Posted in Uncategorized

Graceful Chaos

“Are you ok?!” an outside teacher said when she saw the chaos of my classroom yesterday. I was kind of taken aback by the true concern in her voice. 

“Yes, I’m fine,” I responded with a smile.

“Ok, it just looks a little crazy in here,” was her cautious response.

Truth be told, I had just been reflecting on that craziness before she walked in. I’m calling it graceful chaos.

See, on Wednesday my numbers are always at their highest. Inside time is always our craziest time of day. Because one of my children is truly unable to sit for any length of time, I let my students transition from the snack table directly to table choices as they finish eating. Today I set out the watertable, bristle blocks, and ocean animal painting for our sea life wall – two messy options and one unpopular option. Yes, I knew it was going to be a crazy day, so I embraced it. Bring it all on!

Tornado, first one to leave the table as always, headed straight to the watertable: water everywhere. 

Those who wanted to paint ocean animals had their shot and then Spiderman remembered that he wanted to paint a box black to be a bat cave. Well, then everyone wanted a bat cave! Out came the big brushes and black paint. 8 kids crowded around 4 large boxes at 1 art table. Some painted the insides, some the outsides. Some painted every nook and corner. Some painted each other.

 Black paint on the table. Black paint on the floor. Black paint on the chairs. Black paint on clothes, arms, and faces. Black paint all over me!

As the boxes dried outside, we washed. Black paint on the sink. Black paint on the mirror. Black paint everywhere! 

And of course Tornado needed another dip in the watertable with his black painted hands. 

The children couldn’t get the black off themselves, so I helped them at the sink. Those who washed first didn’t want to play in the now murky watertable or with boring bristle blocks, so they dumped all the soft items in pretend and had a makeshift pillow fight while I was busy in the bathroom.

At least there’s no paint on them.

But that other teacher hadn’t seen any of this.

What she saw was the kids now rallied. Pretend is clean. They play loudly, but happily, between 3 tables of small people, Legos, and Duplos, while I scrub, mop, and sanitize. Everything.

Yes. There was chaos. Imagine if she had walked in a half hour before!

But there was also fine motor development, creative exploration, increased spacial awareness, blossoming understanding of habitat, language development, problem solving, sharing, and kindness. 

So yes. Chaos. 

But at the same time, there is a certain grace to the way the learning just slipped into the mix. I didn’t plan bat caves. I didn’t sit us down at circle time and read a book about where bats live, although they might like me to do that now. A week or two ago the other preschool team learned ‘B’ is for Bat and made bats. And then some kids on my team thought that was pretty cool, and we’ve been talking about and making bats ever since. Bats aren’t even on the other team’s radar anymore!

But that’s what it’s like teaching preschoolers. Follow where they lead, and often the learning just slips in. Their curious natures are programed to learn. As teachers, we have to give them that opportunity. 

And that process really is a bounteous, messy, fruitful, graceful chaos.

I like it so much, I might need to rename my blog!

Do you often feel the same way as a teacher? Let me know!

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Posted in Early Childhood Education, preschool, Uncategorized

Race, Color, and Childhood 

I’ve had some experiences in the classroom lately that have me thinking about skin color, children, and my role as a teacher.

The thing is, I’ve always been unusually color blind. My father is Mexican and my Mother is Caucasian, so maybe that’s a piece of why. When I was very young I became attached to a baby doll, as many young girls do.Unlike most girls dolls, mine was a beautifully dark chocolaty brown color. I called her my black baby.  I’m not sure where I got the term “black” at age 3 years old or less, but the name stuck. I kept, loved, and slept with her till my dog chewed her to pieces when I was a young teenager.

My life was fairly free of racial tension land prejudice until I hit upper elementary school age while living in Arizona, where immigration tensions were high. People didn’t believe me when I told them my dad was Mexican because I had red hair and freckles. Kids at my elementary school would say things like, “You sure your mom didn’t sleep with the mailman?” Apparently half Mexican babies are supposed to be brown, and I was never dark enough for that part of me to be accepted by anyone outside my family, not even other Mexicans.

Luckily, I spent my childhood moving around the western side of the country, and I was exposed to many different people and perspectives.

My first encounter with another type of prejudice came in the 7th grade, when Jeremy, an African American boy, admitted between classes that he had a crush on me. My friends all wanted to know what I thought. When I told them I was flattered but too young to date, they were flabbergasted!

“So you like him?”

“He’s nice. I’d go on a date with him if I were older.”

“But he’s black!” one of them said to me.

“And my dad’s Mexican,” I reminded her. “He’s a nice guy and he’s my friend.” That’s really all that mattered to me. I remember trying to understand why my friends cared about his skin color, but I couldn’t.

I don’t know exactly where I missed the memo on skin color. I’ve made many a blunder over the years as a result (Do not touch kinky hair, no matter how cool it looks! And don’t even get me started on stereotypical food references. Fried chicken, mayo, oreos… Only have very trusted friends explain those to you!!!).

