Just the Way He Thinks

It was a parent-teacher conference for Tornado E. And even the principal was there. Apparently I’m gaining some sort of reputation. Sure, I’ve advocated in the past, but I’m not unreasonable. It’s just that I’m a teacher too, so I have read the studies on kids who are held back, and I have read the articles on testing. So you better be ready to present your data when you make an educational decision about my kid that I do not agree with.

The last battle they agreed to retest Tornado E, and they received the same results, not ready for advanced math, but by that time, he was earning a C in regular math already. I was near losing it. But it turns out he got a C on his first test, two days in the new math class, and the teacher was impressed and kept the grade. I was less than impressed.

So that brings us back to the conference with the principal and two of Tornado E’s teachers. Since they cannot have ever teacher attend ever conference, two teachers attend; while, the others write notes. Today’s teachers were the language arts teacher and the art teacher, who Tornado E has for 3 classes. The language arts teacher ran the meeting.

LAT: We just love Tornado E. He is so smart. He asks questions. He provides great answers. He’s sharp.

AT: He’s so creative.

LAT: Let’s look at his grades. Oh, A’s in everything but math. Huh. Let’s see what he wrote for his self-reflection. He enjoys language arts. (Wait. My scientist, math-kid?!) But for his weaknesses, he says he isn’t doing well in math and he doesn’t know why. Can you enlighten us?

Most, certainly. You listening, big guy?

Me: Tornado E is a math person, a numbers person. He has always prided himself on his math skills. But then he took the math test and was taken out of the advanced math class and put into a regular math class. He was given a test the second day in, and his teacher told me she would have tossed the grade if it had been bad. But he got a C with only a review and no instruction. She was quite impressed. I am not. Tornado E is capable of more, and so he has been without video games since. At least, at my house. I think he’s struggling because this has been a blow to his ego. He is also a creature of habit and does not do well with change. This whole thing has knocked him off kilter. But thank you for retesting him.

LAT: Oh, thank you (makes some typing notes). This is good to know. Can you shed any more light?

So I went on the usual explanation. The differences in the two households. The stress it puts on Tornado E and his brothers. The actions I’m taking on my end to even things out.

LAT: You’re proactive. That’s great.

The principal: That’s a lot of stress on a kid….

LAT: Let’s go on. (Enter all the good things the teachers have to say. Like he’s a good student and he’s so smart and he’s funny.) Here it is again. Tornado E interprets instructions differently from others.

AT: He interprets instructions in a very creative way.

LAT (rescanning notes): It looks like we have all seen the same issue. It’s not a bad thing. It’s-

AT: He just sees the world different. In a unique way. I think it’s a positive. I can’t wait to see what he does this year.

LAT: I just make sure he understands something clearly. He’s very good at asking for clarification.

AT: I just make sure the block is the correct way or whatever else he’s working on. It’s just…. a Tornado E thing.

A unique thinking. Doesn’t interprets things like everyone else. Where have I heard that before?

“Fae, you just don’t think like everyone else,” said my exasperated boss as he looked over my completed task. Then he pointed where there needed to be changes to match the rest of the population’s understanding of the world. I nodded, took the work, and returned to my desk to make corrections. As I was leaving for the day, my boss called out to me, “Fae, I like how you think. That’s why I want you as an artist and a writer on the website. We need more of you. Have a good night.” I yelled thanks and ran down the stairs to catch the cafeteria before it closed.

So Tornado E inherited more from me than just my hairs and blond hair.

Advertisements

So It Begins…. Again

It’s been a hectic two weeks. And I know it’s just the start.

First, school is in full swing. I’ve been to four open houses. One for each boy and my own.

At my own, I repeated myself five times with the same speech, same jokes with the same silence. I really need a sound machine with the sound of chirping crickets. I talk about the course, my expectations, my joy of teaching their kids. I assure every parent that yes, your kid is doing fine. (Really, it was this last week that they were given the ball to drop; sometime this weekend I’ll learn how many decided to turn in their first homework assignment.)

The first open house was Tornado A’s where I learned he’s so bright and sweet, so smart, so with it. I’d wish you luck, but you already have him. Good luck, any ways. You’re going to need it. Behind that sweet smile lies the mind of a mad genius.  I also was stopped by several teachers to ask how my year was going, to exchange notes and ideas, to whisper good luck and congratulations. You have no idea how much high school freshmen are like elementary kids.

