Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rant warning! The teacher I never want to be

Here I am today on a rant, rampage, a soapbox. Today I had an experience that I hope I never forget. I experienced (not the first time, but I could really do without this experience again) being on the receiving end of being talked down to by a teacher. My child's teacher. If this teacher was actually trying to recruit me to drive her point home, well, she failed. My first thought was, "if you talked to my child in this tone/manner, no wonder she didn't respond well!" I didn't say that out loud. But I was appalled and outraged that my child was belittled. Called out publicly in class and embarrassed and then the tactic of trying to intimidate and talk down to me to get me to comply. *sigh* Today was certainly educational. I have had some situations recently when I've had to bring behaviors to parents attention via phone. I hope and pray that in my own frustration and nervousness I haven't given parents the impression that I think I am better than them or that I don't care about their student. Holy smokes, I never want that to happen. Today reminded me that there's a parent side to every story too and that this child that is causing disruption today in my class, is someone's precious child who they worry about, long for, and love. A child that they entrust me with every day and give me the charge of encouraging them and cajole them into being the best, most successful version of themselves that they possibly can be.

Parents of my students, if I have taken "a tone" with you, or treated your child like less than the precious gift from heaven that they are, I am very sorry. I wake up daily remembering that I am blessed and very fortunate to teach your children. I love them and I know that you are working very hard to be the best parent, caregiver, provider possible. I know that it is no easy charge. I appreciate you so much. Thank you for sharing your child with me and trusting me to teach them.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Profiling..... we all do it. I do it. And I abhor people who judge based on what car you drive or judge your intelligence based on what clothes you wear.

In fall, we wrecked our van. Well, a very large deer ran out in front of us and did some Olympic quality gymnastics over the top of our vehicle. So.... we began driving our old vehicle, a 1998 Saturn. But it is on it's last leg. So... we are driving the van again. It now has a beat down hood that ties shut.

We stayed late to view my daughter's art at the 6th grade art show the other night. Upon leaving, my daughter realized that she would not make the commute home, she needed to visit a restroom. So we stopped a reputable grocery store. And I waited in the car. As I waited, the security guard makes sure to pass back and forth in front of my vehicle and he actually stopped and waited until I looked up and he could make eye contact with me. Just making sure I knew he was watching me.

I was furious. If I was driving an SUV without any wrinkles.... But I wasn't. As my fury subsided, I realized that I do this all the time. Cars with a different color panel (fender, hood, door), cars that have been wrecked that haven't had body work done, cars that smoke..... I chunk those poor souls in the drug user category immediately.

Every day I learn something about myself. Sometimes it's not so pleasant or comfortable.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sometimes "aha" moments are not that exciting or liberating

I'm very passionate about education. And giving kids second and third and so many more chances. I was part of a community meeting this week to discuss this very thing. And it was a great discussion. Most of the people involved in the justice system want the same thing, to see these kids make positive changes and to have a chance at life as an adult.

Then I came home. And I pulled into my driveway. Facing the litter strewn mess that is my neighbors yard. Knowing that the frequent visitors are not stopping in just to say "hi." The constant stream of a traffic and profanity is discouraging at the least. Aggravating and frustrating for sure.

I don't feel the same about this situation. I have some very uncaring desires for my neighbors. I would like to see them locked up and never be paroled. My desires are purely selfish. If I would teach those kids, I would automatically shift my focus and realize that I cannot expect them to behave in a way that has never been taught to them or introduced to them.

So why do I expect this from their parents? I know a little about the situation. I know that no middle-class values were ever taught here and that the kids who are parents now were probably targeted by teachers and law enforcement as "bad kids" and have probably never ever had a caring adult pulling for them to get clean or live a socially forward life.

But as the nieghbor of a drug dealer and hoarder's house, I don't feel compassionate. I want this blight to disappear.

Today I am aware of my hypocrisy but I do not know the answer or how to solve it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Coffee is a spiritual experience

I love coffee. I love all the "poems" about coffee. Because without coffee I am not a nice person. I am cranky and tired and put out. Not to mention the headaches. So this morning as I sat here sans coffee, my brain would not engage, no topic was forthcoming, no rants or passions or must-share-right-now thoughts bubbled up. Because before coffee.... nothing much matters. I mean, if my child were in distress, I would still take her to the ER. But I might not notice stop signs and other cars. It might be a wild ride.

