Category Archives: School

Simple

 I am a simple girl.  No, I am not a simpleton, I just like the feeling I get when I embrace the simple side of each new day.

I am struggling with a pretty big life-altering change right now, a heartbreaking change. I am trying to hold onto the simple parts of my day that give me peace; waking up with Emma snuggled into my side, hot coffee after my morning walk, clean towels fresh out of the dryer, a cold beer once my chores are done, the sound of her voice as I drift off to sleep at the end of each day; all simple.

More and more, I am in love with simple pleasures.  So many people claim to prefer the ‘simple side of life’, but rarely do I see them truly embrace it.  I am living simple right now, and hanging onto it with both hands.  I have all I need; a roof over my head, food on my table, a job, love and laughter. Change will come regardless of what I do to hurry it along, so I’m being patient with my life.  I don’t focus on what I don’t have because I know it will come in time. Right now, I find my happiness in the true calm of what I pull into my heart each day; each moment an important one, each action intended.

If more people would accept the simplicity in life’s design, we would have less greed, less waste, more compassion, and more calm. I’m doing my part; are you doing yours?

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Kids being kids?

 Bullying: the habitual badgering and intimidation of people perceived as weaker or less deserving of respect.

There is a ton of talk about the bullying of LGBT students in schools across the United States. Some people would have you believe that it isn’t happening, it’s just the insecurities of a certain group of people, and nothing more. Political figures would have you believe that the specific bullying of LGBT students doesn’t happen because those students are gay, it happens because kids will be kids.  I don’t agree. Bullying exists because some people in this world don’t like those who appear to be different from themselves.

Let’s think about this for a minute.  A bully is someone who picks on another person, either through emotional or physical intimidation, based on another person’s differences.  Now, knowing that, why is it so difficult to believe that children would act in such a manner?  Adults act like that, and we impart our perspective to the children in our lives every day.  I fail to understand why some people actually think that bullying is simply kids being kids.

We’ve seen this before…  In the 60s, the tension between blacks and whites reached an all time high.  Intimidation, hate speech, physical attacks, discrimination; all thrown onto a group of people because they were different, the minority.  Fortunately, after some time and serious struggle, laws were enacted to protect those individuals of difference.  Now move forward to 2012 and the ever-growing tensions between heterosexuals and homosexuals.  Intimidation, hate speech, physical attacks, discrimination; all thrown onto a group of people because they are different; the minority.

How is now different from then?   It isn’t.


Dear Parents,

Dear Parents of High School Students,

I am not your child’s friend.  I do not care if they like me.  This is not a popularity contest for me,  it is your child’s education.

I am not going to pretend your child’s work is exemplary, when it is actually sub-standard.  I demand, and expect, nothing but the very best effort from your child.  Helping your child is not synonymous with giving them the answers, so please explain to them that they will be expected to do their own work in my class. I do not condone laziness or irresponsibility; make sure they have a good breakfast and pack their backpacks with all the necessary items needed to be productive at school.

I do not want to look at the top of your child’s head for 45 minutes each day, so please make sure they get a good night’s sleep.  There is no reason to send your child to school unless they are fully invested in working, my time is far too valuable to be wasted on someone who is not interested in what I am presenting.  If your child is not capable of being present, both physically and mentally, then perhaps a different learning environment should be explored; home schooling is an option for every child.

I will give your child complete and brutal honesty about their work, their behavior and their commitment to excellence, and I won’t feel bad if it hurts their feelings.  I will not pretend their behavior is acceptable when it is grating on my last nerve.  I will tell them to be quiet when I am speaking.  When I address your child, I expect them to be accountable for their words and actions.  If they ask me a question I expect them to listen to the answer the first time it is given.  I do not  want to hear your child telling me that my decisions are not fair; a fair is a place you take a pig to win a ribbon, it has nothing to do with my classroom.

It is not my job to feel sorry for your son or daughter.  Every one of my students comes to me with a different plate of challenges, and your child is not more special than any other child in my class.  Please understand that just doing the work is not enough, it has to be done correctly.  You child must follow directions, or they will not succeed.   I will teach them.  I will motivate them.  I will encourage them to be their very best self.  I will be honest with them.  I will not take responsibility for your child’s failures, and  I will always give them full credit for their successes.

Although I am not your child’s parent, I am a parent.  I understand that the teen mind is a difficult thing to decipher, however I would ask that get on board with the following truth:  one day you will die, and if you don’t pry your kid’s head out of her ass now, they won’t have a hope in hell of making it on their own.  Tell them no, motivate them, hold them accountable, demand excellence, instill a firm work ethic, and be honest.  If you are not part of the solution to your own child’s problems in school, then you are actually part of the problem.

Sincerely,

Your Child’s Teacher


Insist

“When you must, insist.  Insist that you be given the opportunity to speak.  Insist that everyone be given the same.  Insist that they listen.  Insist that every viewpoint be given credence – no matter who presents it.  Insist on the truth; insist that people be willing to dig for it.  Insist that the people around you be civil and respectful of all beings.  Insist that they stop already with the jokes that aren’t funny and the compliments that compliment no one.  Insist on a square deal.  Insist that people look at you when they talk to you.  Insist on nothing less from yourself.  When polite isn’t quite enough and demanding seems over the top, simply, firmly, clearly insist.”  ~ Rachel Snyder

I insist that you be respectful.  I insist that you treat each other with dignity.  I insist you practice patience and compassion.  I insist you be your very best self.

