Dress Up Time

It was Spirit Week at school this week. They do them after 3 day weekends or breaks to entice kids back to school. Right. If you want teenagers in school, bring food. Any ways, one day was Battle of the Ages. They expected us to dress Greek, Roman, or Spartan. Uh… Um….. I …. Nevermind.

Now personally, I thought it was a misfire. Not everyone can dress like a Greek or Roman or have the confidence to. I would’ve, but I was a nerd. And at least, it was better than Gender Swap Day. I cringe just writing it.

So the day came. I took a sheet and folded it into peplos. (Told you I was a nerd. I do nothing in halves, so when I was in middle school, enamored by Greek myths, I learned to dress as the ancient Greeks.) I pinned it with help from my mother and cinched it with a tie.

Because some of the adults who watched my nerdy-ancient-loving teenage phase encouraged me, I have quite a lot of jewelry inspired by ancient designs. I put on earrings, rings, and a necklace.

I braided my hair in a few braids. I put on a few silver headbands. I twisted and knotted my hair before shoving in a dozen or more bobby pins.

Off I went in sandals, instead of my usual combat boots or mary janes.

And the kids loved it.

“Miss, are you a goddess?”

“Miss, you look beautiful!”

“Wow, miss, you’ve got school spirit!”

“Miss, how did you do that?”

“Miss, you’re so cool.”

“Miss, your hair looks amazing.”

As I teach freshmen, I didn’t expect a lot of participation for Spirit Week. They’re too worried that they will look uncool. For fewer participated in Battle of the Ages, only one. None of the student council or cheerleaders.

When I arrived home, I had forgotten that the boys hadn’t seen me yet.

They ran to greet me when they heard the door open. They stopped in their tracks.

Tornado S: Mama! What are you wearing?!

Tornado A: You look pretty, Mama!

Tornado S: You look beautiful, Mama!

Tornado E: You look like a goddess, Mama. Did your students think you were a goddess?

Me: One asked if I was Zeus. I said I didn’t have the beard for it, but he said I would look cool with a thunderbolt.

Tornado E: Pssht. You should have said you were Athena. That’s who you look like.

Me: Thank you, my boys.

I kissed them all.

 

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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.

Let’s Be Honest

Let me be honest here. I’m stressed out. It’s the end of the school year with all sorts of functions for my boys and projects for my students. I’m trying to balance them all with the low energy of my depression.

As hectic as things will be next week, everything is falling into place almost perfectly for me to attend all the boys’ events. I was looking forward to an easy weekend without homework when I discovered that I have to reassign a project for my students since last weekend I learned I had a 80% plagiarizing rate. Are you kidding me?! It took me two days to calm down to talk to my students without screaming. They think they have seen me mad; they have not seen me mad.

As this is such a large fail rate, since this is the first time they had the opportunity to plagiarize in my class, I’ve decided for my sanity to assume they just didn’t know. So I have spent a few minutes showing them how to paraphrase, using some of the most popular sentences. They have until Friday to fix it and turn it. And if they would like to try their luck on if they can fool me and I catch them (and I will catch them), then they will be receiving an F.

So this weekend, the calm before the grading storm of final projects and essay has evaporated into a pile of grading. Thanks, kids.

My boys are excited. They’re looking forward to watching The Age of Ultron as I grade.

Soon, I hope to be on a more consistent blogging schedule and get around to reading blogs.

Nope, Never Ok, Not Ever.

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.

Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.

You! Outside NOW!

Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?

Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.

Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.

Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.

Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.

Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?

Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.

And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.

While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.

Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.

Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.

So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.

Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.

Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.

Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.

So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends.  And I decided this had to stop.

Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.

Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.

With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.

So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.

Two weeks went by.

Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.

Oh for Christ sake.

I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.

I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.

I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.

Man, I hate Nazis.

Math?

“I can teach anything.”

My famous last words.

Literature, grammar, history, science, crafts- math?

Maybe not math.

I’m a words-person. I love stories. Math baffles me. It’s a foreign world to me.

Unless it’s in science. I can do formulas. Just not math.

My boys are numbers people. They love math. They get it from my mom and their dad.

