Decisions

The R-word.

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Disclaimer:  Racism, police brutality, and racial profiling are not always connected topics.  Each can be as dangerous with or without the others present.  This post is in reference to a particular book and specific incidences of the three intertwined.

 

“But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day:  Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains.  If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”  Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, All-American Boys

It’s easy to sit in my culturally diverse suburb, and teach at my 40/40/10/10 school, and feel like a well-adjusted, culturally blended, superior-minded adult.  I, thankfully, grew up in a home that didn’t judge based on things the eye could discern.  And I sit in my house as I write this with my sweet black widow neighbor to the left, an Asian family across the street, a black couple next to them, and a multi-generational Hispanic family to my right.  AHHhhhh, what a lovely world it is that the pot is finally melting us all together!

But what about when the news stories hit.  What about when another case of police brutality involving an unarmed black man, or child, tops the headlines.

What then?  Oh, we don’t riot or vandalize each other’s lawns.  But our neighborhood quietly, politely starts to show lines of division.  Helen next door solemnly dons her “Justice for Michael Brown” shirt, while Dan down the street quietly applies a “Back the Blue” bumper sticker to his new truck.  Helen probably feels like the police are the new KKK, and Dan down the street can probably quote you all the times police have shot unarmed white men who don’t make the news.  And the family of the cop around the corner probably looks over their shoulder a little more for a while.  But neither will engage the other in any sort of debate.  Neither will call the other foul names.  Because nobody’s racist anymore.  Right?

I just finished reading All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and I’m not sure why this isn’t required reading.  Right. Now. (For the record, I hate required reading…but hear me out…I’m making a point.)  Probably for the same reason the teacher in the book was discouraged (by administration) from continuing The Invisible Man after a student at their school was beaten by a security guard.  It’s too much.  It gets students all fired up.  Last year in the classroom across from me, an actual fight broke out after an essay about police brutality was assigned.  Oh, people talk about it all the time in one-sided discussions with like-minded friends.  But it’s no wonder people avoid the topic in mixed company.

For people like me, the “Oh I can see both sides and I know people on both sides so I’ll just stay quiet unless someone asks and then I’ll make it clear I see both sides” people, there is a lesson in a quote that expresses what has been tried and tested throughout history, through religious persecution, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, in times of war, and certainly amid the horrors of genocide:  IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN SITUATIONS OF INJUSTICE, YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSOR. – Desmond Tutu.  So, in essence, “seeing both sides” is the same thing as not standing for either, including the one you think is right.

Just as there are non-violent ways for police to apprehend innocent-until-proven-guilty-subjects and place the alleged crime in the hands of our multi-cultural justice system, there are ways to go about reading books like this one and discussing these topics with young people in a non-provoking way that promotes unity and affects change.

Just like this book.  Two writers from two different sides of American culture, who came together to write a book where the characters’ worlds were pretty well blended – much like the high school where I teach – but were fiercely divided in a time when headlines pit one against the other.  To them, and in the real world of 2017, being racist didn’t necessarily mean overtly hating other races…it meant subconsciously siding with your “own kind” regardless of the facts, or what is right.

And if you don’t think real old-fashioned racism still exists, ask yourself this:  Did your parents ever give you the speech?  The list of ways you have to behave if the cops stop you?  Never fight back.  Never talk back.  Keep your hands up.  Keep your mouth shut.  Just do what they ask you to do, and you’ll be fine (pp. 50, 289)…?  Just checking.

This chapter in American history has to end someday, right?  And it’s clear it’s not going to end with the older, scarred and divided generation. And it’s not going to end with or because of the polite generation I’m in.  It’s going to end with our kids.  Our students.  Our future.  They have to learn how to argue without fighting.  They have to learn how to disagree without hating.  They have to learn how to be different without excluding.

Because what if they don’t?

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Girl Power!

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{It’s not what you think.  I’m not a feminist.  Just defining some things that make life better.  And I’m a girl, soooo….}

The English language does an obscene injustice to the vast color-wheel of envy and coveting experienced by the common female.  Oh, we don’t like to admit it.  But admit it.  Even the best of us has experienced this little demon at some point in our life.

