Monday, February 27, 2012

Nice Try, Sunshine

Okay, so I'm sort of lenient in the classroom. I don't want to be the bad guy. I have a sort of quiet retaliation that isn't effective on the front end, but it's a killer on the backside.

For example, I don't lock students out of my room when they are tardy. I don't yell at anyone. I just start on time (for the most part) and keep on going without any mention of the lateness of students. I just make a note in my grade book and enter those daily. Three tardies are an absence. Come finals week, several folks have their names in the book indicating they have to take the test due to excessive absences and the conversation goes something like this:

Student: But I haven't missed a single day this quarter.
Me: You were tardy--after the bell--on this day and this day and this day.
Student: But I came to class.
Me: Yes, after the bell.
Student: But you didn't say anything.
Me: Why would I? Bell rings, you're late, I mark it down. That's a YP not an MP
Student: Huh?
Me: Your Problem not My Problem. The book says three tardies is an absence. You'll be taking the final on Friday. Get out.

See what I mean? There are no real consequences for wandering into my class late until it's time to study for the final, then you eat all of those lazy minutes one bite at a time. And I have no empathy or sympathy for you. Not an ounce. I have to be to class on time. Get your own rear end to class on time.

But my favorite example of this Personal Responsibility Discipline Philosophy occurs around paper due dates. I can't wait to hear the creative excuses the student body will employ explaining why the said paper is late or incomplete. It's really rather exciting.

Tired Excuses that I will likely hear tomorrow on the research paper due date:
  1. My printer has no ink in it. And?
  2. I emailed it to you. I am not a print shop. I buy the ink cartridges and paper in my home. Why should I be printing YOUR paper in the first place? I asked you to turn in the hard copy paper to me so that I can proof, edit, and return it to you for revisions.
  3. I didn't have enough time to finish it. This particular due date was assigned last Tuesday. That was a week ago. I gave the class three time periods to work on it. We didn't have a spelling test last week or grammar or lit assignment the entire week. You blew your week and didn't appropriate enough time to finish the work. You had plenty of time, you spent it doing things other than the paper. YP.
  4. I don't have a computer at home. This is why I gave you computer lab time. It is not my fault that you played Mind Craft during your lab time. I also stayed late until 4:00 (an hour and fifteen minutes late) three days last week with the computer lab open and available. I graduated college without owning a computer or having access to the Internet. I suggest you get with it.
(It's sometimes hard to keep a straight face, but laughing at students is considered bad form.)

I hope that the kids I teach at the Christian school put some more creative thought into their excuses tomorrow. I'd probably give extra credit points for creativity to anyone who said something like, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. C, but my paper burst into flames as we approached the school. I think maybe God wasn't happy with my work, so he burned it up like that bad offering with Baal and all of that."

Or what about, "You see, I printed it in white ink on white paper and forgot to check it before we left the house..."

Or maybe, "I gave my paper to so-in-so for safekeeping; it appears I'm not a very good judge of character, because he sold it on an Internet website for research papers and if I turn it in now I'll be expelled for plagiarizing my own paper since it's mine on the website."

Or perhaps, "What paper? Do we have a paper due?"

I hope some of them don't turn them in. Can you imagine what kind of purgatory it's going to be to read these things? And they think I'm punishing THEM. Snort.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the Spirit Stick Goes to...

2012 Competition Cheer Squad CCA
I spent the weekend at the ACEA basketball tournament and cheer competition with the bulk of our high school kids, including my pre-teen who participated in the cheer competition on the varsity squad as a sixth grader. (Anyone who knew me in high school just cracked a rib laughing.)

Okay, so it's a little funny.

I was a drama girl in  high school. I was nerdy, weird, a little out of sync. My clothes weren't quite right. My hair was an epic fail. If everyone carried a purse, I brought a back pack. I was a little too smart to be in the stoner crowd. I wasn't athletic or involved or spirited. I sort of floated through high school in this bizarre little bubble, and my memories are almost exclusively of theater productions. The areas between are fuzzy blanks. I never once went to a basketball game or softball game. I'm not even sure if we had girls sports. (Surely we did, though.) I sat through one soccer game because the boy I dated on and off played. I went to a handful of football games only because I had a friend who insisted we go to a few. Cheerleaders? Snort. I think not.  I simply wasn't involved.

