The Children are Listening. Still.


untitled-image-26The children WERE listening. Heard by me during school bus duty yesterday: (from a fourth grader) “He hates Black people, we’re all gonna die.” (from a 2nd grader in place of the usual good morning greeting) “Ms. Frisella, we’re doomed!” (from another 2nd grader) “He hates Black people and women.” (from the daughter of upstanding citizens, Haitian immigrants) “My brother says they’re gonna come to the door and take my parents back to Haiti.”

All of the above: beautiful, frightened, Black children.
Teachers, parents, everyone???
We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our kids are scared.
Get it together and start talking nice.

Give our kids ways to talk about the election in ways that make them feel safe and heard. Allay the fears-maybe by asking them things like, “So, moving forward, what are things we can do to make your life (this community, this country, the world) a better, more peaceful place? What actions can we take together that will make you feel safe?” Take away the helpless feeling of fear and replace it with positive action.

There is NO excuse for the United States to have had children living in fear yesterday because of the Presidential election results. The grownups did this (no finger-pointing; people in all parties are guilty of the animosity, of crafting fear-inciting ads, of sharing mean-spirited posts and un-fact-based “facts”,  of re-posting great uncle Frank’s “share if you agree!” memes, and of the unkind kitchen table talk- and remember I teach elementary school and “S/he did it FIRST!” bounces right off teachers), and shame on us.

United States, people. Yep, for more than half of us, our candidate didn’t win. We have to move forward and do our best to make the best of an unwanted situation. That’s harder to do for little hearts and minds.

United States. How about we let our kids be kids? How about we stop scaring them? There’s something more important than anybody’s need to post or say something inflammatory.

What, you ask? What’s bigger than my need to make a point on Facebook and burn that old high school classmate who disagrees with me so I can give myself a little false validation? What’s more precious than me using my frantic little typing fingers to put someone down so I can feel superior for just one second?

Children.
They are listening. They have been all along, and they’ve been hearing some pretty scary stuff from us-from those of us whose sacred duty is to look out for them. Teachers, parents, grandparents, mentors and elected officials.

They’re afraid, and for many of them, rightfully so. What are we going to do to make them feel safe and heard?

What are YOU going to do to make them safe?

Peace, friends. untitled-image

 

This is me, 2016.


                                 peace cat.jpg

I am planning to post on a regular basis this year (though I’ve been posting pretty regularly every 4-6 months; let me amend this to: I plan to post on a regular, more frequent basis this year). While there still may be a lack of rhyme/reason to post themes, there will be several areas about which I’ll want to write, get your opinions, or ask for your advice:

  • Education. The political side, or the classroom side. I teach Elementary age children of poverty, and have for my entire 32-year career. I am currently serving as the Music Teacher and Gifted Ed teacher at my school.
  • Philosophy/Politics. I am a left-leaning, born-too-late-to-be-a-real-hippie liberal, so my posts will reflect that.
  • I’m going to share more about some chronic health issues that have hit me like a sledgehammer over the last few years-Diabetes (the newest) and Asthma being the two that have hit me hardest. I will share how I’m dealing, and probably ask for a lot of advice (with the DISCLAIMER! I am not a doctor, and I know that you are not, so anything we share with each other will NOT be construed for, or be intended to replace, advice from actual medical professionals). Neither one of this conditions is actually under control, so you may hear a tinge of frustration as I write about them.
  • Cats. Of course.

And my kid. Of course.

So the 2016 Journey begins. Hope you’ll hang with me and maybe we’ll have some great discussions and learn some good stuff on the way.

Peace, friends, and Happy New Year!

Teach students to care about others instead of measuring how they compare to each other


Heartfelt post about the Test Mess

This post.  Not my work, but it’s what I would have said, though maybe not as eloquently. Read and share if you would-if you know/are a teacher, parent, or student, you know how vital it is to return to the REAL priorities in education…and in life.

 

Killing Kindergarten



I read this piece on Huffington Post and had to comment (the link to the article is below):

“Thank you for this post-a perfect illustration of what NCLB and it’s offspring has done to our children (not FOR them). I will repost in the hope that at least one narrow mind might be opened and we can get closer to going back to teaching children, not teaching the test.”

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Got fair?


The joy of my life.

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wow. I’ve had this quote saved on my desktop for a while now. I ponder it, put it down. Pick it back up, then drop it like a hot coal.  Does my kid think of me when he thinks of fairness and integrity? Do I really want to know what words/concepts/emotions make him think of me?  or what words/concepts/emotions are conjured when he thinks of me? Do ANY of us parents want that particular truth laid bare?

I know a lot of things about my parenting skills. I know that despite being an expert in the field of child development, no experience or education prepares me for how to react when I see pain in those blue eyes which so exactly mirror mine. Nothing prepared me for the joy I feel when someone tells me how great they think he is.  Nothing kept me from being easy on him when most likely I shouldn’t have. Nothing keeps my heart from melting when I see his room-brightening grin. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, and I’ve done a lot that seems to have worked.

And I have learned…….

