small small world

there was a terrible accident in Seattle this week.  all the way across the country from the east coast.  I caught a bit of it on  the news, a set of grandparents walking across a street with their daughter and her baby — and — suddenly they are hit by a drunk driver.  grandparents killed, baby and mom in critical condition….

I stared at the TV, said a silent prayer for all of them, shook my head and went about my day.

 

Then I went, two days later, over to see my daughter, whos best friend had flown in with her 7 month old baby, from the west coast, to visit.  She had never met my youngest  grandchild and walking into my daughters house it was wonderful to see those two girls together again. We chatted a few minutes, sitting on the floor marveling at the perfection of the three babies they had produced.  Then I asked, how are you, hows John?  and a glaze came over her face, she swallowed hard and related the story of how there had been a tragedy the day she left Seattle.  Her husband had been planning a peaceful week at home while she came east, but then he got the call that his friend’s wife and child were in critical condition, his inlaws dead.

And suddenly the world shrunk, almost like it had been shrink wrapped in that filmy plastic stuff that wraps Easter baskets and the like.

Small small world.  Pain and connection and sorrow and wonder stretches across the continent, just like that.

catching up

Since Ive retired ( four weeks. woo hoo) Ive kept in touch with a few workfriends through social media and telephone calls.  The calls usually start with them calling me a five letter word — rhymes with witch — because I dont have to get ready for work the next day and they do….but we quickly move into a discussion about the mess that is public education, today.  I taught for 23 years in the state system, and did a couple years in private schools too.  I remember when it was fun — the kids learned, the admins did their evaluations,  I wrote lesson plans, spending Saturdays with my papers spread out in front of me on the family room floor –my peers and I went to happy hour and did secret santa swaps.  we made each other Christmas Presents and had High Tea one dreary day each year, in March, when nothing of any excitement was going on.  We brought in guest speakers, we took trips, we wrote three page permission slips to take the kids to see the remake of Romeo and Juliet, and Rudy, and to the imax theatre to see roller coasters…

You get the spin here.  Learning was all encompassing.  We touched, smelled, tasted, listened to and looked at everything.  Incidental learning occurred throughout the day — sometimes you could see the lightbulbs over their heads when they saw something, processed it and really understood.

Teachers met in the lounge during break.  some of them smoked.  We drank soda and brought in leftover birthday cake and Mardi Gras Beads….When the internet came to our district we researched woodstock and made crossword puzzles. We got excited when they called for snow —

It was fun.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun.  The kids sat for testing once a year.  The scores mattered, but no more than their daily performance, their scores on teacher generated assessment.  Teachers walked the rows, checking for notes written on hands or calculators stuck under desks. 

 

Somewhere along the line something changed.  Businessmen began to tell me how to teach.  What to teach.  programs came into being where someone with a degree in engineering could take a few classes and be a high school math teacher.   There were shortcuts to everything — attendance was mandatory, but not really. students were expected to do homework, but we couldnt count it as a grade.  Noone has to stand up as we say the pledge of Allegiance.  Testing starts in October and continues through May.  Teachers are evaluated based on test scores of students they may not even teach.  Expected to develop growth goals with a cadre of kids, and held accountable for their progress towards the goal.  Kids move in and out of a school three or four times a year.  Parents take them out of the country for birthday parties or to “see my aunt, shes sick”.  Teacher observations are held and computer generated based on 4 or 5 components…The dreaded improvement plan is a vehicle for firing a teacher — administrators are told that there has to be areas of improvement noted on every analysis.  Its like starting with a zero and working your way up, when we all know that starting with 100 and being responsible for maintaining works better.

Administrators at the main office make decisions that have nothing to do with best practices, or they come into a building with grand plans and ultimatums and then they drop the ball on follow through.