For some reason, my 305 year old students are so much more aware than I was. They don’t say anything outright, but I see it in their behavior, their preferences, and their comments. The thing is, I’m seeing a pattern where racial naivete in the younger ones progresses into shame and prejudice in the space of 2-3 short years.

Take my 3 year old daughter, Tutu (I’m using code names to protect my student’s privacy). She’s three – aware of different skin colors, but unaware of the baggage we older folk tend to attach to them. For example, one sunny day I took my class to sit under the tree in front of the school to read a story. In the distance, one of the children saw a man walking up the sidewalk. “Look! It’s Derek” she excitedly announced. Derek is the afternoon teacher. I observed the man as he approached. He wore a hoodie, sweats, and even had a beard like Derek’s, but it was not him. I informed them of the sad fact just as he came within earshot. Tutu yelled, “But he’s black and Derek is black!”. Thankfully, the man had earbuds in and didn’t seem to hear. It turned into a discussion about the similarities and differences between this man and Derek, but in the end we all agreed it wasn’t him.

Over the next few days I noticed the children pointing out their skin and eye colors, so I read them the story, ” The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz. It tells of a girl who takes a walk around town and puts beautiful names such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey to the skin colors of the people she sees. It wasn’t long before the children began looking for the names of their skin colors. One boy in my class, we”ll call him Sunshine, has skin that’s chocolate brown.

One of the other children said, “Look Sunshine! That’s your color!” when we came to that page in the book.

“No! I’m this color!” he said as turned the page to a significantly lighter skinned person.

The other children tried to disagree, but I could see Sunshine was getting upset, and not wanting to sour the experience for him, I told them not to bother Sunshine. The subject was dropped and we continued the story. Two pages later we reached a color similar to sunshine’s chocolate brown, though slightly darker. The girl in the book calls it bronze and amber, “like a beautiful jewel”. Acting on a hunch, I told the children that this had always been one of my favorite colors (and it really has!). Sunshine got a little smile in the corner of his mouth. When we reached the end of the book, the children all announced the color closest to their skin. Sunshine pointed to the girl with the chocolate brown skin and proudly said, “This is my color!”

Ever since this experience, I’ve pondered why he reacted the way he did to this book. Why did he think lighter skin was better before I said something? I’ve seen this in other children in my class too.

On one occasion we had only 4 children come to class. Spiderman’s usual friends were all gone, so he played with Tornado, a boy who looks like he could be Dominican and who has a speech delay. Spiderman, who is a tall caucasian boy, told me he didn’t used to like Tornado, because he has “fuzzy hair”. Then he said, “But Tornado is actually pretty funny. Like when you were digging with us and he put sand on your pants for a joke, that was funny”. He said this ponderously, as though processing something significant. He’s been kinder to Tornado, even under peer pressure from friends, ever since.

Tornado will only play with the light skinned baby dolls at school, despite the many darker shades we have available. Why is that?

How do we go from Tutu’s ignorance, to Sunshine’s, Spiderman’s, and Tornado’s preference for light skin and smooth hair? My guess is that the answer is all around us in conversations and in our media – our society.

But I am not concerned with pointing out every negative influence. That’s beyond the scope of what I can write just now. I think it’s more important to focus on what we can do to combat those influences.

In this age of political correctness, many people like to just avoid the subject of skin, stereotypes, and racism because it’s safer. But skin color can’t be taboo. Its a part of all of us, and silence doesn’t make it go away or turn us color blind. Rather, silence allows the existing racist messages bedded in society to continue on to the next generation, perpetuating the problem.

I used to think that if we stopped talking about racism, it would go away. I was wrong. The concept of different races is false. There is only the human race. But racism is so built into our history, our culture, and our institutions that it’s going to take continued conscious effort to get ride of it.

As I think back on the experiences of my childhood that shaped my beliefs on the issues of diversity, color, race, and prejudice, I remember interacting with people who were different from myself. I remember reading books that promote diversity, and having meaningful discussions about those books. I remember taking a whole class in high school called Cultural Diversity, where we learned about the negative impacts of prejudice and stereotyping, and how to speak assertively on issues like homelessness, sexual orientation, immigration, religion, and race. First and foremost though, I remember knowing at a very young age that all people on earth are children of God and that he loves them no matter what.

The relationship between all of these experiences is that in each one, barriers were explicitly broken down. It didn’t happen by itself. Teachers, friends and family went out of their way to shape my view of the world. Discussions about diversity were never taboo, and they were often emphasized.

So let’s break down some barriers for our children. Let’s undemonize the word “brown”. And while we’re at it, though this may make waves, I’d love to forget the terms “black” and “white” altogether. As Jerry Spinelli puts it in his book, “Maniac Magee”,

“For the life of him, [Maniac] couldn’t figure out why the East enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black.”