Looking back, my 20s and 30s were plagued with it.  I may not have been symptomatic, but I was a carrier.  Envy presented as “ambition”, but it was there.  Friends had higher paying jobs.  Other friends (or worse…the same ones) had *perfect* marriages (cough cough).  Other friends had nice homes (I realize now I was envious of absurd mortgage payments).  I longed for the country club membership, the nice car, achievements that would bait all the likes, the job that made me sound uber important, or the husband with one so that I could attain the highest of all female statuses…Housewifery.

So I joined the Junior League, bought the used Mercedes, spent money on clothes, got the Master’s degree.  Moved into the bigger house, bought tickets to Charity Ball, earned five half-marathon medals, and got a whole lotta likes.  Know where all that got me?  Exhausted and broke.  And even a little more envious because it appeared that others did it with such ease (cough cough).

Not that my 40s instantly propelled me into total WGAS-mode, but I must admit, I’ve been freed from the chains of the things I used to care the most about.  I’m sure this change was supported by moving out of Victoria and into a life of near-anonymity, as well as baptism into Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love way of thinkingEither way, I’ve found happiness in downgrading cars (come on and hit me with your best shot).  The last thing I want is no job (more jobs is actually what makes me happy).  And maybe even laster than that is wanting to dress up to go to a fancy restaurant or sit poolside with people who American Expressed their perfect lips and thighs.

After five years of half-marathons, I had one excuse after another – divorce, family in town, that little matter of the tib-fib fracture.  The last time I met up with my original running girls (why did we not call ourselves ORG?) was 2012 – I went to cheer for them and eat with them and hear their war stories from the course.  And I felt like a loser.  I love these girls with all my heart, but here they were, more fit than ever, obviously more reliable than me, and with more medals than me.  I was happy for them, but I was sad for pathetic old me.  Guess that was which friend I was.  The loser one.

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What. the actual. hell.  Same meet-up last weekend…they ran, I showed up to eat.  Guess what we discussed over Mexican food and the smell of Icy Hot?…Their run, of course. Their training.  Their journeys.  But also my book.  And my next book.  My happy grown-ass independent daughter.  My awesome new job.  Our years until TRS kicks in (I think this officially makes us adults).  Our amazing husbands and kids.  I’ve done a hella lot this year.  So training for a marathon wasn’t one of them.  WGAS!

I owe this realization to a meal and conversation about running in that very same Mexican restaurant ten years ago with the very same friends (God bless Lupita, whoever she is).  I owe a lot, in fact, to watching them both (should I call them Sarcy or Marah?) and their desire to study and truly learn the sport (thanks, RPG, for everything), commit to something and stick with it, and support each other through accountability and lots of laughs.  I have those traits!…just didn’t use them in the same way.  And guess what?  I’m not sure if I was more proud of their marathon or if they were more proud of my book.

Moral of the story:  In good times, and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more.  That’s what friends are for.

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So yeah, that’s what friends do.  Sorry and sad it took me this long to enjoy it this much.

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The Year of the Titty-Baby

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Who knew a consecutive string of 365 days could be responsible for so much anguish in the world!  2016 killed people, I hear.  Politicians and media are at their all-time suckage level.  And worst of all – the Dab.

I have thoughts.

First, Liberia.  I’m writing a piece with a friend, and I’ve had to do some research on Liberia.  We may have a president with awful hair who is appalling and embarrassing and maybe even evil.  And we may have lost some people (who we never met) (most who were old) (who we stopped paying attention to almost completely until we binged watched/listened immediately after the news of their passing to show our love and devotion).  But guys.  Please.  We have homes with plumbing and cool air and heat and refrigeration and best of all Netflix!  We can walk out of our homes with our Netflix (without getting shot) and get in our car (without getting bombed) and drive to work (where we earn a decent paycheck) and hang out with friends (without getting Ebola) and go out at night (without being raped)…What a great year it’s been for US…Yay!!  If this has been your Worst Year Ever, you’re still one of the luckiest people on Earth.

The beauty of being American is, our politicians and media only affect you if you let them.  So you’re the one at an all-time suckage level if they bother you.  Plus, frown-lines, guys…don’t want ’em.

