I am a
Someone's post on FB yesterday made me long once again for something my parents never could give me. So I am re-posting something I wrote in 2005 which is still true today.
I usually tell people that I don’t have sisters, just four brothers, as though I’m apologizing. There’s nothing wrong with having brothers; it’s just that they aren’t sisters. They’ve never gotten excited about my new outfit or my haircut or my broken heart. They’ve never felt the way I feel. I suppose during those brief moments when I see sisters together and feel a twinge of jealousy it is because I imagine a bond that can’t exist between siblings of the opposite sex. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brothers. I’ve enjoyed their company over the years. However, I hardly think our relationship is as close as it would be if they were girls. And I’m not the same person I would be if they were girls. I blame them for the fact that I’m somewhat of a tomboy and I don’t always act like a lady. “What do you expect?” I always justify, “I was raised with wolves!”
I did have sisters…once…long ago…for a short time. My mother used to tell me about them. Their names were Sandra and Carla. I don’t remember their last names. They were little girls who stayed with us and for some reason made a lasting impression on me. I don’t know why. I was such a little thing it’s difficult to imagine so brief an encounter making a “lasting impression”. I don’t remember the girls staying with us more than a few times over one summer. However, for years I remembered that giggly, sweet closeness that clings to little girls. Each time one of my brothers drowned my rag doll in the bathtub or pulled my hair, I imagined life with Sandra and Carla in their places.
My mother has sisters who are still alive to remind me of her. Each one is a connection to parts of her personality. One has a lot of Mom’s expressions and mannerisms. One has her warm heart and generous spirit. One has her sense of humor. They all have memories and stories of her. They shared a lifetime of experiences. It’s comforting to think that a part of her still lives in her sisters.
I have two daughters who sometimes admit to being sisters. They’ve always been very different and at times have been at odds with each other. However, I think that as they’ve married and had children and experienced some of the same joys and tragedies of life they have grown closer. I hope that in years to come they will rely more and more on each other and find even more to share.
My husband’s cousin has five sisters. Maybe that’s too much of a good thing! It seems to work for them. They have their occasional squabbles, but I know that they are close and have “sister trips” and “sister parties” and “sister dinners”.
Over the years I’ve had some wonderful friends who have seemed like sisters. My childhood friend, Elaine, was a part of my heart for many years, until cancer took her life in 1983. Someday I’ll share a bit of our relationship with you. There have been so many others I dare not make a list for fear of leaving someone out. Each woman has contributed to who I am and made me a better person. Perhaps I really didn’t need a sister after all!
I don’t know that I had any life-altering purpose in writing this. I just ran across this picture and it brought back fond memories. I hope that if you have a sister, you will give her a call or email and tell her how much you appreciate her!
(By the way, I’m the one in the middle.)
I have magical powers. At the very least that must be a rumor going around. Otherwise parents wouldn’t look me in the eye and seriously voice the expectation that after a month with their child I can teach/persuade/force them to do something they, the parent, have been unable to do in the five to six years they have known them. LOL I have to admit to appreciating their confidence in me! However, if they haven’t yet taught their child to behave appropriately, write their name, tie their shoes, recognize the alphabet, count to ten, and blow their own nose, then it will probably take me a few more weeks to do so!
One of the things that older teachers often discuss is the broad range of skills and behaviors we now teach in class that were previously taught at home. The most glaring lack in children today is personal care skills. Many children don’t even ask to have their milk carton opened, shoes tied, pants buttoned, or face wiped. They simply look at me with the expectation that I will immediately perform that task, since someone always has in the past. Some will even drop a spoon or pencil or paper and announce “I dropped….” and expect me to pick it up! Trained helplessness is NOT an attractive quality.