And again,

“Maniac kept trying, but he still couldn’t see it, this color business. He didn’t figured he wasn’t white any more than the East enders were black. He looked himself over pretty hard and he came up with at least seven different shades and colors, right on his own skin, not one of them being what he would call white (except his eyeballs which were not any whiter than the eyeballs of the kids in the East end).”

So why continue this black and white business when there is so much negativety attached, and when none of us is really black or white anyway?

I’d rather send the message loud and clear that we must embrace our diversity like we embrace the many colors in a bouquet of mixed flowers. There is no right or wrong color for flowers. They are just different. All are beautiful, and we call them the color that they are.

I think we can, and should, teach that concept early, in the moments like those I’ve been having with my young students. These are the teaching moments that can turn color from a source of shame and prejudice into a bouquet of beauty.

Because no child should feel like they are less than.

No child should feel less than beautiful.

No child should feel less than intelligent.

No child should feel less than capable.

No child should feel less than confident.

No child should feel less than loved and wanted.

And as I, my students, and others speak for the beauty of diversity, we may in time change the voice of society. I can only hope.

Posted in Early Childhood Education

Planning For Play: Lesson Plans in a Child Led Preschool

I shared last week that the school where I work fully believes in the concept of play-based, child-led education. To the extent that we teachers are required to document what we do at the end of each day, rather than turn in lesson plans before hand. The supporting idea is that if we are truly “child led” then lesson plans are pointless because we’re following the children’s lead every day anyway. I’m totally with that. In fact, I used to feel kind of stupid writing meticulous lesson plans that I knew I probably wouldn’t follow through on.

The thing is, this method relies solely on a good environment and concept development conversations. One play scenario can go down a hundred different learning rabbit holes depending on what the teacher says and does. For example, picture a child building a tower using small colored blocks. He excitedly calls the teacher over to see.

As a teacher I could respond with, “Wow! How many blocks did you use to build that tower?” We’re developing number sense.

Or I could ask, “How tall is that tower?” Now we’re exploring measurement.

“What is this piece that sticks out for? It’s a canon! Oh, I can’t remember what letter that starts with. Do you?” Now we’re into symbolic thinking, pretend play, and literacy.

Say the tower falls over as the child is building. “I wonder why those blocks fell down!” We’re talking science and engineering.

I could go on, but you see my point. It is like teacher/blogger Misha, from Without Windows, explained to me, “… in a child led environment, the child controls the lens, but the teacher controls the content”.

Yes, a teacher can help children explore all the concepts they need to know through the environment and curriculum development, but there is a heck of a lot of content! How is a teacher supposed to keep track of what has and hasn’t been explored? Art and Literacy are fun, so I do those all the time without even thinking. Life science is a breeze when we spend so much time outside. But what about everything else? It’s not fair to the kids to focus only on what I enjoy. That’s where the planning comes in.

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks figuring out a system that helps me focus on what children need to know without dominating them. The result so far is surprisingly simple, but I find that simple is usually better.

I have assigned myself a daily emphasis for parts of the curriculum that I believe to be especially important. It is not a theme for the kids! They don’t even know my about my cunningly hidden planning (Mwahahaha!). This is simply the content which I try to present through the kid’s lense. My schedule is as follows:

Mon. – Social/Emotional

Tues – Literacy

Wed – Math

Thurs – The Arts

Fri – Science

It’s not strict, and I don’t stick exclusively to the daily emphasis. If the kids are super focused on figuring out who’s tallest on literacy Tuesday, I’m going to follow them wholeheartedly down that rabbit hole. In fact, I still set up materials at the centers and tables that lend themselves toward each area every day. The plan is more of a guideline to help me ensure I’m providing exposure to all of the basics throughout the week. It also helps me focus my observations, so that I am being sure to observe the many ways children develop and not just focusing on a particular strength or weakness.

I made a weekly planning sheet for myself that covers each developmental domain plus some others I think are important: Social/Emotional, Language/Literacy, Math, Science, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Sensory, and The Arts. I thought about putting Cognitive on there, but I feel like that development is something that happens as the others develop and as children face daily problems. It’s not something that I would normally consciously plan. If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

For each domain, I write down broad learning goals and ways I might incorporate them during the week. For example, in literacy for next week I’ve planned to read, “The D Book”, set up a phonics/alphabet matching game at one of the tables, and then I have some ideas for how I could bring up literacy concepts at the sensory, car, and block areas. I also made a note about adding some literacy materials to the pretend area. I might not get to use all of it, but at least I’m ready and I have some idea of the content I want to introduce.

Domains that aren’t assigned a day are things I incorporate every day into the environment. I always have at least one sensory and at least one fine motor experience set up inside. Sometimes I’ll set something up outside just for a change of pace. Gross motor is built into our outside time, but I like to have some games or experiences available to encourage and challenge the kids. Riding bikes and playing tag get boring if that’s all you ever do! And who says you can’t do gross motor inside as a group?

