Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hello, blog, it's been a while....

OK, the title of this blog made me think of this song...

This ADHD moment brought to you by Ritalin.

Anyway, school has been out for a week now, and what a glorious week it's been.  The weather has been unseasonably warm...July in May warm.  So, we have been spending some time at Fairview, at Tipton, and at Miss Ashley's, lubed up of course.  Max is beginning to get brave with his swimming attempts, Ignatius is growing "too old" to hang out with us at the pool, and I am sitting there with either my School Law or School Finance book in my hands attempting to enjoy the sun while pouring knowledge in to my head.

Max at Tipton Splash Pad

Miss Ashley's Inaugural Gathering (in May!)

I do not want to rush through this summer by any means.  I am halfway through my classes, thank goodness, and it's definitely been a stretch of my sanity.  But wanting to get them done means wanting June to go by quickly, and I really want to just take it slow.  Last summer felt so fast.  This one needs to tarry.  Please and thanks!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have been guilty of formulating a response while a person is talking.  It's something I work on.  It is not me being intentionally rude.  It is the way my brain deals with a barrage of thoughts all at once.  I work on it because I realize that when I do that I am not truly listening to the person.

One might think that this type of behavior is limited to verbal communication.  I actually find it happening in e-mail conversations as well.  I'll share a little career secret, knowing I might lose my "Universal Teacher's Lounge Membership:" sometimes we, as teachers, are not overly welcoming to communication with parents.  Before I respond via e-mail, I try to read, re-read, and place myself in the recipient's shoes.  Some e-mails have been more productive than others.  Before I speak with a parent that I might not wish to speak to, I try to think of the way I want to be addressed by my sons' teachers.  I breathe in, and then pick up the phone with a smile on my face, as that helps me to be a little happier in my tone.  Again, that's what I TRY to do.  Sometimes, I hit the target.  Other times, I miss.

Teaching is my career.  Twenty-one years of it, fifteen of which have involved being a working mother, have taught me great lessons.  The greatest one: stop being so damn defensive.  I used to think I had to protect and defend what I was doing.  I would hear a parent, but I was too busy formulating why I was right to truly listen.  I can be dismissive, and I can make judgments about the communication before it even begins.

What is unpleasant is when you are a parent and you feel as though your communication is being categorized.  No, we actually are NOT parents who call or e-mail to try to get our kid "out of being responsible" for his late assignments or missing deadline.  I was the parent who, in pre-school, asked, "What did he do?" when approached about the actions of my son.  If anything, I have not defended my son as much as some would say I should.  We absolutely believe that life comes with consequences for actions. We instill responsibility in our sons, and we are amazingly proud of both of them.  We know we are parenting in a world of people who think they can and should fight battles and smooth the way for their kids.  That's not us.  Please do not put on those colored glasses to formulate your response instead of really listening.  I know it is done because I navigate both sides of this table.

Several multi-grade-level conversations with both parents and teachers have given me pause to reflect: When in my career have I hidden behind what I espoused to be a "nobler" ideal than the educational target?  When have I given zeroes for late assignments, despite the fact that they were done, correctly, yet just a day late?  When have I taken off for spelling when the written communication was perfectly understandable?  When have I said that my policies were what they were to try to force a "responsible behavior" out of a student rather than remembering that I am a teacher of content and my grades should reflect CONTENT attainment over deadline meeting?

Tonight is not my first night of thinking this, this year not my first year of these reflections.  I have pondered assessment malpractice in education for years.  I wish I could go back and correct some of the decisions I made, because they missed the mark.  At the time, I would have taken a bullet for them.  Now, not so much.  My message is to those in education who have defended grading policies by saying that their goal is to make a child responsible.  Or that a grading scale is designed to hold children to higher standards.  Parents give us their children in hopes that they will learn.  And hoping we will not beat the love of learning clear out of them.  What has my scorecard been in that area?  Teacher friends, how about you?  Before you defend, breathe and reflect.  And, of course, listen.

Preachy?  Nah.  Today, I sent a kid home thinking he was disqualified from a field trip.  After I reflected and de-stressed from the crazy afternoon I had, I realized that I was wrong, and I called a mom who was probably expecting me to lower the boom and gripe about her kid.  Instead, I apologized, said I had reconsidered, and that I wanted him to join us on the trip.  I also had a parent come in who wanted to talk to me about her son's assignment that was due.  Yes, I immediately fell back on that reflex of wanting to give a million reasons why he SHOULD have been done.  But she also needed me to listen.  Somehow, I found the humility to do so.  She returned later in the day, and it threw me a bit, but now, hours later, I realize that she was needing me to understand what was going on with her son.  The craziness of the end of the year was thrusting me in to the paradigm of just having "another" parent try to excuse the actions of their child.  While I did not accept the excuse of why the assignment was not complete on the due date, I DID listen and I DID have him repeat options that were available to save his grade (and I DID have options for him to save his grade by showing me HE UNDERSTOOD THE CONTENT).  I have come a LONG way from the gal who would have stuck to her guns and given him a failing grade.  By golly, he was not ready on time!  But that's just not the point, now is it?