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An open love letter to my colleagues, mentors, and administrators of renown…

 

Snoopy as Cupid

  In my slap-dash attempt to cover all emotional and friendship bases the other day, my “chocolate healing” post fell woefully short of its mark. I was trying to say a lot in a small space, and the excess goo didn’t patch or mend, it just stunk the place up.  I was trying to say I am sorry. I should have just said that, and shut my pie-hole.

Inspired by Look At My Happy Rainbow’s post, his heartfelt love letter to a colleague, I am inspired to attempt the same. I fear I will fall woefully short again. He is a kindergarten teacher after all. There is intrinsic love and admiration for all kindergarten teachers, male or female, young or old, new or experienced. Kindergarten teachers are the first adults that take on a stature, significance, and set the tone for future school experiences, positive or negative. Usually, it’s positive. In some ways, I have been envious of that hero worship that comes with the territory of being a primary teacher. I teach big kids, on the brink of adulthood. Many have had to be their own parents for a long time, and resist my attempts to help guide them along. No matter. I do what I can, and do what I must.

It is a hard job. No question. And if I ever made this job more difficult for a colleague than it needed to be, then I am doubly ashamed. So I am going to take this moment again –ignoring laundry, grocery lists, and errands and write you all a love letter. I do love you. I love my friends who have been through the trenches of our master’s program. I love my teammates who are truly teammates, although it isn’t a “sport,” (I didn’t play sports growing up), I would challenge anyone who thinks that I and my two core teammates aren’t working in concert, or working as a well-tuned machine that would stand up to any sports analogy one might make. Bring it.

And the ripple-effect of support doesn’t stop with my teammates and cohort friends. It extends to the teachers in the hallway who have my back in case I need to talk to a student in my room during passing time and I can’t stand “on guard duty” in the hallway. It’s for those teachers who understand that I’m not intentionally trying to undermine or not support them if I let a kid eat a Starburst in my room. It’s for the secretaries and support staff who understand my sense of humor, because we all know that’s our survival. It’s for the mentors at every level of administration who don’t feel like ‘ADMINISTRATORS’ but true mentors and friends, who want me to succeed because they know in their hearts how much I care about OUR students, and will go the extra mile for them. They stand by me during the marathon of the year, giving me cups of water and cheers.

 So, I do love you. I am humbled by you. You make me bigger than I am by myself.

Thank you.

 

http://halpey1.blogspot.com/2010/02/mrs-d.html

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Roadie.

One Man BandYesterday was kind of a weird day. I normally don’t dislike Mondays, but yesterday, I did- I was feeling all Garfieldish and cranky (I am not a fan of Garfield, so even to allude to him demonstrates how Monday it felt.) I was still feeling work-lag from the weekend. Orchestrating every minute to get the most done possible on my current BIG project, the BIG expensive project, the BIG project that has only a 50% chance of succeeding according to “project” statistics, nothing I did played in concert. There was no synchronicity. It was all out of tune.

So, I faced Monday feeling like a failure. Adding to the weight of my current burden, others presented their burdens to me as well. A good friend advised me not to pick those up as well. Let them carry their own bags for awhile; I’ve got enough of my own gear to lug around, and I don’t have a place for it all. And I don’t know where the tuning fork went, but I believe it’s causing me some pain.

The BIG show is coming up–there is an end date. Everyone bought their tickets and the venue is sold out. And the reviews won’t come in for eight months. I’m practicing, creating, and writing to a group of faceless, nameless critics who are sitting in a darkened theatre, holding their applause. And my drummer just imploded, a-la Spinal Tap.

But, you know what they say: The Show Must Go On.

I just wish it felt more like a rock show than a funeral march.

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Heureusement pour moi.

Congo

As many of you know, I did not take a straight path to becoming a teacher. I did not set up my stuffed animals and Barbie dolls as if they were in a pretend classroom, teaching them lessons and sending them to Principal Teddy Bear’s office. I did not graduate from high school and go straight to a teacher’s college, such as Columbia, Ohio State, or Joe’s Teach-N-Fix School. So, I wasn’t in a frame of mind to prepare myself for the brave, new world that was coming my way. During my time in high school, the language classes I took were French. Ah, je regrette!

Que devais-je penser?

In our district, there are over 100 languages spoken. Many students come from the gamut of countries where there are few or no opportunities for small economic growth to countries ravaged by war. The majority of students speak both Spanish and English. If I had been thinking in high school, I would have taken Spanish. Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the United States. We would probably notice Canadians, but the majority of them speak English, too. Sans manquer de respect, les Canadiens français.

