Archive for Teaching

For the Parents of the World

Dear parents,

Your child is a special snowflake.  I know that.  I know that there is no other child in the world with  your child’s unique combination of charm, intelligence, wit, good looks, and superhuman abilities to save mankind (saving them from what is still being determined).  I also know that there is no other child in the world with such wonderful parents.  Believe me, I know this.  You’ve told me this in not so many words multiple times. I fully submit that I don’t know how to do my job and  your recommendations are very important to my well being.  Thank you.

But see, here’s the deal.  Nobody’s perfect.  Believe me, I’m pretty much as close as they come (my mom told me so) and even I spilled my drink on the car mat the other day and managed to forget a VERY IMPORTANT appointment.  And also, your child has flaws too.  Now, hold on.  Drop the pitchfork for a minute and listen.  See, your kid has been doing some things in class.  Your child’s grades have also been dropping.  Woah!  Messenger.  MESSENGER!

Here’s the deal.  I called  you.  You know, so you could talk to your kid (because my talking isn’t working).  So your kid could stop the downward spiral and start living up to potential.  Special snowflake, you know.  And again, I just really want to thank you for suggesting things to fix his behavior.  Because, you know, my Master’s degree plus years of practical experience really just didn’t prepare me for the drama of dealing with children.  I mean, who KNEW that was a job requirement?  People really should be more clear about these things.  So, thank you so much for helping me figure out how to better accommodate your sweet, precious child.

I have a suggestion.  See, when a teacher calls to let you know The Nasties have possessed your child and rendered said child powerless to say no (because, we all know it’s not really their fault), then call the exorcist, cook up a batch of chicken soup, schedule an appointment with the doctor, schedule a rescuscitative trip to the Bahamas, really do ANYTHING.  Anything, that is, except tell the teacher off for “not calling sooner” (what was I supposed to do?  Call before there was a problem?).  Anything, that is, except suggest I try “moving your child’s seat” (I know, I know, all the other kids in the class are lousy, no good influences.  Which means no matter where I move them, it will be the same story.  Also, I already tried that).  Anything, that is, except saying that you want to reserve judgment until your precious little buttercup-pansy-pumpkin gets home and tells you their side of the story (well, I mean, this is actually totally fair.  Your child has no motivation to lie and I do).

I’m so sorry to disrupt your day and waste your time with my trivial, inexperienced, silly little complaints.  Please go ahead and schedule that meeting with the principal.  I undoubtedly deserve to be reprimanded for not seeing your daffodil as the unique gift to humankind that they are.  Believe me, I can see how very unimportant I am in comparison.  I get that now.  It was totally crazy of me to think otherwise.  Sorry again.  Resume pitchforking; I clearly deserve it.

Sincerely,

Snowflake’s Past, Present, and Future Teachers

UPDATE:  Parents, did you not get the memo?  I’m very concerned!!  Parents should never try such drastic measures as stopping their child’s allowance.  SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE!!!  This poor child 25 year old had to go to all the trouble of suing his parents because they clearly didn’t see him for the sweet innocent that he was.  The judge clearly didn’t see it either, although at least he required that the boy man be given some money.

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Passion

I might have had a little extra wine with dinner tonight.  Just some disclosure.  Still, that does not reduce the veracity of what I am about to say.  I had a professor in college my freshman year who taught the course “Science, Religion, and Reality.”  I took it hoping to connect my religious indoctrination with the scientific world (something I’d always had trouble reconciling) and instead wound up an Agnostic.  Yeah, it was a hard year but I wound up much happier and well adjusted for all the mental exercise.  My professor, one Patrick Derr, was the embodiment of the philosophical stereotype.  A lot introspective, focused on questions instead of answers, and a significant amount of boozy.  He used to bring a mug of coffee with him to each class which, halfway through the semester we discovered he liked to supplement with vodka.  Namely, the homemade vodka he had received as a wedding present when his daughter married a Polish man.

Back to me.  I had several goblets of wine tonight (what, I was making Coq au Vin and who wouldn’t imbibe when there was an open bottle of wine in front of them?).  Then, I ate dinner.  Then, I went on a long after dinner walk with Mr. Cookie during which he was much colder than I.

This year, if I can get my act together and if Mr. C can get a job, is the year we will probably start trying for kids (oof.  Or more likely kid).  Today, I had a very happy day of problem solving involving power tools and hand saws at the work day for the show I am currently stage managing.  Power tools make me feel like I have a purpose in life.  I had forgotten that until this show.  At one point, one of the actors who was helping me asked how I had gotten so good with building shit and I was really happy to tell him about my background as a Tech Theatre/English double major.  Everyone knows about the English crap, because I teach it.  But, let’s face it.  This year has been shit.  I’m exhausted.  These kids (I feel like) require a lot more energy and focus than past years and in some way it feels like my first year all over again (okay, not true.  Nothing will be as frustrating as my first year).  So, it felt really good to have someone be impressed by my prowess.