So that’s how I’ve tackled planning. Truth be told, it feels good to let go and be loose. It means so much more time to be with the kids. I’m getting to play with and know them in ways that I never had time to before. That also means more time for meaningful observations, which leads to better assessing and informed planning. I love the cyclical nature of those three! It’s just managing the timing that’s tricky 😉

I’m nowhere near perfect, but this has been helping me and hopefully it helps those of you also making the journey into truly child led education. I’d love to hear how those of you already practicing child led curriculum handle this too! Are you planners? Or do you wing it?

Posted in Early Childhood Education

The Journey into Play Based Education

As an early education major, it was drilled into my head that play is what young children should be doing. I heard things like, “It is the work of children to play,” and, “Play is the child’s best teacher”. All. The. Time.

As a student of education, I thought it was great! I bought into it completely. Still do, in fact. I’ve sung the praises of play in school for years now. But the truth is that it’s so easy to talk. It sounds so easy to pull off. Just follow the kids lead. The learning will happen. Let them experiment! Explore!

I had no idea what I was talking about.

I completed 600+ hours worth of student internship time. Both of my placement sites claimed to be “play based”, and I thought they were too, at the time. I’ve since learned that there’s a whole spectrum of what’s accepted as “play based education” by the early education community.

On one end of the spectrum is teacher-led “themes”, where the teacher plans a weeks worth of play activities they think the children will be interested in. The best teachers observe the children to actually learn their interests and plan with them in mind. Others plan themes out for the year in advance regardless of the children’s personal interests.

At the other end of the spectrum is child-led curriculum, where teachers provide a rich environment and then observe children’s play and ask thought-provoking or concept development questions to help children learn and grow. Through my own research and limited experience, I had determined that this is the direction I lean in as a teacher; The research says that the best learning happens when children are interested and engaged, and they will never be as interested or engaged when the teacher is calling all the shots. Project learning and Reggio Emilia are favorite philosophies of mine for that reason.

Both my internship sites leaned in varying levels toward the theme direction, however my current teaching position falls at the very far end of the child led side. There are no teacher directed lesson plans here. Or any lesson plans at all really. Every piece of the day holds learning opportunities, and every child discovers them at their own pace. Sounds great! Right?

I was So. Not. Ready.

Concept development, the main teaching tool in this kind of setting, is like an art form. I used to watch in awe as my internship teacher interacted with children. She could take literally anything they were already doing, and turn it into a learning experience. It was amazing. I’d think, “When I grow up, I want to be that kind of teacher!”

Well I passed her class with a 4.0. I graduated with a BA in early childhood…. It’s time to start being that teacher.

The thing is, I’m a structure person. Lists are my best friend. I was bullet journaling before I even knew it was a thing. I can wing it, but that’s not where my best teaching happens. Not to mention, lesson  planning and intentional teaching are two more concepts that were pounded into me in every single early ed class I took. I can’t imagine a life without some kind of planning.

That said, I believe that even child-led education should be intentional. My challenge as a new teacher is figuring out how to marry these concepts that seem so opposite on the surface, and yet so important. Perhaps if I worked at a more structured center, there would be policies and procedures that would help me through this process. But I don’t, and there aren’t.

I want to be the best teacher I can be, and these kids deserve the best, so I am tackling the challenge myself.

I’ll be documenting my efforts toward that aim here. Concept development methods, lesson planning, and assessment are all issues I’ll be incorporating. In the mean time, does anyone else struggle with this? Or have you got it all figured out? I’d love to hear of your experiences with play based, child led education!

Posted in preschool

Morning Meeting and Fresh Starts!

Today was a big day for preschool at Discovery Schoolhouse! Last week the yellow team teacher and I decided that, different as it may be, Blue and Yellow teams needed to part ways. As in, not even in the same room! That’s a tall order for a school that only has one licensed preschool room, but we felt it necessary to reduce the over stimulating atmosphere that was creating some major behavior issues and learning barriers for the children.

After much debate and drafting of schedules, we concluded that drop off should continue to be in the classroom from 7-9, but that the teams would split from 9-12 for circle, choice, and outside time. Yellow team would keep its schedule, and blue would flop outside and choice time, so the teams qould be using the classroom at opposite times. This was a huge change as it was, so of course I decided to take it a step farther and totally change how we run circle, outside, and calendar time! It was pretty nuts trying to pull it all together, but we survived our first day.

I won’t go into everything new in our routine yet, but the best part of our day today was definitely morning meeting, which I decided would replace circle time. I had actually stumbled onto the concept of morning meeting by accident. I thought it was a synonym for circle, but boy was I wrong! Morning meeting is actually part of a larger classroom management system called “responsive classrooms”. There are whole books about the subject, and I haven’t read ANY of them! What I have read are a whole slew of blog posts from teachers who use morning meetings as a way to teach social skills and build community in the classroom. There is even room for academics! As someone who is looking for a great way to incorporate those very things, I decided to jump right on that bandwagon.