Cheer squad practicing at a pep rally
So, let me restart this...I spent the weekend chaperoning a roomful of cheerleaders at state basketball competition, my own daughter participated, sporting her backward-facing bow on top of a spectacular Snookie Bump ponytail (of all the stupid stupid). I had a pom pom in both hands screaming my lungs out at every game. (This is known as "irony", Class.)

The boys varsity played on Thursday (where they lost). The girls varsity played on Friday and won, making it to the state championship game. The girls then cheered on Saturday morning and immediately following their routine, half of the squad changed into basketball uniforms and played for the state championship. Yes, that's right, our cheerleaders took out the hairbows and played like a beast for the title game--elbows, ponytails, and sweat flying in equal measure. It was astonishing.

Elise ready to roll
Now, to be frank, this wasn't the best game we've ever played. (Okay, so we stank.) For whatever reason, the team didn't gel into a cohesive unit. The passing game was weak, the shooting was cold, and we weren't communicating or making the set ups like we should have.

Sigh. It was disappointing.

Henry Russell Sanders said, "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing." (Sometimes Vince Lombardi gets the credit for this quote, but he stole it from Red Sanders. Do your homework, Kids.)

Both men were wrong. From a Number One Fan kind of girl, I know that winning is important. I wanted to win all of those games. I wanted to crush the competition into dust. I yelled until I am completely hoarse. I brought pom poms and tattoos to pass out to the fans. I yelled at the crowd if I felt they weren't being spirited enough. I did hair and chaperoned the sixth grade hotel room (Holy Mother). I bought soft drinks for kids not in my gene pool, slipped several kids extra money, passed out Ibuprofen like I was a drug dealer, and went early to the games to hold entire sections of seats for fans. I carried equipment and made signs and led fan cheers. I'm serious about the winning.

Cheer won second in state; basketball won second in state
So are the other moms/coaches. Mrs. Becky, Mrs. Mary, and Mrs. Marilyn were the most supportive team leaders ever, bringing hair bows, make up, nail polish, goodie bags for the girls, etc. Mrs. Marilyn, the cheer coach, and Mrs. Mary, the school secretary and Woman Friday, don't even have kids on the team and they came and stayed the whole weekend and worked like crazy women. We all want a win!

But it is so much bigger than the score on a board.

It's about being involved: Because we are small, the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders got to be a HUGE part of the varsity competition squad. Everyone got to participate on some level.

It's all about mentoring: The older girls helped the younger girls all season. They taught, led, did their hair, took them to the mall, ate meals with them, danced in the lobby with them, and painted their nails. I don't care what you say, having a junior/senior notice you and take an interest in you when you are in middle school is a big whoop.

It's demonstrating grace under pressure: The older girls encouraged them, set good examples, and overall behaved like role models. On the court, when losing, they remained calm, didn't curse or throw things or demonstrate poor sportsmanship. We held it together when under the worst kind of pressure. It's easy to maintain your decorum when things are peachy keen, but when things go against you, that's when your character will bear out. Learning how to lose gracefully is probably more important than learning how to win. Cause I've got news for you--only one team was number one in the state. That means everyone else had to lose.

It's supporting other people even when your journey isn't going so hot: The boys lost in the first game of their division. They stayed the entire weekend and cheered on the girls basketball games and came to the cheer competition. Hello??? Is this thing on??? They woke up early and came to see CHEER competition. They took up two full rows in the stands and waved pom poms and cheered and supported the girls. They were part of the school. Showing up for the girls went beyond just sportsmanship. It demonstrated character and love.

I am proud to be a Chilton Patriot! I am proud of our young people. I am proud of my baby girl who cheered front and center with the Big Girls. I am proud of our teams. I am proud of our school.

Now if I could just make up a cheer incorporating pom poms that supports English class....hmmmm....

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Hugging Problem

Best Friends
There is a huge national movement to ban hugging in the school house.

We don't want students touching each other, students touching teachers or teachers touching students or teachers touching teachers. I'm all for using wisdom in your daily life about who and when you touch people, but at what point do we determine NOT touching each other appropriately is just as harmful as touching each other inappropriately.

I can assure you that they
aren't trying to date each
All of this fuss is largely because of the publicized abuse perpetrated by a handful of perverted adults (who could have found any number of opportunities to act inappropriately outside of the schoolhouse). Our gut instinct is to issue a blanket ban on hugging, because we just don’t want any trouble or controversy and the easiest way to avoid either of those things is to ban the behavior across the board.