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Second, guess what.  Guess who made 2016 an embarrassment.  We did.  Maybe our ancestors contributed to our lineage of bad decision-making skills, so we can blame them a little, but we mostly did this to ourselves.  We gave the Kardashians an inch (big inch) and Donald Trump took a mile (big mile.  the biggest mile.  tremendous miles.)  We let news anchors fuel our thinking and GIFs and memes guide our emotions.  We’ve kinda been the weakest generation.  And our diplomas and degrees don’t mean much if we get our information from Twitter and mass media.

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So just flip the freaking calendar…it’s just another day on Earth.  People aren’t going to stop dying (especially if they keep getting old and/or shooting heroin).  Nobody decent is ever going to want to run for office again now that they see how that all works.  And the Dab will be replaced by something. even. dumber.

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I’m going to do the splits in 2017.  The center ones.  And I’m going to continue to gauge my happiness by the world around me.  The one I actually live in, the people I actually care about, and the life that’s actually treated me and mine very well lately, thank you very much.

ENFP -Why it’s fun/terrible being one

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One thing my boss learned about me in my final weeks at my job is that I’m a tightly-wound ball of loose, fun, colorful, frazzled yarn.  Or maybe I’m a loosely-braided ball of really hard, tough wire.  I don’t know…Who knows?!?!  She looked at me with great sympathy and said, “It must be really stressful being you – you’re a walking contradiction of OCD and ADD.”

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I was known as the free-spirit, the hippy, the rule-breaker, the “what box?” person in our office of 16.  So it seemed strange to her when I melted down in my office and busted out with the admission that my house was in disarray because of the reno, my treadmill was out of commission, and it made me feel like my whole life was falling apart.  Okay now that does sound dramatic.  However, I thrive on structure and schedules and to-do lists, yet I operate in un-structured spontaneous irreverent ways.  I finally realized that the lists and order are coping mechanisms I’ve developed to survive in the real world.

This got me thinking…Is there any part of me that is wholly and completely any one certain way?  (These things are probably not unique to ENFPs, and certainly not unique to me…just a little self-realization at 40, that’s all.)

Political views:  With regards to taxes, government-involvement, economic policy, domestic and global protection…completely Republican.  With regards to personal decisions …completely Democrat.  I realize this pretty much makes me a Libertarian, which pretty much makes me screwed.

Religious views:  My dad, grandfather, and uncle are/were Southern Baptist ministers.  I was raised in the church and am so thankful for it.  I like believing in the things the Bible teaches.  I like the way I feel/am/behave when I leave church.  I think a lot of the world’s problems would be solved if more people knew and followed Jesus.  I don’t believe everyone else has got it all wrong and are doomed to hell.  I don’t believe science had no part in this.  I don’t believe we should look any differently at people who don’t believe like we do.  I don’t believe what Christianity is taught to be, in most cases, was what was intended. And even if I’m still afraid to be so brash as to claim that any parts of the Bible are wrong, humans are.  All the time.  And we’re the ones trying to read/teach/impose it.  Language and metaphors and translations and interpretations are real actual things.  Jenn Hatmaker says it best in her book, For the Love…”If it isn’t also true for a poor, single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”  Fact check, mic drop.

Career:  I need someone to tell me exactly what to do, and then I want to do it completely differently and them not get mad.  Good thing I’m going to be a teacher again.

Homosexuality:  If you’re going to use the Bible for reference to claim something as a sin, you have to use the same Bible as your reference that God created everyone in His image.  Never met a gay person who was faking it.  Never met a gay person who hadn’t tried to be straight.  I have lots of friends who are gay.  Some of them are the very best at showing God’s love – why should I care who they show it to?

Gun control:  Guns should be controlled, but if I want one, please sell me one.  I don’t care about privacy when it comes to this topic.  I believe in lots of regulations here.  But I think the sudden surge in taboo-izing guns is part of the problem.  I want to be the one to decide who gets to buy guns and who doesn’t.  I think that might help.

Marriage/Family/Divorce:  Going to have to make this one a separate post.  Stay tuned.

Parenting:  I want to give them tons of structure, bedtimes, schedules, rules to follow, expectations to meet, with tons of independence, freedom, and self-expression.

