HUGE 'UNLESS' here we cannot miss and one which makes ALL the difference.
Unless you do it right there, right then
Without fear or baggage
without mincing nervous words
or doubting ones intentions a million times over
to the very person who caused the injury
to the very situation in which it began
I hardly ever complain for GENERALLY if I am unhappy about you
YOU KNOW IT
fast and easy.....cut it like butter.
How futile and draining to spread discontent yet fear confronting its source with resolve
Is it better being killed while fighting
or laying there....waddling in fearful, quiet discontent?
I don't believe in turning the other cheek
or thanking one for being rude
as if there were a lesson rudeness could teach us
I agree, 'bumps' on the journey is an opportunity to learn,
But in not respecting our own discontent and keeping it muffled
we can't change anything, not in us, or in them.
So next time you feel stepped on, or pushed, or stomped
do it firmly, yet kindly
do it decisively, but without ugliness in the mix
You might just feel better about yourself
and allowed the other to
know how to treat others better.