Call me a b—- if you must.  but I got out.  I left mid year.   I dont miss it. 

the new job

Oh man.  Today I went to a conference — sat with my new boss and presented information about the wonderful new nonprofit i am working with to school counselors.  This non profit works with children in the areas of conflict resolution/feelings/ bullying/social media …current issues that kids deal with.  I AM SO LUCKY!! When I decided to retire from teaching i got:  what are you going to do with your time?  You’ll be bored, noones going to hire you, you left teaching mid year.

Well NA NA NA NA BOO BOO!

I not only got hired, I got hired by a dynamic organization that is devoted solely to making the world a better place.  Priceless.  ( oh, and they pay good too)

 

Sorry, I just had to get that out.

and then it was over

Over.  The breakdown, the screaming and running, the cursing and crying .  Over.  Her room was quiet, serenely quiet.  Her friend, the boy who, seriously saved her life that night, sat by her on her bed.   She propped herself up and sat, heaving, showing me the bruises, the scrapes, swearing at her father. 

She came downstairs for dinner.  Brisket.  It was St. Patricks Day weekend after all, and we always have brisket.  I had no idea that little ritual was part of the madness.  Then she went upstairs and, I was later told, puked it all up.  Again.

But, miraculously, 3 hours later, as I lay with her in her bed, she cried.  she sobbed, she told me I would hate her.  Never, honey, NEVER.  Bulimia.  WTF?? 

72 hours later.  The door locked. The key turned.  And my baby, my precious baby, who had , finally that horrible night, that glorious life affirming night, chosen to live = was locked in the Eating Disorder Center. 

 

And now, 6 years later.  It is over.  Finally.  Much earlier for her, but for me, finally.  I can look at her and not analyze every word for signs of relapse.  I can offer a meal and be ok if she opts out.  My strong, guarded, wonderful girl is well.  And I can finally move forward.

six years ago…tonight

six years ago tonight was the last night of my old life.  the last night that i sat in total oblivion to the powers that were working , to the danger that my child faced, every day.  six years ago tonight my biggest concern was wondering if she was ever going to “get over’ the breakup with the long time boyfriend.  24 hours later I was wondering if she was going to live through the night.  24 hours.

help me understand

I’m asking, and without malice or sarcasm or any other negative tone,  what makes one decide to homeschool?  I come at this from a decidedly biased bent — Ive been a teacher for over 20 years, at every level from infant care to college coursework, and in those 20 plus years I have studied, taken courses, gone to professional development, observed peers, been observed, trained student teachers…you get the drift.  I have immersed myself in the profession of education.  I have seen public education rise and wane, I have seen private schools pop up like daffodils at the mere mention of “deseg” or “choice”.  I have wondered at the draw of small, obviously underfunded diocese schools and envied the Montessori schools.

I have worried about social media, bullying, date rape, behavior problems in the class room, novice teachers, burnt out teachers, teachers who don’t know when to retire, cultural differences, gangs, eating disorders, gym teachers and prom dates, cliques and outcasts.

But, I never understand the decision to isolate one’s child and it seems like every time I open wordpress or pinterest I see another blog or post about “my wonderful homeschool life”.  Are parents who homeschool inordinately interested in posting pix and descriptions of their activities or are they posting to help others think of cool things to do.  And since when did “building forts out back” count as a school day??  And how does one  call oneself a teacher without training and education and guidance.  I cant hang a sign and call myself a doctor, or for that matter, an NFL quarterback, so how does it happen that one can “be” a teacher with no prerequisites?  And I know I am bordering on the politically incorrect here, because your child is YOUR CHILD and for some reason parents have the right to do pretty much anything they deem necessary for their possession, er, their child.  But, in all my years of living (55)  I cant remember meeting 20 adults who were homeschooled …..