Needless to say, I never had the opportunity to practice speaking French. I have never been to Paris, France, or even Paris, Texas, for that matter. When Spanish-speaking students whose English skills are on the edge of greatness, but they are still straddling the bi-lingual abyss, I have often wished I had taken Spanish instead to nudge and support them.

But now we have a student who speaks French, from the Congo. C’est fantastique! And my team teacher brought her in yesterday morning to ask me to tell her that school doesn’t start until 8:25.

Uh oh. To say my French was a bit rusty is a understatement. I gestured and said ecole, and huit heure vingt cinq, but I am not sure she understood. I said, Mon nom est Madame Love, and sent her on her way.

And immediately went to Google Translator for other phrases, such as:

I want to practice speaking French: Je veux pratiquer parler français.

and

The building doesn’t open until 8:25: Le bâtiment n’a pas ouvert jusqu’à 8h25.

I can only imagine what this confused, scared, and overwhelmed young lady must think of me, the school, and the U.S. But I want to help. I don’t know if Google translator can handle all of the questions she has, or can help me guide her to all the answers. I don’t even have them myself. But we’ll try. Nous allons essayer de comprendre les uns les autres.

There are other questions, such as, “Why do people in the Congo speak French?” And there we get into cultural diffusion/assimilation: http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=340 and more poignantly, “What is happening in the Congo now?” I know Google can’t answer that.

To try Google translate: http://translate.google.com/#

 

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Where are we going, and how are we going to get there?

mayflower-ship-ny-stewart-707610-102809-xl

Sometimes the toughest part of my job is deciding what to teach next. It’s a matter of  balancing what you need, what you will think is interesting (so you’ll stay motivated), and having personal enjoyment out of my day, too. I know that’s selfish of me, but trust me, if I’m happy, we’re all happy.

Many of you asked what our next unit was going to be. Let me tell you that question both enchanted and terrified me. How awesome it is that you want to know! How horrible it might be if I don’t come up with something really amazing, entertaining, and captivating! (Cue Mrs. L screaming and laughing hysterically at the same time…)

Mrs. L can be a crazy lady sometimes.
Mrs. L can be a crazy lady sometimes.

So, I am still struggling with “less is more.” (That is a paradox. We will be reviewing figurative language and its importance next week, and adding some new figurative language terms to your knowledge bag.)

Less is more means if we focus closely on one thing at a time, we get more out of it in the long run. So, in theory, spending a few weeks on the Journey of the Hero helps us go deeper with our understanding, and we can take that learning with us for the rest of our lives.

Let me just say a few things about that unit: there were huge successes, and one big failure. The failure, an “epic fail,” if you will, was that many of you did not even read one book for the unit. Your spotty attendance, lack of interest, or struggling with reading, all got in your, and my, way. Remember, the first and most important rule in my class is to never read something because I tell you to. You must identify your purpose for reading, think about the big questions, and read. It’s just that simple. Your purpose for reading during this past Journey of the Hero/Transformation of the Hero unit was to witness a character going through changes, making choices, and changing from the beginning of the story to the end.

You may need to make some brave changes yourself.

The huge successes were that many of you totally, absolutely, got it, and proved it in your essays. (Which I will finish grading once I’m done blogging — a girl’s got to have her priorities, you know.)

Your writing was spectacular. I know I pushed: I left some of the thinking/questions open-ended, more vague, but you really stepped up and demonstrated that you can think for yourself, you can feel uncomfortable and still take a risk. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

The student behaviors that you should value are asking questions, demanding to know why, and not accepting anything less than my best effort, or yours.

So, for this next unit, and units from now on, you will be given more time to read in class. I don’t know why I keep having to learn that lesson repeatedly, but I do. Now, many of you not only read one book, you read several. But for me, it’s not the quantity that matters but the understanding you take away. (Although the more you read, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the better you learn how to learn…huh?)

Insert Knowledge Here.
Insert Knowledge Here.