Media:  I hate the media.  100% completely.  There!!!…I found something without a “but”.

**The Myers-Briggs Personality test categorizes ENFPs (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception…also known as Campaigners, Champions, Idealists) as constantly contradicting themselves because they genuinely see multiple sides to most situations.  Sorry not sorry.

Updates (ABC Challenge)

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The A-Z Challenge was over for most people yesterday…I’m a little behind, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to evaluate progress in the areas I’ve been challenging myself.

A- Acceptance:  Took the A-Z Challenge…still with it.  Took the new job…still excited!

B – Boys:  I’ve stopped trying to understand boys.  Boys and girls are not meant to understand each other.  I am still trying to educate my boys (the little ones) about girls and mostly how to navigate the differences and not piss off the ones you like.

C – Confidence:  Meh.  Wearing a short-sleeved shirt today – does that count?

D – Diet:  Bummed about this one.  Stopped most carbs and alcohol, started Insanity and Workweek Hustle with my FitBit (getting in no less than 10,000 steps a day)…Not a pound lost.  Depressed and discouraged, I rage-ate pizza and wings a few times.  Even besides that, probably not doing too well with this one – and DEFinitely not doing as well as I know how to (as my skinny gynecologist pointed out when I expressed concern about recent weight gain.  Bitch.  Jk, I like her.)

E – Expectations:  I’m realizing that my internal clock ticks really fast…that’s helped some.  I’ve also had a conversation with my hott husband that might have given me more insight than before on how his brain works and why some things don’t happen the way I expect them to.  Besides, I would hate it if I knew what went on in my head went on in his too.

F – Facebook:  This one took for a while, but then I found myself stoplight-scrolling uncontrollably.  Today, I’m going to make the conscious effort once again to not look unless I have something I specifically want to find.

G – Grout:  Picked it…going with the one that’s the most like taking me on a date…cheap and easy 😉

H – Husbands:  Great success in loving without fear.  It isn’t as hard of a task as I thought…and it feels so good.

I – Intoxication:  Went drink-free for 5 1/2 days.  Have had many nights without, a few nights with one (none while home alone), and a couple of nights with two.  Probably need to do a 5-day drought every few weeks.

J – Jeri:  Called her so she could keep rubbing off on me.  Need to do it again soon.

K – Keuka:  57 days on the countdown!

L – Learning:  Learned how to delete a row on an inserted table in Word today…so I’d say this one is a success 😉

M – Magazine Perfect:  I have forced myself to leave a few things out that are not bothering anyone.  I haven’t straightened the pillows on the boys’ playroom couch in over a week.

N – News:  This one has been great – not tempted at all.  And the couple of times that I’ve caught the news, it’s been glaringly obvious how terrible it is.  It’s like eating super-sweet desserts after you’ve given up sugar for a few weeks…bleh.

O – Over-analyzing/Obsessing/Over-observing:  Caught myself reading every license plate the other day and then spending way too much brain energy arguing with myself over what year model a particular car was, but otherwise pretty good, maybe?

P – Plans:  Kinda had a grip on this one, then had a long discussion with hott husband that made me shift my grip, if that makes sense.

Q – Quixotic:  Still me.  Still happy about it.

R – Reading:  Haven’t read in a few nights.  Might put down the pedagogy and pick up a YA novel that I’d want to recommend to my future students.

S – SCR (aka Hott Husband):  Love. Him. So. Much.

T – Testing and Treadmills:  Too soon.

U – Updates! – Done!

Testing and Treadmills (ABC Challenge)

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So, if you’re one of the few, the proud, who have followed my journey into figuring out what I want to do now that I don’t need benefits – aka, my mid-life crisis – you’ll know that I’ve recently resigned my “coveted” (ha!) position as Curriculum Specialist and taken a job back in the classroom.  I guess I’ll call that Step One.

I’m mixing reality shows, but somewhere between Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and The Biggest Loser, I know that at some point, a failed contestant has to look at the camera and say, “I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader,” and Bob Greene says to the kicked=0ff contestant “I’m sorry, but you are NOT the biggest loser.”  I feel like when I walk off this job on June 14th, I’ll gladly look into a camera and say “My name is Angie, and I am NOT a curriculum specialist.”