Then it was Tornado S’s open house. Usually we discuss his many weird, complex issues. But my parents have already talked to the teachers, and two out of three teachers had already had Tornado E. So I introduce myself. And Tornado S is so sweet and kind, so brilliant; we just need to help him get it out, and by the way, how’s the school year? I exchange notes and ideas with the other teachers, explaining the math common core for a few families while the math teacher talked with another family about homework. You have no idea how much high school freshman are like 5th graders.

Finally Tornado E’s open house arrived. I carpooled with a friend, and I was spoiling for some answers because Tornado E had been bumped to the regular math class because of a pre-assessment. Then he was getting a solid C in his new math class after I had lobbied for a retest or re placement. But since my boy is becoming more cautious in new situations, I don’t start out with, “Hi. I’m Tornado E’s mom; I’m so sorry.” I introduce myself, and immediately I get, “Ah, yes, Tornado E. Smart kid. Really smart. Just quiet.” Yeah, give him time. Then it was time to talk to the math teacher about her methods, expectations, her weighting practices. After all that in front of the parents, I talked to her privately about Tornado E, who is impressing her greatly, who she thinks is capable of algebra with a little help, who she hopes isn’t discouraged. Well, he is. He loves math, and he’s proud of his math scores. Oh, but he took a test the day after he got into my class and got a C without instruction; that was impressive. That C has him off computer and video games. Oh, well, then. We hammered out a plan.

And this is just the beginning. Cub Scouts goes into full swing next week. So does religious classes. Tornado S wants to join Kung Fu with his brothers. Tornado A would like to add a third martial art. Uh, no.

And I should have 140 essays to grade this weekend.

Nightmares and Decisions

I’m rocking it at work. People are impressed. My students are doing awesome. I’m getting suspicious.

On the other hand, I am so worried and anxious about my boys that I’m having nightmare. Stupid, silly, anxiety-ridden nightmares.

Like the other night, I dreamt that Tornado E was failing math because he was too busy helping his girlfriend with her math that he wasn’t doing his. The worst part about the dream was I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend.

So at breakfast, I did what any normal, anxious parent would do.

Me: Boys, new rule. If you found a girl to be your girlfriend, you have to ask me about it first. This rule applies until you’re 18 or out of high school, which ever comes last.

The boys stare at me. Tornado S and Tornado A gave me a look of disgust. Tornado E considered it.

Tornado E: That seems fair.

They went back to eating. Ok. Great. I’m not sure if they were humoring me or I’m crazy. Or both.

 

Oh no, Mama!

As I do on a work day, I got up a little before 6. I talked with Tornado A. I did my gratitude list and worked on the manuscript. I got in the shower, and then I got dressed in a skirt, shirt, and boots. I gave the boys morning hugs and kisses before I packed my lunch and ate breakfast. I settled a squabble and sent the boys to pick up a few toys. I went to brush my teeth.

Tornado S: Mama- (He looked me up and down. His eyes got big. His lips quivered.) MAMA! You’re going to work!

He crushed me in a hug, burying his face in my chest, trying not to cry.

Me: Oh, sweetheart! It’ll be ok. I’ll be home early. I promise.

So began my first day back from summer break.

Best Friends Forever

We were watching the news, and they were doing those emotional pieces. While filming his son’s championship little league game, a dad had caught his son’s first home run ball.. During the interview, the dad said about his son, “He’s my best friend.”

Tornado E: Mama, am I your best friend?

No, Wally is, obviously. But does he want to me to say yes. The boy on the TV is Tornado E’s age. But that’s weird to be an adult with a 12 year old best friend.

My mom: No, I’m your mom’s best friend.

WHAT?! Mayday! Mayday! We’ve been through this before. I need you to be my mom, not my friend, not my best friend, my mom.

Me: Tornado E, do you want me to be your best friend?

Tornado E: No. I already have one. A—– is my best friend.

Sigh. That was close. Now to sneak out of the room, silently, gracefully like a ninja to avoid my mother’s comment.

Movie Critic

I took one for the team. The Ex should thank me. The boys watched Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.

The movie is ok. The Ex hates the movie. It soiled the Indiana Jones name, but he already watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with the boys. And I. I love anything with Indiana Jones. When I was a child, I wanted to be Indiana Jones.

(Guy Friend: Oh come on, you can’t be Indiana Jones; you’re a  {Looks over at me and realizes his next words should be chosen wisely.}. Look, there are lots of great girls in Indiana Jones.

Me: Like the Nazi? Or the screaming wuss? I don’t to date Indiana Jones. I want to be him.