Back to the walk (damn.  If my students wrote with such crap transitions I would mark them own.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Most of my kids don’t float in the heaven of the grape).  I was talking to the Mister and randomly starting spewing about how I hope that no matter what, I want our kids to find their  passion.  I want them to find the one thing that makes them happy and fulfilled as long as it doesn’t  hurt society.  I never want to be the person who holds my kids back.  I want them to feel the same joy and excitement I felt today while wielding that circ saw and in giving directions to the two actors building the flat for the thrust.  That shit felt fucking validating, you know?

Yeah.  I hope you know.  I hope that all of you know what I’m talking about.  I hope all of you have something that gives you that rush, that intense joy, that feeling of belonging.  Because that’s why I’m supporting my husband in the decision to quit his job.  That’s why I know that one day when  he’s 60 years old he won’t leave because he’s not happy and feels unfulfilled.  Oh, heck yes.  Heck yes.  Find your passion, bloggy followers.  And don’t ever let it go.

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Password

For those of you I know for real, you can email me or comment for the password to the previous post.  I know I don’t usually password protect stuff, but there’s some really tough stuff in there that I don’t want the whole interweb to be party to on my mostly anonymous blog with pictures of me all over the place.

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Conference: 2010 Edition

Last year, I wrote a snarky post about parent teacher conferences and the misery of them.  This  year, I’m still feeling snarky but I also want to say a couple things before launching into my poking fun.  I know, it’s lame to add a “but,” especially before I’ve even started the darkly humored venting.  I have to say that, for every one parent who sucks my will to live, there are 10 who are awesome.  I like parents who show up for parent/teacher conferences for the most part.  I plan to be one one day.  The majority of them are loving, understanding people.  All of them are well-intentioned:  they want their kids to succeed.  How some of them go about it, though, brings a range of reactions from raised eyebrows to a fierce desire to bang my head against a brick wall.  Here we go.

Dear Helicopter Parent:

Do you hear that wooshing sound?  I think it might be the propellers, and I think it might be why you can’t hear a word I’m saying.  Your kid does not, as you claim, have “straight A+s in every class but mine (within which his grade was… less than stellar).  I know this because I can look his grades up.  Also, when we’ve confirmed that one of his issues is that he’s not doing the reading and failing/not passing in a lot of his homework, I’m questioning whether telling me I need to be more clear with them when they are supposed to do reading at home (what?  “Finish Chapter 3” on the board and verbal reminders aren’t enough?) and telling me I have to make sure he puts his book into his bag at the end of the day ALONG with giving him an EXTRA worksheet for every chapter when he can barely manage to finish the work I am giving him probably isn’t going to help much.  Motivation is an issue.  I’m not a magician.  Also, I’m sorry you’re not thrilled with his seat (up near the board).  But, as I’ve told you multiple times now, he chose that seat himself because he was having trouble focusing and was getting in trouble.  HE asked ME to put him there.  And you know what?  His behavior has improved.  Along with his grades so far this quarter.  Finally, I doubt he really believes I dislike him (which you triumphantly threw in my face as you were huffing out of my room).  If that was the case, why would he frequently stay after to chat with me about his BMX bikes and his other hobbies after getting extra help?  If I’m so nasty, why does he loves spending time with me after school?

-Banging my head against a wall,

Mrs. Cookie

Dear Mrs. Making Connections,

I think it’s laudable that you are trying to help your daughter as much as possible.  Really, it’s lovely.  And maybe she is a visual learner and watching the movie helps.  I had to smile a little when you, very seriously, asked me “Oh, so the book is more accurate than the movie?” after I told you that you needed to be careful, as the movie does not follow the book exactly (and contains many inaccuracies).  It’s not a historical documentary.  There is no more or less accurate.  There is accurate and not accurate because the movie came years and years after the book and was based on the book.  Take my idea to use the Venn Diagram to help you daughter understand that there are differences.  I promise it will help.

Full belly laughing when you leave the room,

Mrs. Cookie

Dear Mrs Life Navigationally Challenged Mom,

I’m so fascinated to hear about the 10 in long scratch on your arm and how it was caused by a baby kitten who attacked you and tried to “eat you alive” when you tried to pick up his siezing mother.  I really am.  Can we get back to your child because I’ve got a bunch of other parents who want to talk to me.

Never buying a cat with epilepsy,

Mrs. Cookie

Dear Red Headed Lady with the brown-haired husband and red headed daughter,

You give me hope to one day have a red headed child.

Hoping Mr. Cookie will give me a ginger,

Mrs. Cookie

Dear Bosnian Momma,

I love you and your delicious baklava and your awesome sons.  Keep it up, Captain.

One pound heavier,

Mrs. Cookie

Hmm.  I guess that wasn’t so bad.  G’night, all!

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Culture Club

Tomorrow is the Muslim holiday of Eid ul Adha.  I knew that Judeo-Christianity and Islam had many close ties, but reading about this holiday stunned me in showing just how close Islam and Judaism’s roots really are (ie:  two versions of the exact same story).  I knew there was a holiday tomorrow because of the large number of students asking me what they would be missing in their absence.  After school, two of these students (brothers, from Bosnia) stopped by my room to see what they could do to help me out and to let me know they’d be absent tomorrow.  These boys frequently stop in after school and straighten my desks or cut out Box Tops (did I mention I run the Box Top program for the PTO?) or clean desks off.  Today, there were a couple other kids in my room too already doing some of these things so I engaged them in conversation by mentioning that I didn’t know they were Muslim.

