25 November 2008

A cautionary tale...

Let this be a lesson to all who would make assumptions... about boys. And girls. And pink Hanna Montana pencils...

Today I subbed for a first grade teacher. It was me and the special ed teacher in the room. For a large portion of today there was a "discussion" between a boy and a girl about a pink Hanna Montana pencil. The girl insisted that the boy took it from her - that it was hers. He made no bones about the fact that he doesn't like her - "she is not my friend"... horrifying first-grade things like that...

Off and on throughout the day was the issue of this pencil. Boy says it is his. Girl says it is hers. Finally I take the pencil. In the back of my brain I think... "I will leave it for the teacher to talk with them tomorrow." And then I thought "what am I thinking?? I can't leave a busy teacher a note about a pink Hanna Montana Pencil! This is nonsense." So when the boy left I gave it to the girl. Told her to take it home and leave it at home.

A few minutes after the girl left (her bus was called) the boy returned to the room. With his sister. She said she gave the pencil to the boy. The other teacher thanked her and said that it had helped the boy get his work finished that day.

OMG. I felt absolutely HORRIBLE! How could I fix this?!? I totally owe this boy an apology. I told the teacher what had happened. She wasn't angry - she told me that the girl has done this before and that I had no way of knowing. I even told her that I had planned to leave it for the teacher with a note and then thought the better of that idea... she laughed.

I believed the girl not because I liked her more or think any less of the boy... I believed the girl because it was a pink Hanna Montana pencil. And maybe because I heard him being so wretched to her (knowing what I know now I see that he had a reason).

I screwed up. BIG. What is the message this boy received from all of this?? He is not trustworthy? Girls will be believed more than boys?

UGH!!!!! I fell for the oldest stereotype in the book and I am woefully embarrassed by it.

24 November 2008

Opportunity wears soft-soled shoes...

For years I have been trying to figure out how to make the holidays less like a potlatch and more about reaching out with hearts and hands - I have weakly suggested we forgo our family pollyanna in years past and have been shot down... this year I decided that most people would welcome the opportunity to just get together without having to worry about spending money on a trinket gift... will this save us a lot of money? No. of course not. But it MAY help everyone to change their focus... it isn't about the presents. It is about connecting with each other. Pure and simple. Spending time - not money...

This year, the weak economy and tenuous employment situations for many offer each of us an opportunity to really think about what is important. What really makes us happy. Kids too - kids remember and appreciate the time spent with them - the times we focus on them and make them feel special. Take advantage of this time to shift your focus...

Say no to the potlatch... say yes to real connections!

16 November 2008

Apparently, I have been promised extra energy...

Here is what my horoscope says for today:

It's as if you took extra vitamins today, for your energy level is high and can soar even higher if you are willing to let go of your past. Mars is now in your sign until December 27, revving up your motor and supplying you with extra fuel. Don't procrastinate; it's your time to start something fabulous.

Sounds impressive - doesn't it??! Most days I read this horoscope (just for fun - I know that) and marvel at the ring of truth it has to it... Today I read this and am seriously hoping I get some of that energy... what would be really great is if I could have that energy even if I exercise. Because for me - in the alternate universe in which I live - the more I exercise the more I feel like someone beat the crap out of me. Sort of counter-productive to losing weight, isn't it?

Anywho - if Mars being in my sign can somehow fix this for me temporarily - then woo hoo! :D

Yeah, I know.

It's B.S.

But a girl can dream right??

14 November 2008

It is easy to be excellent in a sea of mediocrity.

I subbed today with someone who was - well - mediocre. Perfectly nice woman. very sweet. But a complete and total push-over. She subbed for the regular ed teacher and I for the special ed teacher. We had only one class period together and then I brought my students back to the room at lunch time and at the end of the day.

The class period we had together, was odd at best. The room is full of diverse abilities - and the assignment left was a worksheet packet. She tried to have everyone work together, got upset when some students worked ahead. Didn't want to allow students to help other students - these are sixth graders... one student is an honors student who would have otherwise just been sitting there doing nothing. He wanted to help one of my students, a new student in class, who was struggling with the multiple instructions given (I was pretty-much tied to the Downs Syndrome child who needed constant assistance). She didn't want him to help... it was frustrating, but we survived.

