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Showing posts from 2013

An Extremely Overdue Post

I have a new job! Well, I meant to write that in July.  It's been a little busy.  With a new job and all. But I'll tell you about it!  It might, in fact, be the perfect job for me.  There's the slight matter of working for a non-profit and getting a non-profit level salary.  but aside from that, it's pretty perfect for me. I think everyone reading this probably knows I'm a Christian.  I've never worked for a Christian school or organization, however, in part because I never wanted to only work with Christians or strictly with kids for Christian families. I'm a public school teacher and worked in a quite difficult public school for eight years.  I loved the kids, loved most of the parents, had difficulties with the administration (most of the 8 incarnations of them) and hated the politics and testing. Guess what?  I got a job at a Christian organization that hires and serves all children and youth in the neighborhood, not just Christians.  It's

This Makes Me So Happy

I asked a parent of a teenager I work with to be a reference and he forwarded me the email he wrote.  Here it is with only my name taken out.  I'm going to keep it forever for when I don't feel like I'm making a difference. Let me share a few thoughts.  B- has been my savior the last year. At one point we had tutors in my house 6 nights a week. We’re down to just B- these days as she is so incredible. She doesn’t do the work for my son but challenges him to find the answers himself. A couple of weeks ago he cranked out a 5 paragraph essay from scratch in one hour. And it was wonderful. You could read all about her on Yelp if I ever got around to writing something. She is kind, bright, cheery, and my son and I both adore her. He respects her and works with her so much better than he does with me. She monitors his work, his notebooks, keeps him on track and makes my life enjoyable. I really can’t say enough good things. She works with my son primarily in English but alwa

Go Appreciate a Teacher!

My Facebook friend Brook, who said I could quote her, recently had this up as her status: Just a quick bit of perspective. So, parents, do you really understand the amount of blood, sweat, and tears goes into being a teacher? Remember the last family vacation you planned, the frustration of trying to lock your family schedule down, the disappointment when plans fell through, the stress of trying to secure an alternate? Well, teachers deal with that EVERY day, only instead of doing it for a family of 4, they have to contend with the wants, needs, and sense of entitlement for families of 20+ from all walks of life, beliefs, and ideals. While you work your 8 hours and get paid for it, your child's teacher is working 10+ and there's NO overtime. Those field trips, parties, and events all take time to plan. The lessons and projects that keep you children engaged; when do you think all that work happens? During school hours? Don't kid yourself. Teachers do it on their time,

Lessons on Equality

I take my Little Sister to a lot of kid-friendly events and she knows a good amount of my friends and family now.  When a friend was moving to another state and a party was thrown that included children, I brought her to that too.  On the way there, I realized that I hadn't told her something about this friend and wasn't sure how she'd react. As a teacher, you learn to navigate the tricky waters of students' families' views, prejudices, and beliefs.  If you tell a child that what their mother or grandmother believes is wrong or prejudicial, you're probably fighting a losing battle, as this is what they've grown up with and most likely internalized.  I've found it better to get them thinking for themselves, and have managed to fight some fairly entrenched prejudices, mostly racial, by doing this. I thought about this as I prepared to have this conversation with my Little Sister about this friend.  I thought I was going to have to talk about whether o

The Power of Community

Today I get to write about something encouraging. A few months ago, one of my former students' families had a house fire.  Everyone in their family got out OK, but they lost everything.  EVERYTHING. His fourth grade teacher who is still at the same school (I had him in third grade) found out and told me and our best volunteer ever about it.  Between the three of us and our friends, we managed to get the word out and get donations of furniture, clothing, gift cards, and money, people to move stuff (including two professional movers), and basically enough furnishings to fill up a 4 or 5 bedroom house. When we were moving stuff in and since, the student's mom has expressed gratitude to me and the other teacher.  What I told her is what I'd like to share here: it wasn't me.  I can't speak for how the other two people got their donations but I just asked my friends.  My friends (and acquaintances, and in some case, friends of friends) just gave.  They gave furnit

White Privilege

I've been struggling to explain white privilege to a few people lately.  It's easy to think of the idea as just another type of racism - of course I don't have any extra privilege because I'm white - that would be racist!  We're all colorblind here!  Unfortunately, white privilege is very real, has been studied, and affects many people in a variety of negative ways, including white people. I can walk through an expensive clothing store and not be followed.  I can buy bandages that are my skin color.  I don't have to worry that if a landlord doesn't accept my application, it's because of my race or skin color.  I can behave badly, and not have someone chalk that up to my race or have to feel like I'm representing everyone who looks like me. Those are only some of the examples I've thought of.  There are more here and many other places online.  It's easy for me to think of ways that I get treated differently (not usually in a good way) bec


Some adults find it hard to talk to children.  While I'm not advocating talking to strange children (well, they're all strange, I actually mean strangers talking to children), there is a secret I've learned if you ever need to have a conversation with your college roommate's kid or your boss's children. If you ever want to get a child to talk, bring up birthdays.  Specifically their birthday.  A birthday is the one subject that every single child is absolutely enamored with because it revolves around them. You won't even have to ask much - just ask them when their birthdays are and most kids will be off and running.  Shyer kids might take a little more prompting, which is when you bring up cake or presents or birthday parties. One of the first things I always did in my classroom was to make a birthday chart.  They have fancy ones at the teacher supply stores, but you can get any kind of calendar or posterboard and just write down names and birthdays. (This

Her Dream

My "Little Sister" wrote this.  She is nine years old, in fourth grade, and has been through far too much already.                                                                  My Dream   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that there would be equality and peace. Dr. King wanted his children not to be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.   I have a dream that when I grow up I can go to college and work very hard so I could get a great job, and live a long, happy and harmless life.   I hope and pray that I won’t get killed or die early.   I have a dream that none of my family will be killed or die unnaturally. I also want my little brothers to grow up and be whatever they want to be.     I have a dream that my community won’t have any more shootings especially people in my family. Specifically, my cousin. At sixteen shot and killed whom I Love so much.    I have a dream that this country will never ag

Me Duele/It Hurts

I tutor a 7-year old English-speaking child who is in a Spanish immersion first grade.  She didn't do Spanish immersion kindergarten so she's a little behind but she's really smart.  However, she doesn't really like to pay attention and is having a hard time sort of buying into her new class, so that's been the challenge. The other day, I was at her house when she came in limping and crying and being very dramatic about her fall from a tree. She wouldn't stop talking about how much it hurt (she forgot to cry when I gave her a sticker so I don't think it hurt all that much) so I told her how to say it in Spanish. This child really really likes singing so she started humming and singing "me duele, it hurts me, me duele it hurts."  Sensing an opportunity, I taught her the names of some of the body parts.   Pretty soon her song went something like this: Me duele la cabeza Me duele, it hurts Me duele el brazo Me duele, it hurts Me duele, me

Too Many Victims

I have always felt an incredible amount of sadness not only for the victims of violence, but for the perpetrators.  Much (probably most) of the violence where I used to teach was both aimed at and committed by young men and I always felt (and feel; sadly, the violence has not abated) just as devastated for the people who took a life as for those who lost theirs. I understand why people may not agree with me; especially those who have lost loved ones to violence.  But I see these kids when they are just that, kids, and I know them sometimes before they do this.  I've been there when they're scared because they can't control their temper, when they feel such a strong desire for revenge that they can't see any other option, and when they are violent and bullying because that's all they've ever known.  And I think that is just as much of a tragedy as someone dying - it's just a different way of someone losing their life. Ever since I started teaching where


I have been traveling in India for the last two weeks so I apologize for the lack of blogging, but here are some lovely photos to tide you all over while I adjust back to my own time zone.