I only felt like I master math once. In seventh grade. Not only did I get A’s, but I was confident enough to help my classmates to understand the concept. I was one of 7 kids to be ready for algebra in 8th grade.

It’s a good thing I excelled in 7th grade math because I was just offered a long term sub position teaching 7th grade math.

Time to open up the books and review.

Because I can teach anything.

It’s all in the delivery

Me: Thanks so much for using your blinker.  Oh and thanks again for getting in my lane and slowing down.  Much appreciated.

Tornado E: Mommy, why are you thanking him?  You’re not happy.

Kid, Mommy has road rage issues.  And if I can’t use sarcasm, you would have an impressive adult vocabulary.

Me: (sigh) I’m not happy with the driver in front of us.  So I am using sarcasm.  I should just let it go.

Tornado E: Mommy, what’s sarcasm?

The parenting teacher would say it’s Latin for little cuts.  Every time you use sarcasm you are nicking the person’s soul with a word like a razor to skin.

Me: Well, it’s a device for humor.  You say one thing, but you really mean another.  Like how I thank this person  when I want to tell this driver that his driving stinks and is dangerous to us.

A pondering silence.

Tornado E: So if I say, “yum, this broccoli tastes good,” and I don’t like it, is that sarcasm?

Me: Only if you mean it as a joke.  And if it’s at home.  You have to tell Grandma’s and Grandma-Great’s cooking is yummy even if you don’t like it.  They worked hard to cook for you.

Tornado E: I know, Mommy.  What if I say, “sitting in the backseat is fun?”

The force is strong in this one.  He will fit perfectly in our clan of jokesters, pranksters, storytellers, and tricksters.

Me: Yes, that’s good.

***

Me: Pick up your toys.

Tornado E: Oh, good.  Picking up toys is fun.  Mommy, that’s sarcasm.

Me: I got that.

 

Homeschooling is not for me

“If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.” ~Edgar W. Howe

I don’t know how other moms do homeschooling.  I don’t.  I would murder my children.  I was thinking last night that centuries ago mothers did teach everything to their children at home, and then it dawned on me.  That was the reason so few of the children reached to adulthood.  It wasn’t the plague; it was moms being frustrated by ungrateful, whinny, temper-tantrum-throwing, not-listening, willful, disobedient children.  Or maybe it’s just my child.  Or maybe it’s me.  I’m fine with it being me.

Reasons I can’t homeschool my children:

  1. I don’t have the patience to deal with a child who doesn’t want to learn.
  2. If I can’t teach them one way, I can’t figure out any other way.
  3. I find myself using stupid threats, like feeding him to the wolves.
  4. I can’t make my child understand that the sooner he does it, the sooner he gets to play.
  5. Did I mention I don’t have the patience?
  6. I want to throw temper tantrums with him.
  7. It turns out I have a violent side that only rises after fifteen minutes of trying to get a child to hold a crayon the correct way.  (Don’t worry; I only wish to hurl the crayon across the house.)
  8. I would have to get on some serious medication.  Or start drinking.  And I’m pregnant.
  9. I have mood swings.
  10. I don’t have the patience!

I guess this is the part where I admit I had to force Tornado E to do a school project that he decided not to do at school.  (Point for it being my son’s issue.)  As the teacher knew I’m a concerned parent, due to the weekly meetings I have with her and the time I asked for all his work when he was out for a week, she gave me the project.  It was cut out a man shape to glue into a folded paper to be a jack-in-the-box.  Simple enough, right?  Insert hysteric laughter.

A half an hour of Tornado E saying he can’t, Tornado E going to a whining room, Tornado E going to a crying room, my dad walking out of the house, my mom trying her hand at it, my mom telling me to send him to time out, my threats that he’ll be there until he is done or until he dies whichever comes first, Tornado E FINALLY cut out the damn man figure.  Then it was twenty minutes over how he couldn’t make a face, he couldn’t make a smile, he couldn’t make eyes, the markers weren’t working, it’s just not right, I don’t want to do it.  I finally was able to let him glue it in the “box.”  Then I forced him to finish his “J” paper.  The horrors of being a four-year-old preschooler.  After an hour, he was free to run around, and I had the desperate desire for a shot of vodka.

I will happily PAY someone to teach my child.

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