For those who don’t know, Morning meetings have 4 parts:

Greeting: This is a time for the children to greet each other. It’s a great opportunity to teach them the social rules of greetings. Greeting each child individually helps the children feel valued and build confidence.

Share: Morning share can be done many ways, depending on the size, age, and development of the group. Essentially this is an opportunity for children to practice the skills of respectful listening, as well as public speaking. Children share their thoughts and opinions one at a time in groups or in front of the class. Since my group is age 3-5 and our attention spans are short, I’ve decided to take a question of the day approach. I’m starting with simple answer questions like, “What’s your favorite food”. Then we go around the circle, and each child answers. As their skill and attention span increases, I’ll ask questions that are more open ended.

Activity/Game: This is a time to get thw kids up and moving and having fun!

Message: The purists say that this should be a written message with announcements for the day and anything special you want to emphasize as the teacher. I’ve decided to keep it looser than that. For me its a verbal message about what to expect with our day and any special instruction I think we need.

We began our meeting right after transitioning outside, which was great! The kids were all a little shocked at coming out so early without the yellow team, and they were curious.

I led them under the tree in the yard, and we sat down together in a circle. I told them that we’ll be doing circle outside from now on and that calendar would be at the end of the day. After that we sang a greeting song, and I invited them to wave when it was their turn. They felt a little silly at first, but they were smiling by the end. After that I asked them to share their favorite food and taught them the hand signal for “me too!”. That really got them excited! We sang some wiggle songs for the activity, and then we discussed the Blue Team Agreement for the message.

That part was hilarious! They were VERY explicit about what how we should and shouldn’t treat each other. “No punching, hitting, pushing, slapping, kicking, choking, spitting, or biting!” The list could have gone on, but I suggested we condense rules like that by saying, “Be safe.” I asked if they had any ideas for how we  should treat each other, and they were off to the races again! “Be kind, be nice, give hugs, play together, share toys, and hold hands”, were just some of the suggestions. We wrapped that one up with, “Be Kind.” Now if only they’d actually do it!

Tomorrow our morning message will be to write down the team agreements, and then have them sign their names on it. I’ll push for a rule that has to do with listening when others speak and I think I’ll even ask for what they think the consequences for breaking the agreement should be. I can’t wait to see where that takes us! Updates to come!!

Have you ever tried morning meetings? What are your favorite strategies for promoting community and social development in your class?

Posted in Uncategorized

Jedis, Death, and Life – Wisdom in a 5 year old

This morning I watched my son and two other boys play pretend Star Wars during free play. One of the boys threw himself down on the floor and lay still as he enacted his heroic Jedi death. The other boys must have thought it looked fun, because they promptly threw themselves down on top of him and declared that they had died too. The first boy said, ” No! You have to be sad that I died. Say, “Noooo! He’s dead!”

That moment got me thinking, and I think this 5 year old is on to something. We generally don’t like to think about our own death, but even a 5 year old knows he wants to he remembered when he goes. He wants someone to miss him. I think this feeling is a core part of each of us. We all want to feel like our lives have value, even if we don’t often think about it.

When I die, I want people to say that I worked hard and that I stood for what I believed in. I want to look back on my life and know that I gave it my very best shot. I don’t want to get to the end and feel like my life was a waste. I want to contribute some good to the world – a little light.

So the question is, am I living every day the way I want to be remembered when I go? Are you?

I love the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. We can’t control anyone else, but we can control ourselves. If we live every day like we want to be remembered, the people that count will remember us that way. But we have to live it first.

What about you? How do you want to be remembered? What are you doing each day to make it happen?

Posted in Uncategorized

On The Issue of Feminism

My feed is blown up with feminist and anti-feminist rhetoric, and I find that I can no longer sit in the middle of so much controversy without pointing out what everyone seems to be missing. We’re all so busy arguing about whether gender equality is still an issue, but I don’t think we’re focusing on the right thing.

I personally have not labelled myself feminist or anti-fem for the same reason that I don’t identify as democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on the issues. Lately I’ve been so confused about what the issues are that I’ve stayed silent, but this article helped shed some light on the subject and helped me find my voice.

It’s not about women’s rights.

You heard me.

Women’s rights are not the issue here. The point has been pushed by women, and maybe that’s where the confusion comes from. We’re all very proud of the strong feminist movement that gave women their voices, and so of course women are eager to assume the title. But this push isn’t about feminism as it began. We already have the ability to vote, to speak, to dress how we want, to pursue an education and career in whatever field we choose.