And that makes me proud right now.  I want to be a teaching specialist…A kid specialist, a learning and reading and thriving specialist, but not a curriculum specialist.  Sure you have to have a curriculum – even though I managed to be a successful teacher for many years either without one or without paying attention to one.  But I understand you have to know what you’re supposed to teach, and by nature, you need some measure of your and your students’ success with those goals.  And since there are thousands of teachers in Texas – hundreds or more of which are not naturally good – there has to be a common assessment.

I don’t want a common classroom, though.

My treadmill broke last week, and it’s been stressing me into a depression.  I’ve learned to do my running and walking in the comfort of my pollen-free bedroom while watching Keith Morrison lay out the details of murder after riveting murder.  There is no way on earth I’m going back outside in the dark where the mosquitos are and it might be humid and there aren’t – fortunately and unfortunately – any murders to be solved.  So I’ve done no running or walking, just cursing a lot at my treadmill and the scales.

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So here’s where I’m going with this:  The scales are how I measure and celebrate my hard work on the treadmill.  But without the treadmill, I am stubbornly content to just watch that number go in the wrong direction and bitch about the broken treadmill – as if that’s how to fix it.  Tests are how we measure our hard work in the classroom – Is that the way I’m going to measure and celebrate my hard work with kids???  Of course not!  Never have, why start now?!?  I want to find alternative ways – aka “the right ways” – to sneekily achieve what our advantaged students achieve – without the moaning and dread and copy machine.  I know this is possible.  Dear friend, colleague, mentor, in a conversation with a Resource teacher, flailing a STAAR practice workbook and bitching about the broken copier, reminded her that what kids really need to is to be reading.  Resource teacher said to friend, “It’s not what your kids need, but it’s what my kids need,” (paraphrasing) to which friend replied, in her head, “My kids don’t need that because they REEEEAAAADDDD!!!!”  I know these truths to be self-evident.

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(Really???? Gag me – I don’t mind the STAAR, but I’m certainly not going to attempt to motivate teenagers by having them reach for a test.)

 

So translate, brainiac! (me to self) – If you can find alternative ways to facilitate a learning environment that achieves the same (or better) measures of success in the classroom, why are you so uncreative and unwilling with the running??  You ran outside for decades when it was all you had, but you’ve been spoiled.  Would you be complaining about your kids scores if you had given up on them too?

Not sure what the challenge here is, but I think it’s along these lines:  You know what the goal is, and you know what your resources are, and you know what you have to do…Don’t blame a broken treadmill for your lack of activity.  And don’t ever blame a set of broken standards for your lack of creativity.

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Reading (ABC Challenge)

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I’m not sure how deeply I can delve into this subject in one post.  But since I’ve accepted this new exciting teaching position, I’ve been paying way more attention to the gurus, who, it turns out, operate out of good old common sense – something I think our schools have forgotten how to do.

So in honor of my “R” post (on the day I should actually be on “W”), I thought I’d share some nuggets of wisdom from my favorite book right now by my teacher-crush, Donalyn Miller (world’s biggest advocate for self-selected, non-graded non-worksheeted reading):

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(some research cited from other sources within the book)

“…students in remedial settings read roughly 75 percent less than their peers in regular reading…Students who do not read regularly become weaker readers with each subsequent year.  Meanwhile, their peers who read more become stronger readers – creating an ever-widening achievement gap.  Dubbed the Matthew effect by Keith Stanovich…The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

“Students who don’t read, even if they are capable of completing reading tasks at school, run the risk of falling behind students who read more than they do.  After all, Mark Twain reminds us, ‘The man who does not read great books in no better than the man who can’t.’

“My husband, a self-proclaimed slacker in school, figured out that when he finished his assignments earlier than other students, his reward was more work.  He began to work more and more slowly, stretching out assignments that he could easily have finished…”

“I do not advocate reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success.  I advocate reading because it is enjoyable and enriching.”

“What makes reading painful is when it takes longer to do reading worksheets about a book than to actually read a book.” (-a student named Sklyar)

“Students are not reading more or better as a result of the whole-class novel.  Instead, students are reading less and are less motivated, less engaged, and less likely to read in the future.”