The Diva and the Queen

Diva Girl steps on my toes all the time. I try to keep my ego in check. I am always asking myself when and how to address her sassy ways. I am the adult and I have all the tools to build a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. I am finding that is a hard thing to create between a 7 year old Diva and her teacher.

You know those wise sayings you read and you think wow that is profound. And you think how the world would be a better place if people could just learn that lesson. Then one day it comes back to bite you and you think crap, this is one of those things I have to learn. That is me and Diva Girl. Everything that annoys me about her is a thing that is in me. I read a wise quote about that once. Something about whatever you see in others that gets you the most riled up, it’s probably because it is something that is in the core of you that you need to examine. Yep, Diva Girl is putting me through my paces. She gets me all riled up. She talks when I am talking. She says the opposite of everything I say. She seems to find me completely boring and inadequate. And she does this very loudly. When I give her THE LOOK she gives it right back.

One day after school I decide that our two inner Diva’s need to come to an agreement. So I sit her down for a private talk. What’s going on I ask her. What’s with the bad attitude. You always seem angry. She looks me straight in the eye and says, you don’t listen to me. My mind races and my mouth opens to make a dozen excuses and then I shut my mouth, and look deep inside. She’s right. I don’t listen to her. And she is not going to just sit around and be unheard. She is important and what she has to say, it needs to be heard.

In that moment I realize that there is only one thing to say . I am sorry. I will try harder to listen. Do you forgive me? She smiles with the big spirit that is inside her. I bask in her pure Diva.

It can still be pretty rocky between us. We both have our passion, and a voice that demands to be heard but we are working on it.

Recently the class was getting ready for closing meeting and most of the kids were waiting at our meeting spot. I was checking in with stragglers and heading over when I hear Diva Girl commanding the class. “Shhh, the Queen is coming!”

Nice to know she has my back.

My Turtle Love

My Turtle Love is a complicated kid. When he first came to me he had the saddest eyes I have ever seen. Anytime he came across anything slightly challenging he slumped in his chair and stared at the table, silent and immovable. I tried to get him to speak or even look at me. Not a word or even a nod in response. I encouraged, cajoled, demanded and lastly ignored. Nothing.

One day during guided reading he came to a word he did not know and he shut down. He bent his head and stared unseeing at the page. I said nothing, I waited. I just waited. I sat without saying a word while still focusing all my attention on him. I sat beside him and just waited. My mind raced and I thought of all the precious moments of instruction time slipping away. Yet somehow I knew that this was the moment when we decided this thing. Would I give up on him?

I have no idea how long I waited, and waiting patiently and quietly is not my forte. I get to the demanding part of my repertoire pretty quickly. But I waited, And he did it. He sounded out the word. Once he began he put the pieces together without much difficulty. And I crowed, You did it. I knew you could do it. I told you you could do it. I poked him in the ribs until he laughed.

Then I looked him straight in the eyes and said don’t give up on me. I’m not giving up on you.

My turtle love, he hides in his shell when he is afraid. He won’t be hurt. That day I waited quietly, long enough for him to poke out his head, long enough for him to take one small step away from his fear.

These days he is smiling. He is reading and he is writing. This is a a poem he wrote about himself.

I have black eyes.
I have short hands.
I like spaghetti.
I have to be myself.

He is a complicated kid. I wouldn’t want him to be anyone else.

Kids and Data

Let me tell you what my kids know about data, real data that matters to a seven year old. They know how many teeth their classmates have lost. Losing teeth, that is a big deal to a 2nd grader. On some days it consumes their focus. And they know how many teeth 2nd graders in other classes have lost. How do they know this data? Because they collected it, organized it, created representations of it, analyzed it and compared it. And when I say they know about data I mean they know those words and those concepts. I am certain I did not know those words or concepts as a second grader. I am not even certain that I understood them until I had to teach them to kids.

You know what else they know? They know THE KIDS that that data came from. They spend most of their daylight hours with those kids. Those kids are the ones who play tag with them on the playground, poke them while waiting in line, share their crayons, listen to their stories, cheer them on to do hard things, help them when they are hurt and moan with them when we have yet another indoor recess.