When we returned to the room for lunch she was sitting at a table in the back drawing (she is an art teacher she told me - I think she was drawing things for the students). Kids were loud, doing whatever they wanted, not lining up for lunch - they were trying to pass out lunch tickets... no one could hear. It was pure chaos... I finally spoke up. Couldn't take it anymore. Just said (in my naturally loud booming voice) "Ladies and Gentlemen - if you would like to get to lunch this afternoon I strongly suggest you get in line and get quiet." And then I waited. I reminded them that I would not allow them to embarrass me in the hallway and we would simply wait for quiet before we would leave. And we waited. We were seven minutes late for lunch but we were quiet.

Imagine my surprise when I returned with my students at the end of the day and encountered the exact same situation! But the teacher, who had a planning day and was in the building, followed me into the room and caught her doing nothing and the students carrying on - and she knew I had nothing to do with it (thank HEAVENS!) ... I felt bad for the other sub - clearly this grade level is more than she can handle, as I said - she is very nice... but I felt embarrassed for her...

But I realized today that I actually am a decent sub and I am grateful that I have that weird invisible thing that my mother has (on a smaller, less-developed level of course) where students just seem to listen to me. I do not have a huge problem with classroom management. I don't pretend to know why... but I am grateful... no doubt about it!

Oh - and I booked three and a half more days while I was in the building today!

07 November 2008

The Meeting

You thought it would never happen. You thought I had forgotten about Rebecca and Vince and Garrett and Becky. But you were wrong! I have finally taken the time to write a bit more... so I hope you enjoy a little more of Vince's nostalgic recollections... Part twelve follows:

It was a blistering hot August afternoon in 1995 when Vince first darkened the doorway at Garrett Glass. Dressed in full Army Dress Uniform he was an impressive figure. Garrett was in a hurry, needed to get to an appointment he explained and asked how he could help Vince.

"I want to talk to you about my niece." he said.
"I don't think that I know your niece, Sir" Garrett explained
"I think you do. Her name is Becky."

Garrett stopped dead in his tracks and looked Vince straight in the eye. "So you are Vince then." he said and held out his hand. Vince recalled his firm honest handshake - truly a man's handshake tells us of his character. There was just something about Garrett. He intended to really throw his weight around and show tis guy who was boss. Instead he almost instantly liked him.

"Vince, I'm sorry - I am really running late here. I would love to talk to you about Becky, but I have to get going. You are welcome to ride along if you like. We can talk on the way."

This was the first day of what would prove to be the best friendship of Vince's life. The two rode together in that beat up old truck that Garrett was so fond of. Vince laughed to himself thinking of all the times he tried to talk Garrett into buying something new, but all Garrett ever wanted to spend extra money on was that 1957 Cadillac Convertible that he was restoring. Well, that and Becky of course. His devotion to that little girl was beyond imagination. She wasn't spoiled - but he made sure that she was properly cared for - and well, maybe a little bit spoiled. But they had a chemistry between them, a connection that was unbelievable. When Becky came into a room, Garrett's eyes lit up - she ran to him with complete joy and abandon - like they had been separated for months even though it had only been hours.

Vince helped Garrett replace Mrs. McClosky's windshield. They said little while they were working and Mrs. McClosky looked confused about why this army gentleman in his fancy uniform was helping to repair her Toyota Corolla. When they finished they said goodbye and headed back to the shop. On the way, Garrett told him about Caterina.

"Since she's been back, I've tried to help her stay sober. She lies all the time about her drinking, Vince. She shows up at odd hours. I let her see Becky, but not alone. Too afraid she may black out, or just forget what she is doing. We go to the park together..." Garrett tried to explain.

"You knew she was a drunk when you met her, Garrett. How did you get so close, so intimate with her if drinking bothers you so much? Did you really think you would change her?" Vince was agitated.

Garrett didn't answer. He just drove. Vince remembered thinking that he may have crossed a line - upset him somehow - touched a nerve. Eventually they pulled up in front of the shop.

"You want to meet her?" Garrett asked
"Becky? Sure - I mean of course!" Vince answered, relieved that Garrett finally was talking again.

They went across the street to a second story house-apartment. A large woman with bright silver hair and kind blue eyes answered the door. "Hi Mrs. Ivanov. I'm here for my lunch date" Garrett said. Mrs. Ivanov held the door open for him to enter the apartment. "Daddy!" Becky ran around the corner in a yellow sundress, her hair in pig tails and threw her arms around Garrett with such blatant happiness, you couldn't help but smile to see this reunion.

When she saw Vince, she froze. Her face changed. Tears began to well up in her little toddler eyes. She must have been afraid of him - the uniform, his height - he was never sure what it had been exactly. Garrett explained that this was her Uncle Vince, that she didn't need to be afraid and when Vince offered his hand to her to shake, she tentatively put her little hand out as well - and Vince fell in love instantly.