On a recent field trip with my son’s school, I heard a preschooler in another class approach the big blue car at the playground and say to the other kids, “get out the car, b*tch.”

It reminded me of when my friend was student teaching, and a kindergarden student said to a classmate, “I will knock you upside the head on the ABC rug.”

Of course, we assume it’s poor parenting, it’s the community.

Or – it could be tv. Maybe it’s a teenage brother who is actually a dorky honor student messing around with his buddies. And, I do recall that “what’s up b-iatch?” phase my girlfriends and I went through.

When my son started saying, “Aw, man!”- we blamed it on school. Apparently, it’s from a character on Dora.

But, the intonation the little boy at the playground used to order his friend out of the car did conjure an image of someone treating a female badly, as opposed to say, a bunch of high schoolers racing to ride shot-gun.

I take away a couple lessons from all of this:

  • Our kids are always listening (and apparently have super-sonic hearing).
  • They are faster to mimic than we imagine.
  • Positive and negative influences are everywhere.
  • Some kids just have really shitty role models, and it’s up to the other adults in their lives to set a positive example.

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We’ve been having lots of Michael Jackson dance parties lately. Justin seems equally obsessed with him and Raffi, go figure.

I realized I never posted this story from the VEA.

Moonwalking with Peter

Peter got up in the middle of Writing Workshop to show us his Michael Jackson impression—complete with the crotch-grabbing. All in all, it wasn’t that bad. You could tell he practiced it a lot. But it was highly inappropriate in our seventh grade literature class and, from my point of view, had no real connection to the lesson.

It was likely a combination of things that set Peter off. His need for attention and lack of impulse control in a class with mostly boys (in all their immature and defiant glory), last period of the day, was almost asking for trouble. This was also my largest class and I wasn’t used to managing so many kids on my own. I’d only worked with small groups, or co-taught. The transition from elementary school to middle school was a huge adjustment for the students too. They had longer classes, and no recess, on top of a more demanding workload and all the social and emotional stuff. Still, it seemed as if all the “worst” boys were just dumped into this period. The type of kids that cause other teachers to make that face and say “Oh, you have so and so…”

Peter was bursting with personality, and likable, but he made teaching impossible at times. Even fun activities that incorporated movement and music didn’t work. Our timed independent writing sessions were nearly always interrupted by Peter, and then a domino effect of other boys misbehaving. When he was absent, the other boys were much better.

There were only a few girls in the class. One was bookish and always on task, rolling her eyes at Peter and the other boys acting out, giving me sympathetic glances as I tried desperately to teach. The other girls were silly and flirty and created unneeded distractions. Getting up to “get a pencil” would be a whole event of hair-flipping, skirt-adjusting and chatting with Peter, who nearly always managed to engage them in conversation on the short walk back to their table.

If he weren’t so influential with the other students, it might have been easier. At times it was as if he had more control over the class than I did—and it drove me crazy. I tried so hard to help him. I made an individual behavior and reward plan, gave him a fidget to hold, let him stand up when he needed to. But he just took advantage, and pushed and pushed until I was that “Don’t Do This” section of the classroom management books: a caricature of a teacher yelling, with smoke coming out of her ears.

Sometimes Peter just got himself so worked up, he didn’t seem in control of his body. Other days, it was his mouth that got him into trouble. During a lesson on brainstorming topics, he wrote (and shared with his group) a list that was so vulgar he ended up with an in-school suspension.

His guidance counselor was jovial, and looked like he could have played pro football, just the type of male role model the kids at that school needed. On top of the suspension, he made Peter call his mother and read her the list.

We decided to switch Peter’s schedule, and moved him from that last period “problem” class to first period. It was mostly girls and a few studious boys. The change was almost instantaneous—he was like a different person. Who knows whether it was the attention he was getting from the guidance counselor, the dynamic of the class, or the time of day. That last period was still my most challenging and exhausting, but much more teachable.

Peter still lacked that filter at times, like when he called across the room, “Hey Ms. Bloom, are you pregnant?” I was, but had not yet told the students. I’m still not sure how he knew. I suspect he overheard some teachers talking.

I wanted to be mad at him, but the class was so excited. Plus I was planning on sharing the news soon, anyway. We spent a good chunk of time predicting whose birthday would be closest to the delivery date, and sharing various “it totally works” ways to predict whether it was boy or girl (something about hiding a fork and spoon, and another about dangling a necklace over my belly.) There were also many name suggestions—none of which we considered.