Yeah, yeah. I can already hear the voices exclaiming, “But I am pursuing a career in a male dominated field and I’ve had to fight for every little success I’ve ever had because I’m a woman!” Yes. I’ve heard it. In fact I’ve been there. Try joining the Navy at a petite 5’3″ and 115 lbs.

Everyone thinks you aren’t up for the job. You’re  going to sleep around the office. You’re going to get married or pregnant and quit. Whenever the job gets hard, you’re going to call someone for help instead of doing it yourself. Because you’re a woman.

Congratulations! You’ve been stereotyped. Guess what? So has everyone else.

And that’s my point. What we’re fighting here isn’t just a woman’s issue. It’s a human issue. For every hardship women are faced with in society right now, I can point out it’s equal opposite for men.

Instead of squabbling about who has it worse, let’s talk solutions.

Let’s get to the point and say that everyone is over-sexualized in America, and it’s toxic.

What if instead of complaining that we can’t wear anything we want without getting cat called or raped or judged by men, we treat ourselves with dignity and respect first. Don’t tolerate or buy into the way women are portrayed in the media. Don’t put half naked girls in music videos and act like that’s desirable or what women should look like. It’s not. We encourage our own over-sexualization by supporting that kind of media.

Don’t hang around guys who buy into that. News Flash: Men want women in their lives. If all the women walk out, the majority of men will follow. It might only be on the surface at first, but that’s a natural step in the transition. After the civil rights movement everything wasn’t peachy just because segregation ended was it? A lot of white people had to suck up their pride and bite their tongues because what they wanted to say or do was no longer acceptable. Fast forward a generation or two, and the majority of young white  people can hardly believe segregation was a real thing. So it is whenever society makes a conscious decision to change without a universal consensus.

And on the flip side, don’t give what you can’t take. Women cat call, grope, and sexually harass men all the time. Don’t try to deny it. I’m a woman and I’ve been there, remember? Women get away with it because “men like it”. It’s one of the not-so-great stereotypes men are stuck with. If they don’t enjoy women’s sexual advances, there’s something wrong with them. Replace “like” with “want” in that quote. Sound familiar? If you don’t want it said or done to you, don’t say or do it to them.

Let’s admit that American society is desperately trying to redefine familial roles and responsibilities, and our societal expectations need to catch up.

Remember that bit about the first gen of feminists paving the way for women to pursue education and careers? It’s in the law books people! It’s our expectations of social roles that need to catch up.

Feminists want more female CEOs and Managers. They want more women in the work force receiving equal pay. They want paid, extended maternity leave and extra time to pump breast milk when they come back.

Well, what about men? Where’s their extended paternity leave? When do they get kudos at work for spending time with their kids? I think single dads should get extra paid sick days for when their kids miss school. And what about the kids? Who is taking care of the kids while all of these men and women go chase their careers?

Here’s where it’s at:

More women aren’t in the higher positions, not because men are stone-walling them, but because most women aren’t willing to sacrifice their children and families to chase the mighty dollar. Men can’t stay home with the kids because then he’s Mr. Mom and his wife wears the pants (another of men’s glorious stereotypes). His masculinity is shot. Men are supposed to fill that role in our society. Or at least they were supposed to before divorce and single motherhood became a norm. Because kids need their moms right? So moms should have majority custody right? But moms and kids need money to live, so mom works. Now she’s stretched so thin from trying to fill both roles that she’s failing as a mother and as a career woman.

See where I’m going with this? I’ll lay it out, just in case you don’t.

If women are going to be in the workforce, be it because it’s their right or because it’s their necessity, society has to give somewhere in there. Operating on the assumptions that children are the future and we as a country care about our future, family support has got to be the priority. That means quality childcare has got to be made affordable, and men cannot be looked down on for staying home with the kids if that’s what works for their family. The first months after a baby is born are crucial to child development, therefore paid maternity leave has got to happen. And we’ve got to get over the fact that women have breasts. If we address the over-sexualization piece above it’ll help us realize that breasts are for feeding babies. They cost a heck of a lot less than formula, but only if women have the chance to use them. That requires giving female employees time to pump, and not guilting her about it. Having childcare on site would expedite things since babies generally feed faster than the pump can pump. Just a thought.

And in case you’re wondering, I am fully aware that every one of these provisions costs money. A lot of money. But this is where we’re at as a society. Women are in the workforce to stay. It’s become necessary. Either we continue in the destructive trend we’re in (destructive because kids are the future and if mom’s got to work then who’s got the kids, Remember?), or we embrace where we are and live up to the favorite child-rearing phrase “It takes a village”.

If we do the math as other countries have, and I mean actual number crunching here, we’ll realize that the potential loss involved with these investments is miniscule compared to the financial pay off of having a quality, mentally healthy, and stable workforce.

