Celebration

April 19, 2012 2 comments

One year ago today I took my first flying trapeze class, and today, I took my first swing out of safety lines.

I’ve been working towards this milestone for months, passing conditioning requirements, trampoline skills requirements, and trapeze safety requirements.  I’ve stressed about getting to it, very nearly cried about not getting there fast enough, and worried I’d be too scared to do it once I was allowed.  But then today the instructors watched my first turns, signed off on all the required forms, I took the bar without safety lines and flew – and it felt great.  Not scary, not stressful, just right.  Everything my body’s learned how to do over the last year I did today without thinking or worrying, and it was exhilarating.

Doing trapeze for the last year has changed how my body looks and how I relate to it.  I’m incredibly strong now, and getting stronger, and I have become so much more aware of and in control of my body’s movements.  I’m still not graceful (or flexible), by any means, but I’ve become connected to my body in a way I never expected to be.

Earning out of lines status is a big milestone, to be sure, but I expect I’ll look back on this as just the beginning of my trapeze journey.  Each time I learn a new trick, twist my body in a new way, or figure out how to tense a muscle I’d never known I had I get hooked all over again, and I know there’s a whole lot left to learn.

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I so mean!

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

I was just reading back through old Facebook posts and came across this quote:

Student explaining why he wasn’t listening to me: “Because every time I want to do something awesome you just say no!”

If that doesn’t sum up my relationship with this year’s class, I don’t know what does!  It cracks me up every time.

Categories: Uncategorized

Paradigm shift

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

The Virginia Tech shootings were five years ago today.  For most people nationwide, it was a day of shock and sadness that quickly receded.  For me, it shook my foundations even more than did 9/11.

When the shootings happened I was just a year out of working as a college administrator, just five years out of being in college, and had one sister in college and one about to go.  I felt the events of the day as an administrator, as a student, as a family member – and in the end, as a neighbor and friend.  People ask where you were on September 11, 2001. I can tell you exactly where I was and what I heard when my sister told mom that Reema had died.  If I ever needed to cry on command, all I would need to think of is the cell phones ringing in students’ backpacks, called by families desperately hoping to get through.

The Virginia Tech shootings changed how I think about being in school.  In grad school, friends wondered why I sat on the aisles in lecture classes, always in the very front or very back.  In my classroom now, I sometimes lay awake at night, idly thinking about how helpful it is that I share a folding wall with a colleague’s room, because it doubles our ability to maneuver around a shooter’s movements.  The day’s emotional hold on me can still catch me unawares, moving me to tears in the space of unexpected seconds.

There is less attention paid to the anniversary each year, and I suppose that’s the human and normal thing to do.  But I still remember; if not everyday, then so many of the days – and I expect I always will.

I guess it okay, I guess

March 30, 2012 2 comments

Today was our last day of school before Spring Break.  My most active boy was very, very active today.  Literally bounced off the walls (and doors), and told me several times that I “so mean a teacher.”  About 5 minutes before dismissal all that activity. Stopped.

Completely subdued, he came over to me, worrying his bottom lip. “What’s the matter?” I asked him.

“I-I-I no want to go Spring Break.  I don’t know what do.”

“Who’s going to be with you when you’re at home?”

“I don’t know…I guess a babysitter?”

From what I know of his family, that truly is a guess.  He and his sister might have a babysitter, or they might be dropped off at different neighbors or family members each day, or honestly, they might even be on their own for stretches of time.

“Do you want to bring some books home?  Some math games?”  [Head shake no]

“How about one of our jump ropes?”

[Slow nod] “I guess yes.”

He and I spent the last few minutes of the day walking around the classroom, opening cupboards, drawers, and cabinets, collecting anything of interest and stuffing it into his backpack.  When his bus was called he said, “I guess it okay, I guess,” then zipped up his bag, said “I going to miss you,” and ran off.

Square peg, round hole

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Our district is moving to standards based grading on report grades, which means that instead of giving one big grade for Math, one for Reading, one for Science, etc., we’ll report how students have done on each of the state’s standards of learning.  I think it’ll take a bit more documentation, but in the end it makes a lot of sense – if we studied time and fractions in one quarter and your child bombed one but rocked the other, does it really help you as a parent to see that performance averaged out to “on grade level”?

