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Teaching in Today’s World

IMG_2403Being a teacher TODAY in the social and political climate of today, in the broken district of today, in the social media nightmare of today, absolutely sucks. Everyone thinks they need to tell me how to teach. Right now my job is this – I not only teach my students how to read, write, do math, and be a good citizen. I also teach them how to cope with their own traumas. I feed them. I need to protect them from threats.
Every day on facebook I read posts from contacts who tell me that I (as a white teacher) shouldn’t be teaching black students. I have facebook friends who post articles telling me how to discipline (or not). I have facebook friends who tell their friends that the teachers in our district aren’t really doing the best for their kids. People in positions of power want to put a gun in my hand. When will this madness end?
Not only do I worry about how best to take care of and teach the 20 souls in my daily care, I am also a mother of three- one boy and 2 girls. Two high schoolers and one middle schooler. This week has been so incredibly sad and stressful. I shouldn’t have to talk to my children about what to do in the case of a shooter, or ask if they’ve noticed any kids who seem “off.” Nor should I have to think about what would happen at my own school in the same context.
I’m not here to debate why this is happening. I’ve done enough of that lately. I’m here to say give teachers a break. Give teachers your empathy. Give teachers you know a little kindness. As worried as you are about your own children at school, remember that there are many teachers worried about their own children AND yours.

Why I Brag About My Kids (and Why I Don’t)

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I remember being an education student, being annoyed by those bumper stickers that said, “My child is an honor student at XYZ School!!” and “Proud Parent of the Student of the Month!”

I have to say I love this one.

I have to say I love this one.

(You can find this sticker here.)

Me and my 3 monkeys

Me and my 3 monkeys

I’m a parent of three children now, and those bumper stickers still annoy me. For several reasons.

First, these days, everyone gets an award. At most schools (perhaps not all), every child gets a chance to have an award. Every child gets to be Student of the Month (or week, or whatever). Then everyone gets a bumper sticker and who cares? Secondly, bragging about your kids is a touchy subject.

I have three smart kids. I’m proud of them all for different reasons.

I’m proud of the good choices they make. I’m proud of my son’s strong sense of integrity and how he’s such a deep thinker. I’m proud of the art that my middle daughter creates, and that she’s so self-motivated. I’m proud of my youngest and how self-sufficient she can be, how inventive and good-natured she is.

I’m proud that they want to do well and work hard.

I’m proud of my girls when they put in long hours of rehearsal and energy, time and work and put on a great show in their musical theater program.

I’m proud of my son when he puts hard work into learning all about the Gamble House so that he can give tours to 3rd graders, and how he takes pride in  the tours he gives and the information he gets to pass onto the kids.

I’m proud of all of them when they play piano beautifully because they’ve practiced and practiced til they got it right.

I’m delighted that they all have their own talents.

They are beautiful, as any mother would believe about their own children. They’re really smart, naturally. They have natural talents at several things. Am I proud of those things? Are they things to be proud of?

Should parents be proud that their children never study and yet get As? Should parents be proud that their children are identified as Gifted? Should parents be proud of their child’s beauty? Or talent? Sure. Should they brag about it on social media? I’m not sure. Here’s a question: would you brag about it in person?

These days, the internet is a tricky thing. Parents love to use social media to brag about their kids. Look at my son’s report card! My daughter pitched a no-hitter! My kids are the cutest kids ever! My daughter’s art is so amazing! My son scored the most baskets! My daughter passed the GATE test and is so smart!

What’s interesting to me is that most of us are posting a lot more about our kids’ accomplishments than our own. Where are all the posts about the new jobs we are getting? The projects we’ve completed? The things WE’VE done? Is it weird to brag about yourself? Is it easier or more PC to brag about our children? Are our children accomplishing things we wish we could be doing – or could have done?

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 3.12.18 PM

Okay, okay, I guess posting about my books can be considered bragging. 😛

And what about sensitivity? What if our friends have children that are differently abled that couldn’t physically do what we’re bragging about? Is that insensitive? Is it cruel? I think it can be. If my child was confined to a wheelchair, I don’t know how I’d feel about seeing posts of kids doing amazing physical feats. It might be too hard.

Ultimately, I love sharing things that my kids do that I think are pretty awesome. Whether it’s sharing with their siblings, succeeding at something, or sometimes just being kids. I like sharing photos of what we do and where we go so that friends and family can keep up with us. If they’re performing or getting an award, or being sweet. I will say that sometimes I have to think twice about certain things I post, because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. (I also don’t want to seem like an annoying parent who does nothing but talk about how amazing my kids are, because I think some people may find that ridiculously tedious. I know that sometimes grandparents are the only ones who truly want to hear about some  of those things.)

Maybe it’s something we can all think about before we post things in general. If I post this, who will it affect?

What do you think?


Death Heard Round The World

When you die, will it be all over the internet? Will it be on facebook statuses everywhere? Is that what you would want? Is that a sign you made a difference? Or do you want people to call each other, quietly passing the news in person, comforting each other? How many people will you have impacted when it’s all over?

On Wednesday, October 5th, Steve Jobs died. If you use a computer, you know who Steve Jobs is. If you’re on any kind of social media, within minutes of the announcement of his death, news of it had spread like wildfire. Status updates said Rest In Peace, people were quoting him, posting photos of him, recalling their first apple products. Some people were lambasting others for not really “knowing” him before his most recent successes. Other people were downright crude and said they didn’t care because they used PCs.

Two years ago, a similar thing happened with Farrah Fawcett. People posted about how sad it was she died and lost her battle with cancer. Others were cruel. The posts didn’t last long, though, because within hours of her death, she was eclipsed by the news of a bigger star, a bigger shock, the death of Michael Jackson.

King of Pop

Each life on earth leaves an impression. Whether it’s an impression on one or two people or millions, there’s an impression. Someone will mourn when the life is gone. Homeless people, drug addicts, serial killers, rapists, theives, nerds, stock brokers, mild-mannered librarians, teachers, cops, firefighters, moms, people who work at Target, gas station attendants.

You make an impact. Every day you make an impact. The question is, what kind of an impact are you making? When someone you don’t know asks you for the time, do you give it? Are you annoyed with them for taking up your precious time? When your child cries because she can’t tie her shoe, or can’t find her doll, do you roll your eyes and huff, or do you take a breath and help her out, despite being late? When you need to make a phone call and you’re almost at the checkout, do you go ahead and get on the phone, talking through the entire transaction, ignoring the cashier, or do you put off the call for a few minutes and take time to ask the checker how his day is going?

You may not feel that you impact a lot of people. You may not teach a group of children or run into burning buildings for a living. You may not save lives by curing diseases or change the world by developing new technology. You may not entertain millions of people, but you do SOMETHING. You do something that is uniquely YOU, and people love you for it.

So, go do it, and appreciate all the others around you who may not make a giant impact in the world, but who impact YOUR life, and remember to enjoy them while they’re still here, and not just a status on your facebook account.