The younger boy got really quiet (the older one is usually quiet, so no change there) and bowed his head.  He then told me that he doesn’t like to tell people he’s Muslim because “ever since 9/11, [he’s] ashamed to admit [he’s] Muslim.”   I was taken aback by this.  I mean, I know there are hateful people out there.  I don’t know what cloud I was living on, but I just didn’t see that as a problem with our students.  Teachers, sure (and then, only a small handful).  But for all the things I’ve seen kids bully over in our school, religion has not been one I’ve noticed.

I really wanted to draw him out of his shell and learn more about the holiday, so I started asking questions.  Both boys resisted staunchly at first.  “You’ll make fun.”  “It’s stupid.”  “I can’t tell you, Mrs. Cookie, that’s not your culture.”  Both had serious concerns that nobody could possibly have a positive view of Islam who was not themself Muslim.  Both voiced frustrations about being bullied and teased since 9/11.  Then, fear and frustration turned to anger and the younger boy, always the talkative one, said “you know, it’s really not fair at all.  Those guys who did 9/11, they were not good people.  Muslims believe in keeping pure.  That means praying and not drinking or smoking or swearing and it especially means no violence.  You can’t hurt people!  And those guys hurt a lot of people.  That was wrong.”  I agreed and told them that throughout the course of history, there have always been people who do bad things and claim that their religions told them to do it or their god told them to do it.  I told them about the Ku Klux Klan (in mostly vague terms) and how they claimed the Bible supported their actions and beliefs.  And then, I told them that just like the people behind 9/11 who claimed that their religion demanded these actions of them, that they were a very small percentage of people claiming that faith.  Unfortunately, they were just the publicity receiving percentage.

After I finished this tirade, both boys seemed to warm up to me and I also noticed another girl (a young girl who listens more than she speaks and hears everything) sidling up to the desk.  She’s Christian and she was very curious, it seemed, to hear what I had to say and then to hear what the boys had to say.  So, at this point, I decided to ask the boys again to tell me about their holiday.  Now, they did.  They told me about how tomorrow they will go to the mosque and the imam will give a speech, after which they will go around and introduce themselves to new people with a gesture of respect and reverence.  They showed me how they pray (hands up, to receive God’s blessings, facing Mecca) and told me that after I sat like that for ten minutes, I would rub my hands on my face and make a wish (“like at your birthday, Mrs. Cookie!”).  Then, after the mosque, they will go around with their families and bring food to families, friends, and the elderly and sick (“especially our aunt with cancer.”).  I asked them what they will bring and was told baklava and this sort of meat roll (ack!  I can’t remember the word!).  Umm, I think I have a severe case of pneumonia coming on…

At this point, the other kids were asking questions and getting involved and both boys were lighting up under the positive attention.  It made me think.  Our school claims to be welcoming to all cultures.  We have one wall right as you walk in covered in graphic art of “Welcome” in all sorts of languages spoken in our school.  But, how many other kids feel like they’re on the periphery?  Misunderstood?

I want to start a Culture Club.  Mr. Cookie thinks I should call it the Travel Club and avoid all mentions of religion or food (oh my god, there has to be food!) to the admin, and then just let it happen… organically… in the course of regular discussion.  I was thinking I could maybe have an interview sheet for kids to ask their parents or other family if they don’t know the answers to certain questions about languages, traditions, food, special holidays, how/when/why their families came to the US, etc.  I think I would start us off the first week by talking about my family’s French heritage (safe, I don’t know any French kids in the school- just Moroccan, Haitian, etc so I wouldn’t be stealing anyone’s thunder).  I could model for them what a discussion would look like and maybe bring in some sort of special French food to share.  Then, kids could sign up for following weeks, take one of the interviews, add or subtract from it as they see fit, and each week their presentation would serve as a jumping off point.  Off the top of my head, we have students from the following places:

El Salvador

Brazil

Argentina

Haiti

Somolia

Morocco

Italy

Nigeria

Kenya

Bosnia

Albania

Cambodia

China

I’m sure I’m missing somebody.  I know I am.  But my point is, I think this could be a really great source of encouragement and support for our students.  And also good food.  Now, to sell it to the admin.

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Things Teaching Has Taught Me (or, passive aggressive rant)

As a teacher, there are certain things you learn pretty quickly.  So, I wonder how it is that I’ve figured these out after four years and yet some one of my colleagues still haven‘t hasn’t seemed to figure this out in a couple decades.

* It’s not you against them.

* You’re the adult.  Act like it.

* Kids will piss you off.  You have to smother it (not the kid).

* Every day is a clean slate.  It’s probably not a great idea to scream at a kid that if they’re going to suck today, they can just stay outside your room (as said kid’s walking in at the start of class).

* Have fun!  If you’re having fun, the kids just might too (potty jokes work very well “Number TWO!”)

* It may be easier to bitch and moan, but it’s happier to find a solution.

In other news, today the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, I made several but/butt jokes and it was a GREAT day.  🙂

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