Snap.

Oh, snap.
Oh, snap.

Collective  consciousness is a powerful force.

Seems like hallway conversations, emails, and blog postings are all reporting the same news: teachers and students, you have been abandoned. Room in the lifeboat? Left behind? Stranded? Perhaps.

Frequent, constant, and standard assessments are not going away. In fact, they are fairly well entrenched: some feel like a tick on a dog, others see them like the matchhead, burning tired and tenured ideas out. I don’t know if I’m the tick or the match;  but I do imagine most of us are feeling like the dog.

Codes words like “accountability” and “collaboration” sometimes mask managerial speak for “do more with less and be postive about it.” But I am going to focus on this word: empowerment. We are a creative force for change and growth — we have wonderful jobs. (Although with 1500 cuts coming next year, I do wonder if I will have one..?) There are doctors, nurses, and general good-do’ers out there who are truly saving the world. If outside forces, the mega-wealthy, the special interests, want to continue to diminish our children’s futures for their own gain, I’m not sure they know who they’re messin’ with.

 

I’m talking about quiet revolutions, although revolution is too strong of a word. But teachers are dangerous people. We want our students to know why they should care about themselves, and find passions and voice, as much as their teachers and parents do. Not to keep it hidden behind data. Expose the data, use it, and learn from it.

We need…

A snap cup.

From the movie Legally Blonde, Elle uses a Snap Cup to promote sunshine and sparkles in a drab, perfume-free world. Though my own college experience is about as far away from the fluffy sorority girl motifs in the Blonde series, I still played with Barbies.

What would School Teacher Barbie do?

Just celebrate the victories, the growth, the gain; little happy spots that build up, and mortar against the muck, mire, and muddy negativity.

Over the break, I plan on adding a little panache, positivity, and planning power to my New Year. Get some junk out of my system, and try to start fresh. I am going to start a Snap Cup, and snap out of it.

If I had a nickel…

Lucy Van PeltWe all have opinions about what is discussed in the teachers’ lounge. Is it reflective consideration, mild chit-chat or disruptive gossip? I enjoy the other colleagues I dine with on occasion; they are professional and fun. I don’t eat there everyday, some days I need to be in my room to let students in/out. This is perhaps, unnecessary background to this next comment: another teacher joined us one day after conferences, surprised by how much personal information is so flagrantly shared by parents. Shocked by the fact that she now knows “TMI” (too much information) and that grades, academics, etc. were not at the forefront of parents’ minds, but their children’s heart and souls were. Her shock and awe just interrupted lunch, and gave me food for thought.

Conference days are long days anyway, and I’m not really sure what gets accomplished. The only way to really know a student and help them get where they need to go is through personal conversation, and the same with their parents. By the time a child reaches middle school, conferences are not the same as elementary, with its structured scheduling and file folders of student work, bursting at the seams by now.

What suprises many teachers is how much pure couseling/therapeutic work we encounter at conferences. We are not clergy or psychiatrists. We are not professionally trained to handle the weight of emotions that come with conferences. Parents who are worried about their child’s drug use, or lack of motivation, or that they’re not being challenged enough. As my teammate said, these parents are mourning their lost darling child. This age group is a thick, gooey, transitional time from childhood to young adulthood, and boy do those waters get goopy. Parents are facing their own aging process, too — they are not the young adult they once were, and are coming to terms with their own changes. Can you say “poison apple, dearie?” The archetypes abound!

And, if you work at a school with a variety of spoken languages such as I do, and wouldn’t change for the world, there is a translation issue. It’s hard to reassure a parent who speaks Swahili or Arabic that their child is having a hard time writing about anything else but their experiences in secular school or finding out where to upload an assignment. Even if English is their first language, a few students have never encountered a keyboard before, and feel lost and technophobic. At conferences, a parade of first wives and divorces and stepchildren and grandmas and adoptions and loss comes running across a clipboard and pen set. I just want to hug them all, and tell them it’s going to be okay, but I don’t always know that. I’m honest about their children, what I see, and let them know how much I respect their child, which I do. But while driving home, I hear about tax breaks for the wealthy, adults behaving like brats, and bad people doing bad things, and I just want to scream. Sometimes I do.

We all need that support, just someone to listen to us while we share our story. I wonder who’s going to listen to me when I am spun out? It really doesn’t matter. I hope I provided reassurance when needed, guidance when asked, and hope where there was little. You want to know their grades, too? Got that, too.

A good day.

The rooms looks pearlized by the December sun through the institutional blinds. A southern horizon beckons to for exhaust and freedom. Before I slip away from these respsonsibilities into that chilled light, I need to capture this thought: Today was a good day. My students were here, they wrote, they laughed, and they shared. It was a simple day. They followed through…and today in their eyes I could see “it,” – the thing, the thing that is what makes real people…start to form. Nothing shook our confidence. We found strength. It was a day of grace. Thank you.

In conclusion….

 Patrick the Author

One buggaboo that boggles me is how to really explain to budding authors why it’s not stylistically adroit by ending any piece of writing with a statement such as “this is my story about and I hope you liked it” or “this is my paragraph assignment for today.” Yes, I do this, yes, I teach many lessons, model, set examples, etc., but why is this not an innate act? Perhaps that’s my real question: why do we communicate so differently, so awkardly,  while we’re learning the craft of writing, than from our conversational tone?

Analyzing the act of writing itself perhaps provides an answer: young writers are disconnected from the flow of language, from the symbolic noise of speech to text in print (and I mean any type of  “print” – digital or cellular). No one has ever lifted up the veil to show them that writing is talking…the toddler sitting on a mother’s lap, having “Itsy Bitsy Spider” meeting its tenacious but tenuous hold in a water pipe, or little piggies that must be counted to and from market, or other rhythmic, melodic speech patterns that exist in all languages and cultures, learns how to connect with humans in a most fundamental and sublime way. Those little piggies sure do work hard and create loving bonds as they wee-wee-wee all the way home.

So, I tried an experiment today: a mini-lesson that took all of five minutes, so it was truly a mini-lesson. Bite-sized. I explained to students that first, do not write those types of endings. Don’t. Sorry. Gotta give it up for style sometimes, folks. (I can forgive white shoes after Labor Day, but a girl’s got her limits!) I shared with students my insight into the development of language, and I pantomimed a phone call with my husband:

“Hey, sweetie, would you please unload the dishwasher? Oh, and thank you for listening to my phone conversation. The end!”

Or ending a text message: “Thank you for reading my text message. This text message was about this story. Then End! 3>!!!!LOLZ”

As a writer, we are in our moment, our thoughts, and we want to bring our readers there, too. Being intentional –do we choose obscurity, pop the bubble, or scratch the needle, or invite our readers in, is up to us. I guess I just want my students to experience that level of control in their voice.

Dear Readers, you may disagree with this blog posting and my stringent view of this stylistic misstep. This is my blog posting. Thank you for reading it. I hope you liked it. THE END!!!!