Each day I insist my students practice the kind of qualities that breed tolerance and understanding.  They are not allowed to be critical of others based on appearance or preference.  They must challenge each other on the merits of their individual character, and leave behind the stereotypes and predispositions that cloud their judgement and reasoning.  They must.

To be a part of my class is a privilege and an honor, but it must be earned.  You must prove to me that you deserve to share in the experience I am going to give you, and if you are not interested in following the rules of my world, you will be dismissed.  My classroom is a haven for free thinking and self-expression.  No one will be criticized for their opinions or beliefs, and everyone will respect the differences of their peers.  You will encourage each other, and when one of you falls, you will help them along the way.  You will not give up on yourself or your classmates.

The rules are simple; be your best self, and expect the best from those around you.  I won’t have it any other way.


Forced Accountability

 I work with emotionally disturbed teens in an inclusive public high school.  The students in my          program have a myriad of emotional and mental disorders that often cloud their judgement, blind   them to their own actions, and cause them to verbally spew whatever thoughts pop into their head without any regard as to the consequences.  Their filters are broken, their reasoning is flawed, their egocentric attitudes are rampant.  In short, they can be a real handful.

Every now and then, a student comes along with a challenge to make me lose my cool; totally flip out.  Well, I am never one to back down from a challenge and I very seldom lose my cool, so you can imagine how a button-pushing trouble maker might feel upon entering my world.

Discipline has to be creative and requires a great deal of patience on my part.  I spend several hours a day de-escalating situations, draining off anger, and walking kids through each step of their tantrum until they are able to see the error of their ways and make amends for their actions.  My job is not for the faint of heart; it requires patience and a certain serial-killer kind of calm in order to deal with the continual onslaught of insults and attitude.

Now imagine, if you can, a classroom full of 14 year olds; that in itself might scare the shit out of some of you. Lesson underway, there is always someone in the room that feels their agenda should take precedence over mine. Not going to happen.  I pride myself on being able to keep a calm, productive classroom environment.  Disrespect, offensive behavior, hateful attitudes; none of it has any place in my classroom and my students learn that on day one.  No exceptions. No excuses. You will act like a decent human being or you will be asked to leave; period.

I move through my lesson, all the while growing increasingly irritated by the behavior of one young man in the middle of the room.  “Please stop the nonsense and return to work.”  My words don’t seem to be having any impact on him on this particular day and I see a battle of wills developing; something I try to avoid at all costs because I already know he is going to lose, and a teen that loses a battle of wills with an adult can be a dangerous creature.

After countless returns to this young man’s desk, multiple redirections and an exhaustion of my patience I dropped the hammer on him and gave him an ultimatum.  “Stop talking. Stop disrupting my lesson. Get focused on your work; or leave immediately.”

The melodrama begins. “Why are you always on my case?  I’m not doing anything.  I hate this class. Stupid dyke!”   Uncomfortable silence and shocked faces in the classroom.  Big smile on my face. Deep breath. Begin.

“I can see that you aren’t ready to discuss this situation calmly, so I’m going to ask you to go and collect yourself before this escalates into a situation that ends badly for you.  I’m giving you an out and I suggest you take it.  Please leave the room.”

Raising arms, pounding on the desk.  “No. You can’t make me leave.  I have a right to be here. I have rights.”

“I understand your need to express your emotions right now, but I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.  Please pick up your things and leave the room.”

“I fucking hate this class!”  No one says a word.  The entire class is uncomfortably shifting in their chairs, shuffling papers and shoving their noses into their books lest they become the next target in this young man’s tirade.

“You’re allowed to hate this class, but you’re not allowed to create chaos in here.  Again, you need to pick up your things and leave the room.”   He is running out of steam. No one is in his corner right now and he is starting to realize he is on his own with this activity.  He looks around the classroom for an ally and finds no one willing to join him.  The build up is stressful because I never really know how my students are going to respond once they realize they have lost; they are an unpredictable lot.

Quiet as a church at midnight. No one will look at him.  No one will comment.  No one will help him.  He is totally on his own and when he realizes that, he doesn’t know what to do.  His only option is to pick up his things and walk to the office, continually playing the scene over in his head, trying to make sense of what just happened.  It’s never my intention to ‘crush’ a student, but the idea that their outbursts of should be ignored and tolerated simply because they are bipolar or manic or schizophrenic is simply not an idea that I can wrap my head around.  Forced accountability is the only way kids will ever learn how to navigate through society appropriately. I understand that the unpredictable nature of mental illness has a tendency to scare people, but you need to remember that you have  the ability to make your behavior a predictable, and that will make all the difference.

How do I manage to walk into school each day, knowing what is waiting there for me?  I love my job.  I love my students.  They are smart, funny, creative, and they are counting on me to be the predictable force in their lives.