So what if one kid lost 14 teeth and one kid lost 2 teeth, what does that tell us about the kids? Is one better then the other? Of course not. That would be silly. There is a whole lot to know about who a person is and what they contribute beyond how many teeth they have lost. Each kid looses teeth at their own pace, in their own time. Why would you decide anything about which kid is good and which one is bad based on one piece of data collected on any one day? Like I said, that would just be silly.

So the next time the experts come knocking at our school doors with THEIR data I think my kids could teach them a lot and some of it might even be about data.

I Am Not a Super Hero

I spend my entire day wrapping my mind around what children are thinking and how I can get them thinking more. This makes me feel like a super hero. The kids make me feel like I have super human powers.

But I’m not a super hero. And some days I get really confused and tired, soul tired. It starts when I try to wrap my mind around what the adults in education are thinking and then I try to mesh the needs of the children with the demands of the adults and well, quite plainly I feel like my soul is slipping away from me. I can not please both masters.
I read this tonight
“standards describe the past, not the future” and reflect the notion that children must “fit into the worlds as it is. We forget that our children are the creators and owners of the future.”
Yong Zhao, professor of education and author

In my soul I know that if for one moment our adult minds could comprehend the thinking, wisdom and creativity of children’s minds we would know that the future is theirs to build. We only limit them with our standards and tests. They are the real super heroes and we are their kryptonite.
To see the full article on Yong Zhao’s perspective on educational standards

It’s My Birthday and I Will Cry If I Want To

I have been thinking a lot lately about being afraid. I have been thinking of being afraid of something and doing it anyway. I am almost always afraid. It’s in my brain, it’s in my core. I see people doing things very easily and I am stunned. It all seems so scary to me. Just going out of my house can be scary, picking up the phone, talking to strangers, driving to places I’ve never driven to. Anything that goes on in the physical world outside of my own head, very scary to me. And I don’t let that stop me. I really don’t know why I don’t let that stop me. It is a puzzle to me. Not letting the fear stop me is just as much a part of me as the fear. I push past the fear and then I am living the experience. For that moment in time I forget to be afraid.

I have also been thinking about stories. I am almost always thinking about stories, mine and others. I have been thinking about how all these things coexist inside of me – feeling the fear of doing something, doing it anyway and stories.

When I write about my life, share my stories, it helps to lessen the fear. It helps me to go out and do that thing with fewer worries, less anxiety. It helps me to write down the words, make sense of the fear and plan the doing. It helps me realize where I want to go and that I can get there. Everyday I am creating my story by living my life. And then I go back, remember, reflect and in the reflecting and remembering I can tell my past, which is a part of me and I can create my future, while being present in my living. The telling of my story is powerful.

I was reading a post by Elizabeth Gilbert about a gathering of she and three other memoir writer’s . She says

“I don’t just mean that we literally each wrote our own story (although we did do that , as each one of us wrote a memoir) but I mean it more broadly – that we have each written our own story in LIFE.

Each of us, in our way, rejected the script of life that was handed to us. and said ‘No. That doesn’t suit me. That doesn’t work for me. I’m going to do something different with myself…because I am, and because I must.’

So we each got to create our own lives with our own hands.”

So I think of the story handed to me. My story it starts in a certain way. My story starts as an angry girl child screaming for my mother. My grandmother told stories of how I never stopped crying. My sister and I are only 15 months apart and my father was in the Navy and away. My mother was young, alone and overwhelmed with two small children. I would just not stop crying until my mother held me. I was her torturer.

That story told by my grandmother, it passed down a certain life to me in my childhood. I was always the over emotional child and my fears and sadness were dismissed. That is a certain story and a certain script that was handed to me. And in the telling of that story, it makes me think and wonder about who I am at my core. It shows my fear from so young. My mind struggles to soothe itself. It is a thing in me that I know better now. And though I take that story into me and accept it as part of me I reject the script of the life it handed to me as a young girl. I am afraid and I can say that now. And I will not let that fear stop me. As Gilbert says

“I’m going to do something different with myself…because I am, and because I must.”

I lost my mother as a young woman and I have had to learn to be without her touch. I think of that on my birthday. Most especially now that I have a daughter of my own. So it’s my birthday and I will cry if I want to and I will laugh if I want to and most surely I will be afraid, but that is all a part of the living. So I am going to keep being afraid and I am going to keep doing those things that make me afraid any way, and I am going to keep telling my story. That’s the gift I have to give my mother, my daughter and myself.