……that he’s not going to grow up on my schedule, but on his. I can help or hinder this process, but cannot force it.

…..that while very occasionally I only did the best I felt like doing, most of the time I have done my absolute very best. Even when he hated my best.

…..that everyone finds their way eventually. And letting him find the way when it involves some angst or some consequences? Gotta do it. Gotta sit back and watch, and then cry behind a closed door if I must.

…..that there really is no greater love on earth than a mother has for her child.

What do I hope he thinks of when he thinks of me? I hope he knows:

…..that I will always love him exactly the way he is.

…..that he’s the whole enchilada with extra sour cream and guac.

…..that I will always love him no matter what.

…..that fairness and integrity are part of my parenting package.

…..that he is safe from emotional harm.

…..that even when I selfishly fall into the  “after all I’ve done for you!” speech, he knows that no sacrifice was too big, no battle regretted, no effort wasted; he’s worth it.

…..that I appreciate his wit and talent and brilliance; I know that he’ll be a world-changer—in HIS own way, not mine (though hopefully his progressive thinking will continue…..).

And yes, more than anything, I hope he thinks of fairness and integrity when he thinks of me.

That alone will fill my spirit with Peace.

Hopefully he will move out into the world carrying some of that Peace in his spirit as well.

Peace, friends.

I love you, Eric.

My clone and me

the only thing we have to fear…


“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

-Maria Robinson

Smash it to pieces.

(photo from bobsbarricades.com)

For me, it’s when I miss a couple of workouts, or eat a couple of really bad-for-me meals in a row.  The mind plays a dastardly trick: it tries to convince me that it’s time to give up, that it’s easier to spiral lazily in the vortex of “what’s the point of trying”  than to pick up and move on.  Funny isn’t it?  How effortlessly effort itself becomes the enemy.

Be it diet, exercise, studying, leading a life of strength and independence, or  just turning the doorknob of a classroom and entering, our psyches do an excellent job psyching us out. I don’t think it’s the fear of effort that paralyzes us. Fear of failure, of being physically attractive, of (ahem-) dancing in public, of  not having a significant other, of not being good enough, of conflict, of abandonment, even fear of success…..the real roadblock  is the is the fear of facing your fears!

And the ONLY way to smash through the roadbloaks and get peace?  Step on the gas and drive head-on into those fears.

You are the driver, and the fears are cowering behind one of Bob’s Barricades (ever wonder how rich “Bob” must be?).

It’s NOT the other way around.  You are behind the wheel. The drive may have some uncomfortable miles; so what? Fear–just a sensation.  Panic–just a sensation. The panic will stop in a minute. The loneliness will evolve into sweet solitude and personal strength.  If he’s (or she’s) “just not that into you,” okay; sad, but it’s clearly not meant to be. Nobody’s watching you dance anyway, so flail on.  Afraid of conflict? Speak your truth anyway, people are supposed to disagree and argue sometimes (just fight fair, which means listen to the other person and NO name calling). If you succeed at something, guess what? That means you ARE good enough!  If you almost succeed, congrats on your future growth potential. If you fail, face the fear of acknowledging it, enjoy the freedom that admitting failure gives you, and move on.

And if you require a little emotional Driver’s Education, put a counselor in the passenger seat and floor it. So it’s hard, scary, and very un-fun at moments. That’s okay too. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable sometimes, or you’re not really living your life.

Every minute you wallow in fear is a minute you won’t get back. True, but here’s some more good news: the next minute and every minute of the rest of your life, can and should belong to you. The beginning of your trip, even the middle, may have been bumpy and stormy, but you can turn your vehicle NOW to start the drive to your peaceful destination. It is absolutely, unequivocally, never too late.

So who am I to be giving all this self-help advice?

Continue reading

“Anyway” you look at it…


“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Epiphanies can happen in the oddest places.

I was in the bathroom of my friend Alexis’ classroom today, and as I was washing my hands, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the mirror.  As I read the copy,  I actually felt myself becoming wiser! Well, maybe that’s a bit much for the bathroom of a portable classroom at an elementary school, but reading the page gave me chills.

The words on the page are quoted above. The author, Kent M. Keith, created these ‘commandments’ when he was only 19, a sophomore at Harvard. He was working on a  booklet for high school Student Councils.  It looks to me like he covered how to lead a meaningful life in 10 easy (or not so easy, depending on one’s degree of humane development) lessons!

This piece needs no analysis or evaluation on my part. The genius is in its truth and simplicity.  Just read it and let it bounce around your brain and heart for a few minutes. Then let me know what you think. As for me? I think I’ll print it up and tape it to my bathroom mirror.

As an added bonus?  Reading this takes about as much time as singing Happy Birthday (one of the ‘how long you wash your hands’ suggestions).  A much more evolved way to spend your hand-washing time.  So there you have it–grow as a person AND eliminate H1N1!  Two for the price of one (you’re welcome).

Thanks, Alexis!

Peace, friends.

For more on Kent M. Keith, visit:  http://www.paradoxicalcommandments.com