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No such thing as a free lunch.


Message on my answering machine a few days ago: “Hello. This is Mrs. Taytortottes from the lunch service; your son, Green Bean McGee, had to charge lunch today. Please make sure his account is up to date so he will be served food again during the 10 hour day he is under our watchful care. We know children think better when they are well-nourished, but we decided to shame him and let everyone know his mother is a dead-beat who doesn’t give him any lunch money. If we don’t get his lunch money by tomorrow, we will not give his regular hot lunch, but a plastic-cheese sandwich on gummy white bread. Pay up, or we’ll send someone over…” (Dial tone……)

Turns out, I automatically deposit money in his lunch account, and for some odd reason, it was scheduled to be taken out a day later than normal. I looked into this when he informed me that he didn’t get lunch or breakfast that day, because he couldn’t charge it. Further investigation revealed his food services account was negative -$4.35.

Some families use the free/reduced lunch program. I think that’s a great thing. There is not a thing wrong with feeding a child food. One of the most powerful nations in the world (although we have slipped a bit) should be able to feed its children. According to the US Government site on school lunches, over 30.5 million students receive assistance in buying breakfast/lunch.If you guess the average school lunch is normally $2.50, that’s over $75 million dollars spent on food for our nation’s children. That’s a lot of tator tots. Compare that to the cost of the war in Iraq, estimated at over $270 million dollars A DAY. Some groups say a lot more. 


This may not be fair to compare our current long wars to a child’s lunch tray–to use an old cliche, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. I did feel a tinge, a smidgen, of being extorted over food service issue. You’ll get your money. Keep your hair net on.


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Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…here I am. Stuck in the middle with you.

I feel sorry for us parents these days.

I know for a FACT that my mom never had to sign/initial reading logs, math homework check sheets, check Skyward for missing assignments, and all the what-not and whoop-dee-doo that parents do now. We are expected to be at the beck and call of the all-mighty Internet grading systems and school websites, and take responsibility for our children, of course, which we do, but also go way beyond that. We must also be their teachers, tutors, and task-masters. Not only do parents need to make sure their children are getting enough sleep, not doing drugs, not running around in gangs, eating their veggies, not getting Swine Flu, keep up on their school work, learn to dance, sing, ski, para-glide, and play pinochle, but we also need to make sure we check every….tiny….little….grain of homework because heaven help us! (GASP!) If something isn’t done we will be JUDGED and CONDEMNED as…dun…dun…dun……BAD PARENTS.

And what about YOU CHILDREN? Why aren’t you behaving like little executives, and get out your Blackberries and laptops and start scheduling your homework time, along with your sports, your music recitals, or your watching of little brothers and sisters?

I’m not exactly longing for simpler times, but I do wish there was a recognition that  long gone are the days when a mom was waiting at the door with a plateful of cookies for her darling 2.3 children, who did their homework obediently at the kitchen table. (That, by the way, boys and girls, is a MYTH. That never happened.) Long gone are the days when students sat at desks and did drill-and-kill worksheets, which have been ‘scientifically proven’ not to teach kids anything. Well, somehow I survived them, still learned to love to read, and understand where to use most forms of punctuation. I’m not saying we should go back to that, but consider that I have access to my children’s homework and assignments 24/7. That means there’s a teacher on the other end who is updating his/her website and links, rearranging, reorganizing, etc., and then the parents are supposed to be trained to go there daily to see if there is any updates because remember—the tiny grains of homework? If one math problem is missing, the entire assignment is penalized to 50%. And if you do the math, that’s failing. There are goal sheets for PE, goal sheets for reading, goal sheets for math, social studies, and science. Goal sheets for filling out your goal sheets. Are we playing a hockey game or trying to learn something? Oh, and the reading logs? I am so glad I didn’t go to school when there were reading logs. I would have hated that. I read. I read back then. Once in awhile I did a little book project or report, and my reward for being a good reader was loving books, and reading more great books. And that’s a gift I’ve used all of my life.

ct-jester_14253_lgWe teachers are trying to help parents know what their children are learning, and why. We parents are trying our best. Somewhere in the middle is the student–and the bottom line is, you need to take responsibility for your school work. Know when to ask for help, know when it’s due, know what the expectations are. If your teacher is churning out assignments and resources on Moodle, or a website, go there. If you don’t have access to computers at home, or the Internet, I guarantee you your teacher will accept your work on paper.

And she might even lend you a pencil.

Song reference:

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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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My inner persnickety teacher-lady personality.

Mrs. Loves Angry Face.
Mrs. Love's Angry Face.

I’m sitting here wondering if I should be more concerned over the fact that I’m really not that angry with you for being rude on Friday when we had a guest teacher; does this mean I don’t care anymore? Or does it mean I’ve reached a place of inner peace, better able to confront the misbehaviors directly and calmly?

I guess we’ll all find out on Monday.