Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mea Culpa

I have been avoiding posting for the last few days...I know, I know...it is the writing challenge, but I haven't been able to pull myself out of a funk long enough to pick up the proverbial pen.  And, I'll admit, I've been a little scared.  I have had a lot of sad/big/worrisome things on my mind, many of them much more challenging and troublesome than I'm actually ready to write about.  I've been a lot worried about sending my verbal vomit into the blogosphere, and then not being prepared for others to comment on it.

In reflection, writing for me is really a cathartic exercise...I work through things when I write - and I wasn't quite ready to share.  I appreciate your patience, my friends.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shades of Gray

As I've read around the Slice of Life Challenge this week, it has become obvious that I'm not the only one wondering if daylight-savings time could really cause all of the chaos that I've been experiencing this week. This has been a rough week - and I still have Friday to get through!

I'm a middle school assistant principal - and most times I really love my job.  Greeting the kids on their way in the building, chatting with students during lunch duty, collaborating with staff to create rigorous, safe and engaging learning environments...all are why I get up every day...well, maybe not lunch duty. :) This week one of the issues that has been especially challenging has been doling out consequences for the discipline infractions and referrals that have found their way to me.

There is no magic book (that I've discovered, please share if you have found one) that tells me how to discipline a child who trips another versus a youngster who cheats on a test or steals from a locker.  In our district we have some general guidelines, but not much I would consider specific. I have to consider many perspectives when deciding on a consequence for a student: intent, remorse, the situation leading up to the incident, the student's actions after the incident...

Today I was reminded that while I may be very focused on helping a youngster learn from their mistake, others might be (and, I get it) focused on how that young person is punished and did that punishment fit the crime, as well as what other students will learn from seeing the one who did the crime get punished.

I wonder if you are saying "Huh?"  Really, this AP struggles with this? Perhaps this is easy for everyone else. Is it only me who struggles with how to help a child understand that his/her actions have consequences? Is it only me who feels that yelling at students or implementing punitive consequences doesn't always teach a child that what they did was wrong?  My son identified my problem for me.  Venting this afternoon in the car over my struggle to implement a punishment, this astute 17 year old responded to me by saying, "Mom, you are too empathetic."  And, he is right. Others might say optimistic or naive...but really, I see these situations in shades of gray, and navigating the nuances of emotionally charged discipline incidents for all parties involved is an exhausting, time consuming, often unpleasant experience.

Days like today cause me to question if this is the right job for me.  It would be so much easier if I saw the world in black and white, right and wrong, and I could proclaim my decisions with nary a worry that it was not right for kids.  Maybe I will grow a thicker skin as time goes by and my experience grows, and I will become inured to the shades of gray that surround every discipline decision I make.  Still conflicted...but I feel better for having written it down.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Late Night Shopping

Crazy day -
PTA meeting ran late
pulled aside by parents
lots of enthusiasm - but
I'm tired.

Headed home -
forgot there is no bread or
fruit in the house,
run to the store.


Muzak plays -
I begin to relax
the rhythm and routine
are comforting
same aisles
same items
same locations
round the outside perimeter
of the store
Fruit and Veges
Bread and Beer

Cash register -
I'm much calmer.
Perhaps i'll do this
more often.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Irish Magic

So, I'm Irish-American, and I've loved celebrating St. Patrick's Day on March 17th where ever my Army family was living at the time.  Since my daughter began Irish Step Dancing a few years ago, however, we are expected to celebrate St. Paddy's day all March-month long.  She and her dance troupe perform at what seems like any and all Irish celebrations in the Washington DC metropolitan area.Many occur at Irish pubs, a real bonus for dance parents!

This evening she participated in and then performed at a Catholic mass in Gaelic followed by an Irish Ceili (dance party).  I have to admit, I was dubious about sitting through a mass in the esoteric and vowel-laden Gaelic, but when another dance mom mentioned that the priest with the lilting Irish accent might sing and play the ukulele, I decided I'd stay.

Following along in the Gaelic mass book I was able to hear some of the words and follow along, sort of, but the collection of syllables and vowels that together combine into sounds I've never even imagined, made it extremely challenging.  I have to admit, I was totally engaged in the mass (perhaps more than I have been recently), and when, for the homily, the priest pulled out a poem by Seamus Heaney, I couldn't pull my eyes off of the alter.  Been a long time since that happened. It was magical - Pure Irish Magic.    

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Awakening

I like sleeping a little later on the weekends.  I know, I know, in order to maintain one's health it is better to wake up at the same time every day...but I just need a little more pillow time.  This morning, for the first time in many days, a tendril of sunlight made itself at home on the pillow next to me.  I sensed its presence and squeezed my eyelids tighter so that I didn't have to acknowledge it. Soon, the brightness moved to my side of the bed and rested gently on my forehead, causing me to pull the covers up and turn over for just a few minutes more.  Finally the light glared in my window hotly, removing any feeling of chill in the room and reminding me that there was laundry to be done, blog posts to be written, and children to be nagged. I'm up!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Zombie Wars...