This image sums up all the good in life. Sunshine and light.... a new day dawning... and coffee. The sweet elixir of life.

This is (of course) my favorite image. It is mine. My coffee this morning. In my favorite mug at the table in my very own home. I could write an entire blog post to my mug. It is not too big, too small, too clunky, too thin. It is just right. It is large enough to actually use, but holds the heat enough that I enjoy drinking from it. My favorite mug was a tattered and torn disaster until my lifelong best friend found 4 of them on ebay and got them for me. So this Easter Sunday morning while my family contemplates the resurrection of Christ, I sit and sip and contemplate the meaning of life and the love of good friends. Stopping to smell the coffee can be so much more than just coffee. It is my meditation. My time. My refreshing. And in spite of a my fear that I might sound irreverent, I must say, a spiritual moment. My time with my coffee is sacred. Blessed. Beloved. And it is no small thing. I know why I love coffee and images it stirs up. It is peace and calm and energy. All rolled into one. Good morning world. You are so much more appealing after I have had coffee.

This is the slice of my life today.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spiritual Unlearning

I wanted to title this before I wrote it, give it a direction. But that is not happening today. So often blogging takes on a life of it's own. Today there is unrest in my soul. And I want to move that from inside to outside. Put it in print and out of my head/heart. But I don't know what path my writing will take, hence the unrest. So today is blog first, title later.

As the Easter season approaches I am taken aback at the changes in my soul, in my core beliefs, over the last year or more and how this affects my ability and desire to celebrate Easter. I don't really have a desire to go to church this year. I am conflicted. Some of this is because I don't have a "church home" anymore. And that's a topic in and of itself.... church shopping is hard work. Finding a place to land where you might be willing to expose your inner self enough to build relationships and worship God to the best of your ability.

I believe that there is a God. A source. Absolutely. I believe I'll never understand it. and yet. I want a God that I can understand. Because I can no longer believe and understand a God who doesn't meet us where we are at. That isn't my experience. I was raised in an extremely conservative environment. Homosexuality is wrong. That is the biggie. The game changer. But there are other extreme stances that I can no longer support. Those hateful things said about people who are poor or on welfare. But the sexual "lifestyle" view is the one I can no longer swallow. Maybe it's because my kids are not just supportive of people who are different from me, but two of them struggle with sexual identity (one has not figured out who she is.... at 11, I don't think she should know that, and the other one, well, I would say it is not figured out because when she talks about knowing who she is, it is like shifting sand, always changing. That is why I use the word "struggle"). And I think God loves them with a feet-on-the-ground kind of love. I think they are loved in a deep and personal way. Not from the other side of some metaphorical chasm all the while wagging a judgmental finger and saying, "I love you, but I hate your lifestyle...." Really? Because the people who love me to the point of making me want what they have.... they just love me. Where I am at. They may not be cheering about every decision I make, but they aren't going to "lovingly mold me" with hate and judgment. I will no longer want to to hear what they have to say.

So I'm aware that in so many ways I am saying that because my beliefs are changing I am looking for different people. People to commune with. But I also don't know if I still think that Redemption comes from one man nailed to a tree. Because I'm told that if I do believe that, I believe that mental illness is a sin and suicide will result in eternal damnation. If I do believe that I am creating a chasm between myself and some of the people I love the most.

I am to the point that I believe in Good. But what form that takes, I just don't know.

That's the slice of my life today.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Slicing my way through....

Today I am fighting the guilt of not being a consistent slicer. I think.... maybe I should give up. Maybe I'm not a writer after all (what? wait. I know better). Maybe.... *sigh* Okay, I'll just write and not worry about all the days I missed, all the experiences that were not remembered.

Writing about the sadness, melancholy and lack of hope is often the easiest thing for me. It is more difficult to put into words the hope and promise of things that are going well. I read the quote of the day. It talks about how we choose what we write about. Many people say I write like I speak. Yikes. That is a little bit scary. But I know there is truth there and it's not all bad. Agree or disagree with my point, it is usually pretty easy to consume. If you can follow bunny trails that is.