I teach high school grades 7th-12th. Every day I am surrounded by kids ages 11-to-18 years old. My biological kids are also in the building in the same hallway where I teach. So, on any given day I receive anywhere from five to fifty-five hugs.

Mrs. Kim, please, please keep
hugging my kids. I mean it.
Most of these are those little side winding hugs. (You know, like you give your Aunt Ruth.) Some of them are the pat-pat-pat hugs where your bodies are leaned into one another, but only your arms are touching. They are mostly polite, hugs of friendship, but some of them are pitiful, please love me hugs. 

With the current climate of teachers abusing students, we have to be especially careful in our physical contact with students. If I’m being totally honest, this makes me incredibly sad.

Some of these kids hug because it is their love language. My son would fall into this category. Touching, hugging, and snuggling are the primary ways he shows affection and receives affirmation. He is in the fourth grade and still comes into my classroom multiple times every day just to be reassured that I’m still there and that he’s still number one. He hugs me in front of everyone, shamelessly.
I'm sure Doc was as disturbed by the contact as the
student was.
When some of the older kids started ragging him about hugging his Mooooooommmmmmyyyy, he raised one eyebrow, made direct eye contact and shot back, “Well, I can’t help it if your mother doesn’t love you.” Then he hugged me again while giving the evil eye to that teenager. The hug was to lay claim to me, his mother, in front of everyone just in case they weren’t clear that he is mine and I am his.

Some of these kids hug me, because it’s the only contact they have from a Mom. Everyone needs a Mom Person. (They need a Dad Person too. Usually this role is filled by a coach if the father is unavailable in the home, but that’s someone else’s blog.)

Again, I can assure you that they aren't trying
to date one another.
Maybe their moms are fantastic, and they are just in need of an extra measure of comfort. Or maybe their mothers haven’t behaved motherly. Or the mom has abandoned them to the grandparents. Or maybe the mom died. Or the mom works 65 hours a week. Or the mom is on drugs. Or the mom is just unavailable.
Awards night with two of my favorite kids.
I’m an overweight, middle-aged Mom Person for sure. I am a safe harbor. At any given time I am surrounded by my own babies who need money or hugs or faces wipe. I fit the profile—safe, good-natured disciplinarian, who is passing out the candy and reprimands in equal measure—I’m like a mom prototype. I am almost carrying a physical sign that says, “Hug me; I’m like your mom.” 

She wanted a photo with me (which explains why I look like a corpse in this photo). Such a precious student!

Some of these kids aren’t touched by anyone outside of platonic hugs from friends at school or back/butt slapping in sports. Think about it. If your mother and father aren’t snuggling/hugging you, who is? It’s a horribly lonely thought, but if your mother isn’t there to snuggle you, who kisses it better? Who hugs you just because? Who pets you on the head and pulls you close for a second just for the reassurance? No one.

 Even if your parents are perfect and hug you all of the time, can anyone have too many platonic hugs? Hello?   
We are bonded by human contact.

And this is the kicker—if you aren’t being hugged regularly by someone who doesn’t want anything from you, the only touch you end up with from other humans is sexual in nature. If the only touch you have from other people is when you are "making out" what kind of warped view do you develop about touching people in general? There has to be some sort of compromise between platonic hugging and giving detentions for hugs in the hallway.

One of my graduates last year after the big play production.
He periodically pops in to say hello.

I'm not sure that the only hugs we receive should be associated with dating/the opposite sex as a means to an end. Perhaps we need people available to hug just because human beings need to be touched in order to thrive. We need the reassurance. We need the affirmation. We need the contact. We need to be reminded that someone knows we are here and that we aren’t repulsive. Sometimes you just need a hug simply because you do.

One of my precious graduates! I can't wait to hug her again! :-)
I had a student at the beginning of this school year. He was new in the high school and hadn't turned in an assignment on time, and it hadn't been completed correctly. When he came to see me about making arrangements to fix the problem, he burst into tears, horrified that he'd done so poorly. He was embarrassed and afraid and it just fell out of him in a flood. 

I can assure you that without a single moment of hesitation I grabbed him by both shoulders and immediately gave him a soul-crushing mama bear hug as fast as humanly possible. Then I turned his face up to mine and told him that I was proud of him for coming to see me and that only brave, honorable people face their situations head on even when they are afraid of the consequences.
Precious kids at field day. Even
the youngest of us understand the
power of the hug.