Blinking against the early morning sun, he is

Wearing black skinny jeans, fading knees
And shredding at the heel, worn sneakers and a
Gray slouching sweatshirt, the Indians cap molding his hair

Carrying three pristine and pointy number two pencils,
A brand new eraser, 2 granola bars and
3 clementines for snack time, a
Graphing calculator with new batteries, loaded and tested

Nervous, I'm a drill sergeant:
Did you eat?  Do you have? Are you sure?
My not-so-little guy zombies his way
toward the SAT testing center,
Hundreds of others, in uniform, shuffle with him,
their first foray into the college entry wars.
Atten-Hut! Forward march!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Family Table

Sitting around the dinner table, homework binders and high school papers pushed to the side, there is laughter and plenty of joking.  Four plates, forks, knives and napkins frame the family conversation.  These dinners have become fewer and farther between than they used to - when we were all younger I used to insist that we ate together; now dance, basketball, and homework impede on this important family time.  So, when we get it (like tonight) I want us to enjoy it.  

We talk about biology homework and economics class.  We talk about the weekend and who's got plans. We talk about the dog and how we must transition her to a new dog food.  We joke about so many things and keep the focus light, loving and supportive.

All prep for the more serious conversations that might arise.     

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Unproductive Day

I had the option to telework today.  My original intent was to head to work once the day warmed up and  some of yesterday's snow had melted - but when it was still 17 degrees F. at 9:45 this morning, and the road outside was iced with frozen snow despite a plow having gone by twice, I made the executive decision (with the permission of my boss) to work from home.

At the rather civilized hour of 10:00 a.m. I pulled my computer out and hit the power button, looking forward to a quiet work day.  By 10:30 I had checked, deleted, and sent a few emails and I was feeling a little antsy. I reheated my cup of coffee, emptied the dish drainer and wiped down the counters...then forced myself back to the table.

I had discipline incidents to enter in my spreadsheet; I had observations to write up from classrooms I had visited; I had a report to craft analyzing discipline data and the success or failure of my follow up actions.  I was so bored.

Laundry called and as the minutes ticked by I decided that the sleeping teenager needed to be up as well. Was it lunchtime yet? Nope, only 11:12 a.m., I finished a leisurely breakfast two hours ago, so it wasn't time for lunch. As educators we have very little down time during our work day - even now, as an Assistant Principal, I find that there is little time that is not busy - I'm mediating between students, stopping into classrooms, monitoring students during lunch, cheering on students after school.

Today, at home, I had a hard time adjusting to the freedom to set my own priorities and ability to choose my own project.  Good thing these working snow days don't happen very often!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Dystopian Future?

I tend to be a pretty optimistic person, I think.  But after reading quite a few popular young adult novels as well as my husband's Analog science fiction magazine, I'm wondering if my optimism is perhaps naivete or even willful blindness.  There are a couple of disturbing themes that arise from many of the books that I've picked up - first is the utter disappearance of the United States as a country and the structures that support its society; second is the caste-like hierarchies that have evolved to support the unique societies. In the Divergent series, at least there is some element of choice for most of the characters when becoming part of the societal groups. In The Selection, the characters are born into their castes - and they can move up in the caste, but there are specific qualifications that have to be met.

So, why the grim prediction of our future?  It is true that much young adult literature has a tendency to be dark; perhaps this reflects the struggle for young people of anticipating the future and a lack of control...perhaps it is a reflection of the current economic uncertainties.  I'm not sure of any answer, but I'll work on keeping my optimistic attitude while enjoying the strong women characters who emerge.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Snow Mania

I was in denial - denial that the weather forecast was calling for lots more snow...I still may be...it's only raining.  That's why I enjoyed my day yesterday and didn't go to the store; instead, I joined the masses today racing into Safeway to purchase as much food as we possibly could.

The manic feeling that builds before a storm here in our area began as we entered the store and found not one cart or basket available...my husband and I exchanged glances, did we really want to do this?  Carts went by, piled high enough that you couldn't see the drivers, and I knew we were going to pay for our lack of preparedness.  Sure enough, overheard one Safeway employee say that the one thousand pounds of bacon that had been delivered Friday was mostly gone....I raced our cart over, of course, and grabbed a couple.  I was getting caught up in the hype.

After picking up wine and beer (which we are trying to cut back on...but if it was going to snow we wanted to have) we headed to the cash register...and the 45 minute wait to get through.  Really - did we need all of this stuff?

Yes - what if it goes on for days?  What if we are out of school for weeks?  What if, what if?

My mom always had a full cupboard - she was always prepared.  Well, now we are too.  If you need anything - toilet paper, bacon, pasta (it was on sale), call me.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Feeling Glee

My favorite radio station was playing in the car the other day as my daughter and I headed to her dance practice.  Usually she plops down in the front seat and immediately reaches to change the station; today she must have been distracted because a Journey song came on and suddenly she  reached over, cranked the volume and proceeded to holler the words to "Don't Stop Believin."  Gleefully, I sang along, and when the song was finished I looked at Rebecca askance..."Really?  You like Journey?" I asked.

"Mom, I love Journey!" she replied, her face reflecting the "Mom, you are so behind the times" thoughts that I'm sure are running through her head. 

Where in the world had my fourteen year-old learned to love some of the same music that I do?  "Glee," she informed me.  "It's an awesome show!"

So, this evening I am sitting down to a Glee marathon - we have to get through the first season so that I can see the Madonna episode, as well as the episode that shows Bohemian Rhapsody.  But, the show will not only be musical fun...it is an intense (if exaggerated, I hope) look at a high school experience, and may open the door to conversations about choices, relationships, and fitting in.  

I'm looking forward to it!