Monday, March 18, 2013


To kick off a recent day-long workshop we watched a video about a middle school girl who collapsed and her P.E. teachers saved her. The video is powerful and it's a great story.

The point of it, in our workshop, was to make connections to interventions. The idea being that the P.E. teachers intervened for this girl and we need to intervene to help students reach benchmarks. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like a serious stretch.

There is no question that the teachers saved the girls life. Without them she had no chance. But the same could be said for the doctors. The teachers made it possible for her to survive until the doctors could take over. The long-term life saving was done by the doctors.

I'm not sure where that leaves me in the analogy. I feel like there should be some big aha here. Instead, I'm just frustrated that this video was used in a way that feels very manipulative.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Relationships Matter

I am blessed to be working with a fabulous intern (pre-service teacher, student teacher, whatever you want to call her) this semester. She is thoughtful, bright, interested in learning and in the students, and a delightful person. To be honest, most of the interns I have worked with in the past dozen years have been this way. This one, while being fabulous in all those ways, has also had to step up like nobody's business. I had a couple of conferences scheduled this semester meaning a few days out plus some doctors' appointments for me and my daughters. Then we had the minor crisis with our daughter which involved even more absences. Finally, there have been a surprising number of meetings and inservices required by my school/district. So this phenomenal intern has taken over for many days, planned and unexpected, with grace, flexibility, and competence.

Inevitably, no matter how stellar the intern, we always hit a point at which we need to be eating lunch with kiddos. We do this two or three times each week with a couple of students at a time. The goal is to build rapport and get to know the students outside of the academic setting. In the past, I've assumed this was necessary because some interns struggle with all they are balancing and need an extra push to focus on their relationships with students. But now I'm not so sure.

I get a grace period with my students at the start of each year. We have something of a honeymoon as we all get to know each other. As a result, I get to know them and build relationships during a lovely time. An intern, who joins us in January, is stepping into established routines and personalities, for all the good and bad that entails. My relationships with the students impacts hers - which can help or hinder depending on me. The kids' relationships with each other also impact how she perceives them. She doesn't really get to start fresh. Eating lunch together breaks down those walls a bit, opens up new views of each other.

The downside? I don't like giving up my lunchtime! That's why we only do it two or three times each week. In the moment, I love the time with the kids. But I also definitely need time without them during the day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Friends are All Teachers, Thank Goodness

Another reason for my recent absence here has been a small crisis with our daughter. Parents face small crises all the time. Sometimes a small crisis goes away on its own. Sometimes a small crisis becomes something huge. Sometimes a crisis needs to be addressed carefully and sometimes it needs to be studiously ignored. There is almost no way to know this until the crisis can be viewed through hindsight.

This isn't our first small crisis nor will it be the last. This, however, was eye-opening for me. I'm a teacher. I'm surrounded by teachers and other educators. As a result, I have access to a wealth of knowledge.

Teachers see small crises all the time. They also see large crises but, fortunately, those come less often. Seeing so many small crises mean that teachers know ways to address them and who else can help.

In this small crisis there were numerous people with whom I work who helped us with strategies to address our daughter's concerns and to point us to others and to help us navigate various possibilities. We have been stressed as we moved forward with this but all the information and support made it so much better.

I'm left now, as we see the light at the end of the tunnel (we think), with great sympathy for parents without this network of resources. I'm left wondering how I can better support my students' families when they are facing small (or large) crises. I think I often forget that most parents don't have the wealth of knowledge all around them that we have.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Change is Hard

I tend to be a fairly sentimental person. I find it hard to throw away notes my students wrote to me, art from my daughters, tickets from theater performances, and Christmas letters from friends and family. That's not always a good thing. Our house is awfully full of stuff. But, luckily, most of that stuff is pretty small.

Today we (my daughters, my husband, and I) spent the day at my parents' house. This isn't uncommon. They live about half an hour from us and our girls are often there even if we aren't. The unusual part was when we left. We drove away knowing that it's very possible that was the last time we ever visit that house.

My parents have bought a motor home and are about to embark on a long-time dream. They are selling almost everything they own next week (thanks to a company that does these things). They've put a few things in storage for a future time when they feel they are too old to be driving around the country in a motor home. Some stuff has been shipped to my sister in San Francisco and my minivan has made trips for the past few weekends bringing stuff back to our house. Starting Monday my parents will live in their motor home.

I can't just tuck this house away in a keepsake box in my closet.

My parents have lived in this house since 1984. That's the longest either of them have lived in any home. At one point or another I lived in every one of its four bedrooms. I learned to play the piano in that house. Inside the hall closet door are the markings showing mine and my sister's heights over the years. And now those for my daughters as well. There is only one other family on that cul-de-sac that has lived there longer than my parents.

My daughters cried as we drove home. They don't like things to change. They're strong and spending spring break traveling with Grandma and Bobo in the motor home will do wonders for their adjustment period. I tried to talk with them about it as we drove. To acknowledge their sadness while reminding them of their excitement about future plans. I think that would have been more effective if I hadn't been crying.

Change is hard. When you are the one advocating for or planning the change it is different. When change is out of your control it is challenging. I'm not against this change. It's just hard to adjust.