Today I am thinking of those in my life that I have gratitude for. The many people who chose to see the good and not give heed to the bad, the small, the obsessive qualities that plague me and have the power to render me ineffective. I am so grateful for those people. I have such a beautiful life today. And it's because not only do some people choose to see the good, they refuse to acknowledge the bad. Now, I have some people in my life who have permission to point out the bad, to encourage me to take a second look, to acknowledge that my life is not coming out the way it could. But trust me, I focus on the mistakes often enough. I am pretty good about obsessing about how rotten I am doing. But when I can acknowledge the good, it takes my focus off of what is wrong. Then I can peacefully work on the less than good.

We've been talking about this in regard to students. I have this high hope that one day everything won't revolve about my belly-button. But what I realize right now is that all the healing things I've been talking about in regard to students, apply to me. 3 to 1 positives. Yep. Mostly I focus on my crazy insecurities and paranoia and how I should try to be more secure in my knowledge that I'm pretty good at my job and that I actually do have some skills. But the truth is, when people acknowledge me with specifics, I blossom. When people acknowledge me in generalities, it cheapens it and I jump back into my insecure pattern much faster! (light bulb moment.....) Our behavior incentive program talks about getting away from the generalizations of just saying "good job" or "way to go" (two of my personal faves). I am thinking.... why? Why do I need to be more specific? Then I saw it in regard to myself. OH.... now I get it! I also know that silence is not the same as a positive. It is just silence. And it lets the voices in my head go crazy. And they should never be left to their own devices. They are really quite crazy. Hmmmm.

Life lesson? Yep. Is it that I'm crazy? Nope, that lesson has already been learned. But do I see how important it is to give specific feedback on positive interactions? Yes I did! Am I learning that silence is not golden and will in fact lead to more insecurity? Yep.

I love you Safe and Civil Schools. But I don't always love the way you reveal my own soul to me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Today was a good day

Today was a good day. Everything did not go right. Everything did not go as planned. It was not a perfect day. But today. I had experiences that balanced the negatives and gave me reasons in my heart to rejoice.

This is my week to have hallway duty, observing/monitoring kids in the hall, helping regulate noise and activity. And there's a kid. A kid I want to "reach." But I don't know him too well yet. I just keep trying to take down a brick at a time as I interact with him every chance I get. Today in the hall, he didn't read, which is the expectation. But he DID listen when I asked him to move away from a posse of boys that would likely equal trouble for this boy. So I gave him a link for our positive behavior chain. And I said something encouraging like, "keep it up buddy!" or some such similar phrase.

Then I saw this guy at our lunch recess. And he came running up to me and hugged me. tight. and I felt so happy. I had made it past the wall around his heart.

Poor guy. He just was not having a successful day. moody. angry. sulking. it's a razor thin edge. trying to walk it and and reach out and not push a kid over in the wrong direction, trying to pull them back from the places we don't want our kids to land. So I reached out. Again. and again. No less than 3 times in that 15 minute recess. *sigh*

But we part ways, I with my class, him with a helper sent to get him to come back inside. Well, I did what I could at the time. It matters. i think.

 Now my class is headed to library. There's my friend in the hall. He looks directionless. He looks disheartened. "What's up dude?" "Nothin'. Sometimes my teacher lets me go for a walk to calm down." "Oh, are you having a bad day?" head nod. I say "yeah, I get it, sometimes it helps me to take a walk too. Do you want to hang out with us? I can ask your sub if you can come with us." I know that this guy isn't going to be in his realm academically in my room. I also know he isn't getting what he needs if he's out in hall. His eyes light up, he says, "I'll come with you guys." I say, "how about after library? I'll go check with the sub." I go talk to her. She is okay with it. I plan to go back to my class and be open to accepting my friend after library. But he's waiting. He wants to come to library with us. (insert shoulder shrug) "Okay" I say. He comes into the library with me. I send a note to his teacher so she knows where he is.

He helps, he assists, he does whatever my kids do.

We focused on some random kindness today. Peeps with a special bag topper that we made with love. And my friend made his for me. I feel so special.

Today was a good day. It was not perfect. Well, wait a minute, it came pretty close to perfect. I reached a kid, and I was appreciated in return. Life is good.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A tragedy and a life remembered

We recently had a national news sensation in our state in a little town near to me. And my friends lost a friend. I felt the loss. Because I didn't know the victim so much as I did know his wife. We used to take turns staying over at my besties house. Well, we overlapped. I lived out of state and when I would visit, I would stay at my friend's house. My dear friend, she is just generous like that. So.... when one of her friends lived out of town, working nights, needed a place to stay on the days she worked, she let her stay.... invited her, offered her home. So this friend would sleep there during the daytime hours and work at night. We slept there at night. Anyway... would I say we were super close? No. Did I know the wife of this victim? Yes. Do I take on other people's sorrow and wear it like a warm blanket? Yes.