So, I’m in support of the change. But. My team decided to get ready for the change by starting to track our students’ achievement using checklists and rubrics measuring their level of mastery.  It’s been a valuable experience, but now I have about 45-50 data points on each child that still need to be boiled down to a single, old-style grade.  And I’m not sure how to do it.  In this last grading period we taught units on time, money, fractions, and measurement.  Some kids did well on all of them, some did well on a few of them, and happily, no one did poorly on all of them.  Because so many kids did well across the board, I’m worried I’ll create a Lake Woebegone effect, with (almost) all of the kids being above average.

But then if a child did really, really, really poorly on two of the units, but really well on the other two, should they get the needs improvement grade?  Or should that average out to show them on grade level?

My likely solution: put off math grading for several more hours by working on science and social studies, then make whatever choice feels right in the moment, knowing I have the data to back up whatever I decide to anyone who’s interested in understanding it.

Panic!

March 27, 2012 1 comment

As we headed out to recess today I saw two of my girls whispering to each other and heard snippets of a story it sounded like I could ignore.  Oops!

Turns out they were sharing the story of Bloody Mary, a story I remember being scared sleepless by during a 5th grade sleepover with friends.  In the version I heard, if you chant Bloody Mary’s name three times in front of a mirror, the lights will turn out, the door will slam closed, and she’ll come out of the mirror to attack you.

This titillated many of my children, but one, oh one did not like it.  As I prepared to line them up for gym, I heard him gasp as though shot, then start hyperventilating and sobbing, chanting something over and over about not wanting to die.  Knowing his tablemates know his triggers, I turned to them, “did you talk to him about dying?!”  The girls tripped over themselves to offer competing, equally incoherent denials, but somewhere in there I heard the term “Bloody Mary,” and since hearing that seemed to double V’s panic, I realized what had happened.  V turned to me, in the throes of what looked like a full-blown panic attack, saying he didn’t want to be killed, he didn’t want to be killed.

I went with the one construct I thought might break through the emotional haze: “V, that story is FICTION.  It is NOT real.  Someone MADE IT UP.  It is FICTION.”  Still hyperventilating, he gasped out, “Megan. says. it’s. REAL.” His not-so-helpful tablemates quickly agreed with him – Megan DID say it was real.

Time to pull out the big guns.

“V. Who do you trust more?  Me or Megan?”

Through tears: “Y-y-you!”  But then: “But J-J-Jennifer says it’s true too!”  Increased wailing and shaking.

“V! Who do you trust more?  Me or Jennifer?”

Happily, even Jennifer agreed that I was more trustworthy.

“You trust me and I say it’s FICTION.  It is NOT TRUE.  It’s a story people make up to scare kids.”

That brought on an unexpected new problem: “They LIED to me???  Megan and Jennifer LIED???”

I told him that they were telling a story, just like we read stories in books.  This managed to get him just barely calm enough that I could line the class up, but the panic was still in full bloom, and for some reason leaving the room triggered another hyperventilating attack.  My teammate was on her break in our pod, and hearing me say something along the lines of “NO one is going to kill you,” she leapt up and offered to walk my class to P.E.

V and I went on a hunt for the school counselor, after he refused to consider going to any other teacher’s room because they all have windows (the counselor is literally in a closet, giving Bloody Mary no window to come out of).  Although she had a one-on-one counseling session starting when we found her, she pulled V in with her and kept him for over 30 minutes; he returned to class still on edge, but with his intellect back in control of his emotions.

The rest of the day was, for my room, remarkably quiet and drama-free, but it’s amazing how many things the professors don’t even think to prepare you for in grad school!

Focus on success

March 14, 2012 2 comments

It’s so easy to define the day based on what didn’t work.

The kids didn’t line up well from recess.

My lesson didn’t work well in reading.

One of my boys didn’t have a good day and had to have a note sent home.

Another boy didn’t finish his work because he had a temper tantrum after he made a minor mistake.

It’s easy to focus on these things, but if I looked at the day that way, I’d never go back.  So instead I try to look at the positives.

We did line up beautifully, and oh-so-quietly, going to lunch.

The kids did love writing their list poems.

When I gave the vague direction to “clean out your book box and get rid of all the random paper,” the whole class did start cleaning, and did it well.

The students did remember how to measure with non-standard units and did work cooperatively for almost 45 minutes measuring things at their tables.

At the end of the day, my recently-suspended student did recite a long poem fluently and almost perfectly.

Though it doesn’t always feel like it in the moment, these celebrations are just as true, and even more important, than the failures.  It’s what I hold onto every night at bedtime, and every morning as I pull into the parking lot and gear back up for a full day with my class.

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