Guy Friend: Mariam! You can be Mariam! She’s cool.

Me: You can be Mariam. I’ll be Indy.

Guy Friend: But she’s-

Me: Not as cool as Indiana Jones. Exactly.)

So the boys watched Temple of Doom as I drove us home from the karate tournament in Phoenix. And I hear:

Tornado E: Why would you drink anything from a Chinese gangster?

Tornado E: How is that believable?

Tornado E: That would never work!

Tornado E: That’s not Indian food! I thought they were in India. Did no one research this?

Tornado E: I wonder how chilled monkey brains would taste. I would eat that. (No, he wouldn’t. He won’t even eat fruit pie.)

Tornado E: I don’t believe that.

Tornado E: Mama! Did you see that? (Driving!)

Tornado E: Why is she screaming?

Tornado E: That could never happen!

Tornado E: Does no one understand the Hindu religion?

Tornado E: Why? Why would you do that?

Tornado E: You can’t do that! You can’t pull out someone’s heart! Why is he alive?

Tornado E: *snort*

Tornado E: Voodoo dolls are not in India! Did no one do any research?

Tornado E: Mama, don’t they have to research movies?

Tornado E: No one researched this movie.

Tornado E: This is so stupid.

Tornado E: There is a bone to keep you from taking out his heart!

Tornado E: What?!

Tornado E: She’s always screaming!

Tornado E: FAKE!

Tornado E: This is so fake!

Tornado E: Why does she keep screaming?!

Tornado E: Mama, you never scream.

Tornado E: Oh, sure, there are some random crocodiles.

Tornado E: That’s believable.

Tornado E: Why are there only old people in that village? It’s only old people and kids. Where are there parents?

Tornado E: She’s so annoying!

Tornado E: Is she in the next movie, Mama?

Me: No.

Tornado E: Thank goodness.

Yeah, my kid is hilarious.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

When we went to Disneyland, the first ride we had to go on was Star Tours. The line was ten minutes long, so I handed the boys their brand new fidget spinners, purchased for moments like these. I took the time to work on my Spanish on my language app. (Sure, it looks like I was annoying my kids as I played Candy Crush, but, honest, I was working on learning a second language that will help me as a person, a teacher, and a mom. I’m way on top of it.) And the line moved on. In less than ten minutes, we were on board.

For those who have never been on the ride, right before the ride starts, they snap a picture of a guest. Capacity of the ride is 40 people. During the ride, a picture, in shades of blue, is shown of the guest as the rebel spy. I have friends who have ridden the ride until their kids were the spy. It’s neat.

I was sitting next to Tornado E, who sat next to Tornado A, who sat next to Tornado S. The ride took off, and the rebel spy was revealed.

Those big eyes. That bald head. My family’s traditional cheeks and nose. Oh my god, my little Sith Lord is a rebel spy! Tornado E and I looked over at Tornado S and started laughing.

We laughed through the whole ride. Our Sith Lord was a rebel spy! There was good in him after all. He belonged to us; he belonged to the rebellion. And We. Are Never. Going to let him live it down.

We got off the ride and congratulated Tornado S, teasing him about his new role.

Tornado S: I’m not the spy!

Tornado E: We saw your picture, Tornado S!

Me: Everyone saw it, rebel spy. Would you like a shirt? I’ll buy you a shirt!

Tornado S: I’m not the spy!

Tornado E: Yes, you were!

Me: I’m totally buying a shirt. I always knew you would rejoin the light side.

Tornado S: I’m not the spy! I wore my hat the whole time!

Huh. He was wearing his hat. He was wearing his hat during the ride. So was Tornado E. Tornado E and I turned to the last child.

Tornado S: Tornado A was the rebel spy!

Tornado A: (with a huge smile) Fooled you!

I feel like that should have been a Spaceballs reference. Also my kids look goddamn similar.

Me: (huh. Do I look like a bad mom for not being able to tell my kids apart when they’re pictured in blue scale?) Do you want a shirt, Tornado A?

Tornado A: (shakes head) No. But can I have a light saber?!

Like the other three light sabers that you boys built last time we were at Disneyland. Like the other 5 (Is it 5 or 7) light sabers we already have. Your grandparents are going to yell at me if we bring home any more light sabers.

Me: I don’t want to carry souvenirs all day, so let’s keep looking around. If you want one at the end of the day, you can have one.

Which was interrupted as: Please, start building a light saber right now and act like I never said a word.

They did leave the light saber building area. And we did go back so the boys could build light sabers before we left.