I am an American consumer. A sensationalist. I am attracted to tragedy like everyone else. Or the news media wouldn't have such a hey-day (hay-day?) with tragedy. Being on-scene before it was safe. Crazy. What were they thinking?! But hey, they had a story to tell. You know why? We were buying. I am guilty. I had parent-teacher conferences that night. So I didn't know. Until a couple hours after the shootings.  And then I read my best friend's social media post: "Please don't call (blank) anymore. She doesn't know anything." And then I read on the news site: survivors have been notified, but not all of the families of those who passed away have been notified.  Then I knew. I was horrified. Sensationalized. I "had" to watch the news. (We don't usually watch the news.... we have a little antenna on the side of the wall that barely gets any reception at all, we live on Hulu and Netflix).

Overwhelming heartache and sadness. This man was younger than me. Not that I am super young, but I haven't hit the half-century mark yet. But the real tragedy is that his story was not ordinary. It was extraordinary. A person who turned his life around and dedicated his life to helping others. An addict helping addicts. But that's not all. Always helping. Not just other addicts. The truth is, he might have been able to run, to escape, but he was helping a gunshot victim and it cost him his life. Do I wish he'd have done something different. No. This is who he was. This was a beautiful story. A most "un-funeral-like" story. But the real story was a love story. That is the story that made me smile. and made me cry. and gave me hope. and broke my heart.

You see.... this is the part I understand a little bit. Being the one whose life has been a wreck, something and someone to steer clear of, a disastrous mess. Then pulling it together with some anonymous help and a lot of caring friends. Getting that lease on life that never seemed possible. Starting again. Not trying to be someone I'm not. But striving for the best me I can be. Uncomfortable? Yeah. Sometimes. Rewarding. definitely. But me.... I can barely build a friendship that lasts. I have a lot of baggage I've drug with me into my clean life. I have lot of baggage and some mental illness (depression and anxiety envelope me much of the time).  Romance? Well, I attract what I put out there (like depression, anxiety, paranoia), so I don't have the best results. Back to the story at hand though. That is why it is miraculous, beautiful and extremely tragic.

The stories that were shared, they are exactly what I remember. A guy who didn't lose his sense of humor, was ornery as could be, rough-cut, and a bit on the vulgar side. But he loved this girl. You can even see it in pictures. The love in his eyes. His whole body really. His body language changed when this girl was near to him. And I wasn't there at the beginning of the story. I came to know them somewhere in the middle of the story. But I know that there was love. That is what I remember. That is what was remembered at his celebration of life. And it made me so sad. Love like this doesn't come along that often. From where I stand, hardly ever. It doesn't make sense. And yet.... every single story shared was of a man who helped others. There's no doubt that his story is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Sadness for those he left behind. But a world that is changed because he was in it and because he found recovery and followed his heart. He gave back. He gave to the end and that is who he was. I want that. I want my obituary to read like that. Not tragic. But that I wasn't just mundane. I wasn't just ordinary. That I made a difference. That is what I pray for.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slicing through Life

I love Slice of Life time. Because sometimes I neglect writing. And I don't know why I get a crazy knot in my stomach. But then I realize "when in doubt, write it out." Ahhhh. Then I can breathe again. And I have all these opinions and hardcore ideas that I want to share with the world, but sometimes I'm overly opinionated and ruffle feathers. So here I am, writing on my recovery blog, the one I most often neglect, so that I can spout off the opinions of my soul, whether they are politically correct or not. And whether or not my district administration might approve or not approve.

So.... slicing. Today's inspiration is..... inspiration! Yay. I need positivity in my life (and... now I learn that positivity is not a word, well, I am using it anyway). In the classroom, in my own life, for my children, at home. There is no immediate end to my need.

Today I know that whatever I focus on, increases. So if I focus on what is wrong in my life, that is what increases. When I look at what is going right, that is what increases. I have a choice. I can't tell you if it is that the world really changes for me or if I just don't notice what I don't focus on. But when I focus on what is right, that is what increases. And I feel better. Happier. More free.

So here's to freedom today.