378: 10 Things I Have Learned While Teaching School

Number 10. There really is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance we are all born with; it is cured by education and experiences. Stupidity is a choice FAR too  many people willingly make.

Number 9: Having money and the advantages of youth and good looks do not often combine to make a quality person worth knowing (unfortunately). It seems that those less blessed, who have had some real struggles, are the ones who are worth getting to know.

Number 8: More trouble has been caused by “I was just playing!” than anything done deliberately.

Number 7: Learning (your education) is struggling through opportunities to do it yourself, and failing until you learn to succeed. There are no shortcuts to this process.

Number 6: Taking the work of others as your own is not only plagiarism, it is a character flaw. That includes downloading the work of artists without paying them for their creativity, skill, time and work – it is still cheating, no matter how many people do it everyday.

Number 5. People can and will surprise you. Most of those surprises will be bad ones. It isn’t that people can’t surprise you in good ways, but those are rare, and to be treasured.

Number 4. Not everything you make will be A-quality, perfect, outstanding work. It does not mean you can’t be proud of it because you made it, but recognize when it isn’t perfect: and that includes your offspring as well. Your kids are human, and young humans who are learning. They make mistakes, sometimes big ones. It is part of the learning process. You, on the other hand, are not a youngster. Act your age.

Number 3. The hardest people to love are the ones who need it the most. Always. No exceptions. Dammit.

Number 2. Hope springs eternal. Hope powers the world. Without it, no one can help you, and you cannot help anyone else. HOPE.

Number 1. Human beings are amazing, wonderful, annoying, delightful creatures. Teaching is guiding them to be better creatures tomorrow than they were today. Every day.



261: To All Parents From a Teacher (and a parent, too!)

I am a teacher. For over twenty years, I have been performing this job. It is a calling, yes, but it is also a job. I have learned that usually, not always, mind you, but usually it happens that when I am having trouble with a youngster in class and schedule a conference with their parents, that about 10 to 15 minutes into that meeting, I have to restrain myself from saying, “Excuse me, but this conference is now over. Now that I have met you, I understand exactly why I am having so much trouble with your child.”

Notice I said restrain myself, because that phrase is not one that is particularly recommended, although it is often true. It only makes sense, and it is not meant to be hateful or sarcastic, but instead to be a genuine reflection of the truth.

My child is of my genetic make up. My child is raised in my home, with the other half of his/her genetic make up (at least in my family). There are issues that I, as an adult, still struggle with for myself. There are issues that my spouse, this child’s other parent, still struggles with as an adult – most other adults I know have the same report to make about themselves, as I know very, very few perfect people. SO – here is the clincher: How am I supposed to mold and teach my child to overcome the issues that I, myself as an adult, am still struggling over?????? If I am still trying to overcome this issue myself, how is it that I am supposed to help guide my child to overcome it, too??? This is only logical!!

This is why parents and teachers are a TEAM to help educate and socialize a child. I hope that my child’s teachers might HAVE conquered the issues I struggle with, and can act as a role model for my children in the areas I am weak on. Perhaps they can learn from the teacher what I am not good at teaching them myself – at least I hope so!

132: Revelations on the flies

Sometimes when you sit down to write, there is just not much there that you are actually willing to share. Everything that has happened lately is leading up to really big decisions that are my-tiny-little-world shaking. While these are not huge events for the national news feed at 11 pm, they are still pretty significant events to me, personally. They don’t have to make the news in order to be noteworthy. At least, not to me. Yes, I am aware of things that are happening in the world, and I recognize that many of these other things make my personal issues virtually insignificant. I know that. I am not someone who is convinced that this universe hinges and turns around MY existence – I know better than that, and I am not that egotistical. Nobody CARES if I got my jollies last night, and nobody CARES whether I face today with a joyful heart or a depressed spirit. Well, almost nobody, anyway. There actually are a few people on this planet who give more than a second’s thought to my well-being,  and those folks are very precious people to me, too.

Each day, lately, is filled with too many competing things. Clean this messy apartment. Cook some food for lunches next week. Doctor the new kitten. Catch up on my grading papers stack. Relax and get a nap. Shop for what we’ve used up. Plan my lessons for next week. Blog. Get a bath and shave my hairy legs. Facebook. Take my medicine, so I don’t kill anybody (!). Create an artwork from the sketchbook of ideas. Read a book from the “must read” stack (I have several stacks). Veg. Exercise, go for a walk, take pictures, pick up firewood starter. Cuddle with my kitties.   And none of these things address any of the real issues.