So that’s my piece. Tell me it’s idealistic and my proposed solutions will never happen. That doesn’t change the truth. We don’t have a women’s problem or a men’s problem. We have massive society problems. Let’s quit fighting. Let’s quit shaming. Let’s talk solutions and then make it happen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Write.

I write because words are alive to me. They give shape to the world and to life. They are strong and weak, soft and hard. Words are like dancing, but still. Like singing, but quiet. When I have nothing else open to me, I still have words. Even when I can’t write, I can compose in my head.

I do it all the time, but I’d rather write them down. Somehow, when the words come out onto the blank page it makes them real. It gives them power. Words are power. When I write, I have power. Power to influence others and myself. When I am only a storm of emotion inside, writing brings quiet, peace, understanding.

There are things I want to tell the world that are so close to my heart, I can’t speak them out loud. My voice doesn’t do justice. It quivers with fear of rejection and fear that I won’t be able to convey how very important these things are. But when I write, you can’t hear the quiver, only the power of the words. When I write, I am brave. I am my truest self on paper because bravery is required to reveal so much.

 

 

Posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized

When your world is rocked

One of my favorite things about our home is that we have our own little beach at the end of the street. Marsh might be a better word for it. It used to be a mud flat, but the last few years a combination of mysteriously appearing sand and an increase of marsh grass has made it much more beach-like.

We are the only ones willing to tromp across the marsh grass to get to this particular section of beach, so it feels like our own private playground. T  has proven himself a very effective construction foreman, ordering Dave and I to help dig a hole complete with a trench that extends down the beach, allowing his hole to fill up before the tide is fully high. He thinks of it as his safe space. It’s there that he swims, catches minnows, and digs up clams and oysters.

Until recently, I thought it was our safe space too. Dave grew up there. I go there when I can’t handle life anymore. It’s the scene of some of our best family memories.

October 29th, 2016. After a morning of trout fishing Dave and T still hadn’t got the fishing bug out of their systems, so they went down to the marsh to scoop up some minnows while I put Gabby down for a nap.

About an hour later, the doorbell rang. I answered the door to find a girl I’d never met before asking if I was Dave’s wife and could I come now? David was stumbling around on the beach, he looked very pale, and she thought he might vomit. I threw on shoes and ran to the beach.

I found him carrying a bucket of minnows toward me across the marsh grass as a neighbor I only know by sight carried T and the fishing poles behind him. David always carries the fishing poles.

As I got closer, he looked like he might fall over at any moment. I put his free arm across my shoulder and we hobbled up the street.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know. My back hurts”. He leaned heavier on me with every step.

“I’m taking you to the ER. Let’s get straight in the Jeep”.

He didn’t argue. He didn’t say he’ll drive.

That’s when my stomach dropped. He NEVER let’s me drive when we’re together. He drove himself to and from the ER even when he had chest pain that was tentatively diagnosed as pericarditis. There’s an extensive list of ER visits that he did not let me drive him to.

I loaded the boys in the car, grabbed Gabby from in the house and we left.

The drive to West Roxbury had never been longer. David couldn’t remember the date. Or what we did that morning. Or that he he’d just caught the biggest rainbow trout of his life. I don’t think he even remembered that T had been at the beach with him. We had the same conversations over and over again. He cried. I tried not to show how scared I was. The kids were very quiet in the back seat.

By the time we got to the hospital, he couldn’t lift his legs or feel his toes. For once, we barely had to wait. They got an IV in and took what looked like a pint of blood. They asked a million questions that he couldn’t answer. He’d look at me, and I’d ask if they were testing his memory or if they really wanted to know. Gabby colored in a chair and contemplated sliding across the tile in her socked feet. I forgot to grab her shoes. T watched every little detail and stayed very, very quiet.

When they asked what happened, all I could say was that the neighbors saw him stumbling around and came to check on him. They found him trying to get up off the ground. T is the only one who was there.

“T, can you tell me what happened to daddy at the beach?”

“He was just on the sand. I was just playing. I didn’t know anything was wrong.” He’s using his little man voice.

“Can you tell me, did he lay down or fall down?”

“Lay down”.

“Did he talk to you when he was laying down?” The doctor was chiming in now.

“No” His little man voice disappears when the doctors are asking.

“Were his eyes closed?”

“Yes, but he wasn’t sleeping”. He hid his face in my leg.

“Was he moving when he was laying down?”

“uh uh”.

And that’s all he said. My saint of a sister in law picked up the kids after that, so I could focus on Dave.

Almost as soon as the doctors left, Dave fell asleep. I sat next to his bed, looking between his pale face (that I didn’t even know could be pale) and the monitor displaying his vital signs.

Everything after that is a bit of a blur. The nurse took him to get an MRI that took 2 1/2 hours. He slept more. A neurologist visited. Around midnight they admitted him to a med surge unit. I talked with the Neurologist one more time and went home so I could be there when our kids woke up.