I took both of my hands and mom-wiped his face and told him that he could come to my classroom any time he needed me and that I was expecting that missing assignment to be turned in the next day, done correctly. I then hugged him again and sent him to the bathroom to clean up and pull himself together before his classmates saw him. I'd do it again right now without changing a single moment. I pray to God that when that moment comes for my son, the teacher bear hugs him too.

Sometimes I need a hug just because I do. Hopefully, you’ll know when my moment comes and will act accordingly.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Left Unsaid

I feel the words heavy on my tongue.

They cling to the roof of my mouth and the back of my teeth, aching and swirling like too much sugar on the gums.
     I cannot let them loose.
         I cannot keep them in.
            I cannot set them free.

I struggle under the weight of it.
I struggle under the weight of all that is left unsaid. All that is left behind. All that is too much before me.

So, I wait.
And I swallow.
And I tongue the hole where the words have eaten through to the bone.
A constant reminder of all that is left unsaid.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hunting Expedition

I don't know how you spend your Friday nights, but after 18 years and four kids and a mother-in-law in residence, we spend ours apart. The Husband referees a youth basketball league, and I go to Wal-Mart to grocery shop.

We buy all of our 'maintenance' weekly stuff like bread and milk at the local places, but if you are cooking five-to-seven times a week for seven-to-nine people (depending upon how many extra mouths are at the house at any given time, not including pop-ins, people who we invite to stay after church, youth who drop in after church, and kids who wander up just because), that, My Friends, is a lot o' groceries.

If we want to have grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, soup, chips and drinks for dinner one night, that means that in one meal we use an entire loaf of white bread,  a package of ham, 12 pieces of cheese, an entire bag of chips, a pound of grapes, and a gallon of tea/juice/etc. The soup is usually two cans for three people, so that's five or six cans of soup. That's the math on ONE meal.

The best example I can think of is this: you know that huge pack of chicken you buy and break up and freeze for several meals? That is the quantity I need for one meal. Seven/nine people need eat eight chicken breasts. And I cook more, because I take my lunch almost every day. So, that big pack = One meal at Casa Johnson.

You get the picture.

Or at least everyone at Wal-Mart got the picture last night. My cart was like a marvel of modern engineering. I packed $479.00 of groceries, all generics with coupons, into one buggie. It was truly a work of art. There will be no squishing of the bread or crushing of the chips in my buggie. There will be no canned goods on top. There will be no name brands. There will be no extra space in the buggie; all will be packed tight. We are on a mission.

I've got all of these couponing people chasing me around all of the time too. I love you, but I'm not couponing.

I am forty minutes driving to Wally World.

I am forty minutes driving back home from Wally World.

I spend an average of an hour and 30 minutes on a two-week shop.

I read that couponing requires a) no brand loyalty and b) you have to go to multiple stores.

Um, not happening. I just told you that to go and get food for a two-week period requires literally four or five hours of my time. Why on earth would I add to that time driving to other stores, clipping and hunting and organizing coupons, all of the extra time that it takes to check out in multiple orders, and on top of that, the generic is cheaper nine times out of ten and it's right there on the shelf.

Now, I use coupons, I just don't hunt them down like I'm on safari in Africa. It's more like they have to wander up into my yard and then I'll shoot at them. And I always, always plan my meals two weeks in advance and stick to the list. Seriously--the only things that came home last night that weren't on the list were the kid's sweats on found on sale for $3.00 a pair (Calera for the home folks) and yes, I bought four of those. But otherwise, I stick to the list for the planned meals.

All of this adds up to one really huge observation: We are so very blessed.

I have a vehicle that will make it to and from Wal-Mart forty minutes each way. That vehicle is also large enough to hold all of those groceries. I have enough money in the bank to pay not only our needs, but for our wants. (Little Debbie has never made anything that qualifies as a need.)  I have time and energy and health to go, walk, shop, lift, tote, carry, put away all of those foods. I will have healthy foods available whenever we even remotely feel like a snack. My children may never know true hunger. The food that I put on the table has been inspected, washed in clean water that came out of a tap in my house, cooked to a safe temperature on an indoor stove, and I will have enough for left overs. I will even have enough to feed extra people. I will have so much that some will go into the garbage.

Next time you grumble your way through a shopping expedition, stop in the aisle, bow your head and cry out, "Oh, God, my God, how wonderful you are and how grateful I am."