Here’s a preview of what’s next:

*Figurative Language: understanding the powerful uses of figurative language in your reading and writing is one of the best tools you can master. Figurative language is the language of poets, thinkers, artists, and communicators of all stripes and polka-dots: it includes metaphors, similes, euphemisms, paradoxes, alliterations, personification, idioms, cliches, analogies, allegories, oxymoron and my all-time comic book favorite, onomatopoeia:

bam

*Context Clues: Context clues are specifically about understanding and widening your vocabulary. Here’s the idea: You know words. But you need to know more. If you know more, your ability to read faster and understand more of what you read increases:

 An average American three-year-old has mastered about 1,000 words. By the time he reaches adulthood, this average American will have known between 30,000 and 60,000 words.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why is reading so important, anyway?”
That’s a good question.
Why don’t you list that as one of your:
*BURNING QUESTIONS! Yes, I have devoted about two weeks to developing your independent reading lives, possibly three weeks. We’ll see how it goes. Once you know how to develop your own reading lists and do the projects independently, you will be released to read on your own.
Card-27---El-Corazon
You may have too many resources to choose from, and our goals will be to narrow down the lists, be focused, read, read, read, and talk/write about what we’re reading.
Oh, and add “listen” to the list, too. You will be listening, looking, and using your other senses to take in information about the world around you; this is all about you: making sense of your world, for your life.
*Mythology, legends, fables, folklore, and fairy tales: We’re going to get started on that, too. When? Not sure. It bugs me to start new units in the middle of a semester, but you know what? We are not bound by the arbitrary rules of time and space! We can decide our own pace, our own course, and have freedom of choice! Hooray!
Here’s what you need to start packing: Finish your Burning Questions Resource Log sheet. Start scoping out different blogs, websites, podcasts, and book sites for a list of what you might want to read. Think about what you’re curious about, things you just want to know, and let those questions be our guide.
jiminy_140x143
See you soon!
For a list of classic literature to help you gain greater vocabulary and background knowledge, check out this list:
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Hey, you, get off of my cloud.

Impulsivity + Meanness=Regret.

I am still trying to find forgiveness for something I did when I was about seven or eight years old. When I was on the playground, one cold, crisp Texan school yard afternoon, the bell rang, and we went to line up. One of my classmates, a sweet, shy boy, while running to line up, was tripped by me. I impulsively stuck out my leg, and down he went. The look on his face when he was getting up was so sad – the meanness was so unexpected, so abrupt, that I knew, I knewI had done something near unforgivable. I will never forget the look on his face. (I know I helped him up, said sorry, but the damage was done.) I am the one who provided that kid with the experience of people are jerks, and sometimes do cruel things for no reason. Yea, me.

Since I can’t find the little boy (who’s obviously not little anymore) that I tripped in first grade, since the vast detective work of Google, Bing, or others will not find this one soul out of billions, and, I don’t remember names, exact dates or locations, I may never be able to find him and say, “I am sorry. I acted rashly, impulsively, but it may have hurt your feelings, and you still may remember it, and it hurt you for a long time.” 

Sharing this anecdote with students, one girl commented (several times), “that’s mean, Mrs. L,” until I finally had to say, “Yes, I know…it was mean, and I regret it, feel guilty and remorseful every time I think of it. Now let’s move on.” I would like to think that one act of impulsive, yet intentional bullying was out of character for me. That perhaps I was just ‘trying it on,’ and answering an inner curiosity about what is it like to do something wrong…totally, and absolutely outright wrong. But that sounds like a lot of mental justification.

 Trolling for interesting podcasts the other day, I came upon a This American Life episode called “Mind Games” that made me think about how people treat each other, and how if it’s based on lies, it usually doesn’t work out. At all.

This led me to listen to another episode from May, 2002, titled ‘Devil on My Shoulder.’  The premise or theme is that we humans are in constant struggle to choose right versus wrong, moral versus immoral behaviors, and we have so many outside influences pushing us, tempting us, this way and that, that sometimes we are compelled to blame it on a ‘devil on our shoulder,’ feeding us tiny lies and whispering small, but powerfully motivating ways to act unkindly. While my personal philosophy doesn’t include a personification of immoral judgements sitting on my left shoulder, I do believe in a dash of free will along with decision making, cognitive abilities thrown in with a cup of destiny, frosted with fate. Meaning, whether or not you believe in devils and angels, deities and do-gooders, we humans are still faced with the burning question, “what does it mean to do the right thing, and why do we sometimes NOT?”

 When I think about what I did, my heart hurts. That’s guilt. I might be a bit mired (stuck) in this one event, true. I am not sure why I’ve had difficulty finding atonement. If one of my children did something like this, I would tell them to learn from it, not to behave in a mean way again, and move on. So, I guess in that way, perhaps if I took my own advice, I can say I did learn from it. I never tripped anyone else again, and certainly never intentionally hurt anyone again. I just hope that somewhere out there, that boy knows I am sorry.bored angel

“Safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other.”-CS Lewis

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