That was probably the scariest day of our 6 year marriage. On the flip side, that means every day since has been a little better. The next morning I didn’t go straight to David because we had agreed the night before that the kids shouldn’t come to the hospital and I didn’t have a sitter. I got the kids ready for church because I didn’t know what else to do. It turns out, that was the best thing I could have done.

From the moment we arrived, I was swooped up by people who had heard via the primary president what had happened. I had text her the night before, asking her to find a sub for my class just in case I couldn’t come to church. Every organization in the ward reached out to see how they could help. We had offers for food, visits, blessings, and most appreciated of all, babysitting.

I had always taken pride in the fact that our church has possibly the most amazing emergency reaction system in the world. The LDS church has a reputation for being the first on scene after natural disasters all over the world. I must admit, I had forgotten how well suited the church is to responding to life’s individual catastrophes. It has never been clearer to me that this church is organized as it is by inspiration. Chance could never produce something so effective.

That Sunday G went home with a dear friend, while T and I went to see daddy at the hospital. I had intended to leave T too but when the parting came I could see how scared he was for David. I didn’t really believe he had told us the whole story of what happened on the beach, and I knew he wasn’t going to be able go pretend everything was ok at someone else’s house.

We were met at the hospital with good news. Dave was walking! It was a slow, lopsided walk staggered with back spasms, but it was a huge improvement after the paralysis of the night before. And equally amazing, there was talk of sending him home that day! We decided that T and I would stay until they decided to keep him or said he could come home.

Not long after receiving the good news, our bishop paid us a surprise visit. He brought with him the young men’s president and one of the priests to administer the sacrament. For the first time, I witnessed the sacrament being administered to one. These three priesthood holders drove almost an hour one way to perform this short ordinance for David alone. Our bishop visited the two other patients in the room, asking them to turn down their football game for a moment while the sacred ordinance was administered. They gladly complied, and reverence filled our curtained, private corner of the room as the men blessed and passed one cracker and one tiny sacrament cup of water.

I cannot say how grateful I am that T was there to witness that moment, for it truly was an outpouring of the savior’s love. I hope that he treasures it up in his heart and holds it as his example of how to use the priesthood when it is his turn. It really is there to bless and uplift the one.

David was sent home that evening. We still don’t know what caused the “episode”, as the doctors call it, and there are still some lingering effects. Dave’s memory experienced large gaps his first week home. Though there has been improvement, he still has a hard time remembering things and experiences occasional vertigo. The doctors are still looking for answers. We don’t know why he hasn’t fully recovered or if it may happen again.

We do know that God’s hand has been heavily involved in this experience. He was there when our neighbor glanced out the window and decided to see if everything was alright. He was driving us when I was in shock on the way to the ER. He was there as I drove home from the hospital after being awake for 20 hours with my gas tank on empty. He rallied the ward when I needed support so I could be there for my husband. He was there when David pulled a 98% on a test he couldn’t remember studying for 3 days after his episode. I know everything is going to be ok because God’s hand is in this. No matter how scary things seem, he’s got us.

I write this during an upswing when David appears relatively stable, but I also write this facing the unknown. This episode came at a time when we thought he was perfectly healthy. I feel myself relaxing the more normal he seems, and yet I know that it could happen again when he’s fishing on some lonely dock one night and he’d be gone. I’d be a widow and single mother. But as David says, we can’t stop living because we’re afraid it might happen again. I trust him. And I trust God, even if the worst happens, because I know he’s got us.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oh, By The Way… Here’s my purpose!

I got started publishing last week, but as with all my journals, I feel like I need to set forth a purpose here.

This is my first year out of college, and I’m in limbo. I can’t afford to work out of the home (the subject of another blog post), and I’m still 8 weeks away from getting a decision on my FCC license application. Meanwhile, I’m homeschooling my daughter, my son, and his friend, exploring my educational philosophy, and dreaming about launching this dream school. This limbo situation adds to too much time for researching and thinking, which leads to a big jumble of ideas and thought, but no answers.

This blog is my attempt to organize all of that thought and turn it into something productive. It’s like thinking out loud. If I were a new teacher employed by someone else, I would have co-teachers and colleagues to bounce ideas off of. I could try out ideas and get feedback about what worked and what didn’t. But I don’t work in a place like that. It’s just me at home teaching the kids.

And that means that I need to be extra reflective. I need to take the initiative to find new ideas and new ways of doing things. My kids are great for experimenting on, but it goes nowhere if I don’t evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This is how I intend to do that. I’ll be posting my research as well as the things that are working and not working in my practice. When I write, it helps me put sense to my thoughts so that I can come to logical next steps. It’s almost like bouncing my thoughts off of myself when no one else is available to talk to.

And the perk of doing this on a blog instead of hand-writing in a journal, is that there is a chance that like minded people will stumble into my thoughts, share their thoughts with me, and boom! We have outside collaboration… Here’s hoping!