I just don’t get it.  If you can help me, I’d appreciate it.  Please dont yell at me or tell me how good you are at it..and how obviously i am just an embittered old public school teacher .I just would like to understand what makes someone decide to stay home and teach their own children all day .  and, if you have links to research that shows data regarding future  success of homeschooled kids, Id love to see that….

oh hell

The mother in law has lung cancer.  So far all we know is that its slow growing — theres been “something” in her lung for seven years, theyve been “watching” it. Two weeks ago someone decided it was time to poke it and see what it was.  cancer.  Oh hell.  the mother in law and I, shall we say, have an interesting relationship.  I am the furthest thing from what she thought her son, her precious, oldest child, her ONLY son, would marry.  Truth be told, he wasnt supposed to marry at all — he was supposed to live upstairs and fawn over her throughout her life –like her brother Michael did for her mom — but thats another story for another post.  At any rate, I am the antithesis for her dream daughter- in law:  Irish ( she is italian and polish), independent ( she wanted ” yes mom, no mom”), employed ( perish the thought, she never worked outside the home, how you supposed to work and still have dinner on the table at 4:30).  I was raised in a small family where it was rare  to get everyone together.  My husband’s family gathers for a hang nail removal — every chance for a dinner, a party, a raucous group of loud italians crammed into a porch or room loaded with fried food and pasta.  She plays cards  and tells raunchy stories on Saturday nights with her daughter and as many men as she can guilt into coming to her house, I dont know pinochile from popcorn….

So, suffice it to say, it has been, ah , strained.  Once when a friend said “oh, you’re Cindy’s mom?” she huffed and replied “Oh, no, I am most certainly NOT Cindy’s mom”.  we have argued over everything from  my son’s name to the color of a sweater she wore one year.  I have been left out of family events and expected to attend things that make me squirm.  She has ignored my children and lavished attention on her other grandchildren.

But, she taught me how to make homemade pasta.  She sat in my family room and told me I was the best mother she knew when I was struggling with guilt  over  my daughter’s eating disorder diagnosis.  She tells everyone that her son loves me and she calls me when she needs something researched on the internet or someone to speak in a professional manner .  She always has asti at Christmas and a bottle of Baileys under the sink, just in case.  She keeps the pink blanket I made her at the beginning of her last cancer battle over her chair and takes it everywhere with her. She didnt want me to ride in the limo when her mom died, but she had me speak at the funeral because she knew I could.

So, now its lung cancer.  damn it.  Shes scared.  She wont bring the paperwork in from the car because she doesnt want to “forget to bring it to the next appointment”.  Now we begin the tests, the scans, the decisions that will get her through this battle.  My husbands forehead is creased, my children, who love her with all they are worth but dont understand or tolerate her treatment of me over the years OR her ignoring of them ( although she brags on their accomplishments) are worried.  And I am faced with the see saw that is our relationship — how do I help her without patronizing.  how do I be the daughter in law she needs?  Oh hell.

 

uh oh

so one of the things Ive been looking forward to , in retirement, is gardening.  To keep my flower beds full of wonderfully scented blossoms….then today I went out back to check things out and pull a few dead branches out of the mulch.  And I remembered I hate gardening.  so I went inside and knit.  Oh well

retirement………I could get used to this

So, I retired from public educaiton last week.  Thursday was my last day and it was a hullabaloo week of parties, tears, songs and hugs.  Awesome.  Then Friday I woke up and lay in bed wondering how i wanted to spend my day.  That didnt last long, as I had to spend 5 hours on the road on a variety of errands, but it was still a kick, because I had the time to do it, didnt have to fit it in after work. 

The weekend brought grandson’s birthday and the Sunday clean up, so you know, it was a weekend, what can I say.  Today tho, was MONDAY.  Monday, the day teachers and students alike, dread.  The beginning of the long haul. No matter whether you love or detest your teaching position, Monday sucks. Period.   I woke up an hour and a half later than I have woke up for the past 23 years.  Padded down to the kitchen and made coffee.  Stared out the door, resisting the impulse to open it and yell “yoo hoo, Im home!!!”

Then i had to get ready to go to training for my new job.  That’s right.  A new job.  You retire at 55, you need to get a new job.  Driving into the city at 9:15 ( HA!  Second period is about to start and I am cruizing down 11th. street with a cafe mocha and “call me Maybe’ on the radio) I couldnt help but smile.  Retired…..who knew it could be this fun.