The irony is not lost on me that Peter won the closest birthday contest. My son is currently obsessed with Michael Jackson (the songs, not the dancing), and he too struggles with impulse control, though mostly when cookies or elevator buttons are concerned.

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I’m hoping to get my blogging game back on, if nothing else as a way to include writing as a more frequent habit in my life. A neighbor buddy encouraged me to write more about our ‘hood, and it certainly seems an ideal way to ease back into things. Goodness knows my parenting posts will just be full of rants about being sleep deprived or dealing with tantrums.

A Little Help Please?

There aren’t many homeless guys in our neighborhood. One is old and very sweet. He’s appreciative when I buy him a juice or coffee. Last time, as I came out of the store, he stood up from his milk crate, and joked, “I must be the slowest man in the world.” I had managed to hold the door open, and maneuver the stroller before he was able to come help.

He is somewhat of a fixture in the neighborhood, and I see all sorts of folks chatting with him. I’m sure he has a fascinating story.

There’s another guy who really irks me. It’s not that he’s a little drunk and slurs his requests, but rather that he never remembers me. Never.

Each time I walk by, he asks, “Can you help me out?” Then he looks up, sees me with the baby, and exclaims “God Bless! Congratulations!”

It was pretty great the first time, but the thing is, he says it every single time I see him. I mean, every time. I don’t expect him to remember me from week to week, or even day to day. But he greets me this way after I have run my errands and walk by him ten minutes later.

I think it would really behoove him to have a better memory. I might be inclined to “help out” more often. So, yesterday, after a year of biting my tongue – I finally replied, “I just saw you, man.”

It might have been a bit rude, but he won’t remember the next time he sees me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s an excerpt from my latest column for the Virginia Journal of Education.

Serve and Protect?

Just before the dismissal bell rang, there was an announcement. “All resource teachers and specialists please report to the lobby. Immediately.”

We went dutifully: the reading resource teachers, the ESOL teachers, the art, music, and gym teachers who had finished their last period and didn’t have a homeroom class.

The principal and vice principal were there, at this impromptu emergency meeting in the lobby. They told us there was a situation, and our help was needed. For a brief moment, I felt good about being called on to help (even if it was only because I didn’t have a homeroom class). I wasn’t always in good favor with the administration, and small things like this gave the illusion of cooperation and teamwork.

Our orders were simple enough: stand at your regular bus duty assignment or another spot surrounding the building.

I figured it was a domestic issue, perhaps an angry parent without custody rights that came to pick up his child. I stood at one of the crosswalks. The buses arrived, the dismissal bell rang, yet no students appeared. Then the police officers came, patrolling the perimeter of the building.

Doug, a special education teacher, and I met half way between our posts as we frequently did on slow duty days to chat about our day. Always one of the first to hear gossip, he told me another teacher reported hearing gunshots.

Gunshots.

                (Read the rest HERE.)

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It’s been embarrassingly long since my last post.

My mind is often buzzing with new ideas for essays and such; but an “active” three year old boy, and a still not sleeping through the night four month old baby are keeping me from any coherent writing (not to mention taking up a LOT of my time).

So, I decided to share some gems that I’ve come across on Freecycle. As the name suggests, it’s a listserve for folks to post stuff they are giving away for free, or find stuff they want for free.

Most of the posts are for things like furniture, books, or clothing.

I don’t even remember why I joined in the first place. I thought of removing myself from the list, but then I started looking forward to it – searching for the wackiest free stuff.  Like this:

Offer:   Hairdryer. Non-working.

Offer:   Fish sauce.

Offer:   Beat up bag of shoes.

Then this:

Offer: Trader Joe’s Frozen Turkey Meatballs
1 bag is completely unopened; other bag has been opened and 3 meatballs used. Pick up in Cleveland Park.

But the best by far…

                    Offer: 8 Month Old Black Cat – Male

 

 

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The Truth

by Amy

My column from the April issue of the Virginia Journal of Education-

To Tell The Truth

Is a little fibbing really that bad? 

 

 

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donation-box

Every season, I switch my closet out. In the spring, I put my winter sweaters in a big blue bin, and it goes into the storage space until the weather turns cold again.

I try to purge, and create piles. Donate, consign, trash – just like those clear the clutter books recommend.

I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping clutter to a minimum. I donate clothes, and books frequently. When the mail comes, I sort through it right away, and throw out the junk.

Sometimes I accidentally throw away catalogues my husband wanted. Or worse, I tear up receipts too quickly, and panic when we decide to return something. Even if it’s not my fault, I’m usually blamed for “lost” papers.