Our apartment in Morocco, like most other homes in this country, has no window screens, so when the weather is nice and the windows are open to take advantage of that, the flies take advantage, too, and come inside to explore food smells – and other smells. Lately, I have killed dozens and dozens of them a day – sometimes in one session. Like the zombie apocalypse, many swatted flies need a “double tap.” It has occurred to me as I embark on yet another fanatical fly-killing spree that the flies are, in some respects, much like the humans who wander into dangerous territory and encounter some disaster – like a fly swat. They are wounded, but not out – yet. Now, it has become a survival episode. I have lamed flies crawling desperately on the kitchen floor, looking for a safe place: like wounded and stranded hikers, or grizzly-mauled sportsmen. I wonder – do the ones who make it tell stories for the rest of the flies about their experiences? OK, I’m sick, mentally deranged and perverted. They are just flies – hardly significant life forms – except to their fly parents, and siblings, and friends. Jeff Goldblum would relate to this mindset, I am sure. Several fly couples I have sent off to the happy hunting grounds while they were engaged in marital relations with their spouses – or would that be illicit affairs with their co-workers? I AM sick, because I had absolutely no compunctions about ruining what should have been a joyous experience.  Does this tell me something about MY marital experience, that I so gleefully dispatch others in the middle of experiencing theirs? I don’t THINK so……..my husband, reading over my shoulder, is worried………

However, the daily, sometimes hourly, drama of the flies does make me reflect upon the intransigence of life, and how little it seems to matter when one of us is hurting to the rest of us who are plugging along and doing OK. These struggling flies, many of whom I “double tap” into the hereafter (IS there a heaven for flies??) make me wonder about the cosmic being (that would be God) who observes all of the goings-on that occur on this planet (and possibly the others He has also created). Jeepers – re-reading this makes me wonder about ME.

80: Rights and Responsibilities

We have a fight going on all of our lives: the fight between our rights and our responsibilities.

When we are born, we have few responsibilities. Mom and dad, our loving caretakers, handle all that stuff on our behalf. They provide housing (a huge expense), our clothing (ditto), our medical care (twice times ditto), our food (you get the picture). They even clean us. They also provide our entertainment and toys,all of our wants and needs. Well, our needs, anyway – even if not ALL of our wants.

Then, as we get older, we are expected to begin handling our own care. We are taught to brush our hair, brush and clean our teeth, eat nutritious meals (with VEGETABLES  :-(), pick up and put away our toys, be nice to other children when we play, and share. We are taught the word NO, and what that means. We are taught  not to hit others, even if we get mad and angry. We are taught to use the toilet, instead of our diaper. We are taught to wash our hands (I hope), and to take a bath to clean ourselves. We are supposed to clean our room. This process takes time, and we don’t learn all this right away. We need reminders, often! Our parents and older siblings help teach us to do these things for ourselves. These responsibilities usually result in new rights and privileges for us, and we show that we can be responsible persons.

Then, we get a little older, and there are more responsibilities. We start school. Suddenly, there are LOTS of new responsibilities: behavior and work in class and at home. There are rules to be obeyed, and we make friends, who have their own expectations of us. We learn more about what is right behavior, and what is wrong. We are expected to think, be honest and do our work to the best of our ability. We also gain new privileges: we can stay up later: visit friends outside the home, have sleepovers, and do more things than we used to be allowed to do. Soon, as the end of our schooling gets near, we gain the right to drive a car. That right comes with a host of new responsibilities: care of the vehicle, obedience to traffic signs, laws and officers. We must use our judgment and critical thinking skills to make the right, and best, decisions.  But what new freedoms we have! We can date, and attend parties, and do other things which have the potential to cause us great harm, if we are not sensible and careful, paying attention to our responsibilities.

Then we depart for college, and mom and dad’s influence is lessened a LOT, and we have the ability to decide many new things for ourselves: what time to get up and go to bed, what to eat, how to care for yourself and your laundry and your room and your vehicle.  If you ignore your responsibilities, you won’t do well. You can ruin your life, and actually cause your own death, as some do when they forget that life is precious, valuable, and must be cared for and protected.

Then you choose a mate and marry, and start a job and a family of your own. You just THOUGHT you had responsibilities BEFORE!! Now your whole life is ruled by them, even though you also have more freedoms than you ever did before, at the same time. You choose where to live, you choose how to deal with disagreements at work and at home. You craft your life in between your rights and your responsibilities.

When your children grow and leave home to begin their own lives, you can relax from the responsibilities a little, and begin to truly enjoy your rights and freedoms. You have earned them! As you continue to age, however, you discover that your freedoms begin to curtail as life begins to slow down for you, at least physically. As you age to the point that you cannot competently care for yourself, you find that your rights begin to diminish as you surrender to the care of others. At the end of your days, unless God claims you earlier, you will find yourself back at the beginning – cared for by others as you move towards death, your final surrender.

This is the cycle of life – a struggle between rights and responsibilities from beginning to end. How you handle that balance determines how satisfied you will be with what you lived and accomplished. Good luck – and be wise!