I used to save everything. I liked making scrap books when I was younger. I kept birthday cards, letters, programs from concerts, ticket stubs.

Not anymore.

It’s not that I’m not sentimental. I’ve just learned to let go of the physical stuff.

Even still, a few items seem to remain in that storage bin year after year. I can’t seem to put them in another pile. It’s unlikely I’ll ever wear the faux suede brown pants and the tight little sweater with the sparkle heart in the middle – a gift from Jen for my 26th birthday when we lived in Spain.

And yet, I can’t seem to let go. Maybe that’s ok. It’s really not taking up that much space in the big blue bin. I realize I’m holding onto the memory, to what that cute little outfit represents.

Sevilla.

The orange trees, Vespas zipping past, the smell of Spring flowers mixed with smell of horse piss.

Cappuccinos, and why is this toast so fantastic?

Red wine, Fanta limon, olives, jamon hanging from the ceiling, cheap whiskey, discotheques.

The Cathedral, The River Guadalaquivir, The Torre del Oro, The Royal Alcazar.

Bar Sancho Panzo, little glasses of cool beer

Tia, hija

A kiss on each cheek.

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Dr. Nanny

by Amy

The Sunday New York Times Style section recently ran a little story about the “Nanny Doctor.”

People pay Lindsay Heller $200 an hour to mediate with their nanny. We’re not talking about figuring out how to pay for taxes or health care, or sponsoring someone to reside in the country legally.

This is about mothers who not only struggle with letting go of the notion that their way is the only way, but who also fail to communicate their expectations to employees.

Women who complain about things like this: “She lets Joshua just lie on the floor while she’s drinking her tea. Put some pep in that step. Put the tea down.”

It’s not like this kid is 5 years old, he’s seven months old. What’s a little floor time so the nanny can relax for a few minutes during what is certainly a long and hectic day? As for the “pep” –  the nannies I see have far more energy and enthusiasm than we mothers usually do.

Women are waiting later and later in life to have children. Many are established in their careers, and financially successful. I suspect that a majority of the mothers who seek the expertise of Heller have climbed corporate ladders, founded charities, AND maintained their flawless slender appearance –  and yet, they cannot bring themselves to have a conversation with the nanny about healthy snacks for the children.

The irony of course, is that the people who likely need the most advocating, are those nannies.

That said, I commend Ms. Heller for the outreach she does for nannies – providing affordable weekly support groups, and helping these women learn to advocate and negotiate for themselves.

I imagine the piece in The Times will be great publicity for the Nanny Doctor’s business. If you have the money, why not pay someone to mediate with The Help?

Ideally, the article will motivate people with the resources and experience to do more outreach work on behalf of the nannies – who raise other peoples’ children in hopes of providing a better life and education for their own.

 

 

 

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The Wanderer

by Amy

(from the February issue of the Virginia Journal of Education)

What happened to Andrew? one of the girls asked. I had lost track of time, and the bell was about to ring. 

“Andrew is missing,” I told the office. Missing? Lost? I wasn’t sure how to word it. It wasn’t that much of a shock, actually. He was just that type of kid. Fortunately, our administrators responded quickly to these “situations” and had a great sense of humor. Humor is essential in middle school, especially with a lot of at-risk students. 

I probably shouldn’t have let him go to his locker…

Read the rest of it here 

 

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www.tabletmag.com

I’m sure it’s normal, but recently I’ve been wondering about my parenting ability. It’s probably because I’m doing the SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) thing, and like any other “job” it has its ups and downs. Only this one is way more emotional, and you can’t take a mental health day.

I constantly wonder:

Is he getting spoiled? Will he outgrow this obsession with elevators? Will he eat fruits and vegetable that don’t come in a squeezy pack again? Will he ever sit still? 

As for the last question. The solution, it seems, is Elmo.

We were those parents – and waited to introduce DVDs until our son was past two. Now, it’s a wonderful break for all of us, and frankly the only thing that keeps him focused for more than 30 seconds.

His favorite program is Elmo’s World. (Though, I have made my folks promise not to buy any talking, laughing, dancing, tickling or otherwise extremely loud and annoying Elmos.)

True – he’s learning about babies, dogs, and the farm! But really, what is the appeal of Elmo? Why do toddlers just love the little red creature? And what is up with that creepy Mr. Noodle character?

I found this article about Judy Freudberg, the show’s creator and writer, to be insightful. Freudberg was one of many creative minds we lost in 2012.

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