More and more of my students have little or no experience with reading, writing or coloring unless they have been to preschool. A few aren’t familiar with the alphabet. Some can’t count to ten. And yes, the number of children who have NOT been to preschool seems to be rising. I’m not sure if that’s because of long waiting lists or finances or personal choice, but it’s obvious that many who have stayed home have not spent their time doing much more than playing and watching television. Nothing wrong with that if you also understand and accept that the consequence is most likely two years in kindergarten. Very few children entering kindergarten today without preschool experience or parental teaching can “catch up” to their peers. That’s just a fact of life with the new curriculum, expectations, and testing.
Students are also unfamiliar with the concept of following directions because many aren’t asked to do anything in a specific way. There aren’t any procedures to follow or guidelines for a task at home. “Clean up your room” is a general directive that means put their toys somewhere out of the way. I’ve also listened to parents give specific directions, which are ignored, and then the parent steps in and does the task for the child.
I do understand that much of this is the result of busy schedules and overworked parents. But I’m just saying that I can’t be expected to change all of it in a month. Give me another six months and then I’ll show you some magic!
I have some family members and acquaintances who never seem to communicate with anyone outside of their little comfort zone. Except for the briefest of casual encounters, they don’t deal with people who are “beneath” their economic or social status; they don’t relate to anyone outside of their own business or hobby. They don’t spend time with anyone of other faiths or try to understand those with different values. They don’t have to let anyone into their little inner circle unless they choose to do so. They go about their merry way thinking that their wonderful little self-centered faction represents the way things are, or perhaps should be, out here in the real world. They have the money and means to do what they want when they want to and they don’t understand what’s wrong with the rest of us.
We all know there are natural separations in society, based mostly on financial status. There are neighborhoods where I’m just NOT going to be welcome, even if someone gives me the code to the front gate. But people also tend to sort themselves out by occupation, sports affiliations, hobbies, religions, even age. There are only so many hours in the day and we tend to establish routines that put us in the company of others with similar interests and values. For the most part we don’t have the time or energy to spend on anyone else. While that results in a certain degree of comfort and security, it can also give us tunnel vision if we aren’t careful. And when my tunnel vision encounters your tunnel vision, someone is going to be unhappy!
It has been one of the greatest blessings and challenges of my life to work in a profession where I must not only encounter people of every variety imaginable, but try to build a rapport with them, communicate with them, and help them through the education process. God has put so many people in my path that I would never have met in any other setting. And I have spent many hours in prayer and contemplation trying to figure out how to relate to them. I usually find myself falling back on my favorite explanation: they are doing the best they can, where they are, with what they have. It’s my job to figure out what they are lacking- knowledge, motivation, time, energy, health, morals, environment, money- that is hindering their ability to support and encourage their child. Then I have to decide what can be changed and what must be accepted. Acceptance is always my downfall!
Yes, there are times when I might fall prey to envy of those who live in an insulated world of their own making, but I know that I’m a better person for having met the people God has put in my path.
I have to admit to a touch of envy yesterday. I know, I know…not nice.
We should not covet what others possess.
Exodus 20:17- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.
We should not begrudge the blessings of others because we have our own. However, in my own defense I was envious of the fact that someone else with the SAME means that we have chose to use them in a manner that exemplifies higher priorities and loftier goals. I didn’t wish yesterday that we could literally have what someone else has, except perhaps their wisdom. What I envied was the fact that someone else in another country understands what we CLAIM to know, but do not prove by actions: that children are a major priority and early education is vital to our country’s success.
We have the money to provide a quality education for every child in America. We have the resources to provide them with the tools they need for success. We have an abundance of talented adults who could teach them the skills they will need to compete in any career field.
But if you think we are actually doing that, I invite you to look around and see the truth:
We know that smaller class sizes are the best for students, yet over-crowding is the norm in many states. We have classrooms designed for twenty students that are filled by thirty…or more. And we have teachers who are attempting to teach thirty children, without any assistance, when research shows they should teach half that many. Do you think this is happening because schools can’t find enough teachers? No, it’s about money. Many schools choose to pay a fine for having too many students because the fine is less than the salary of another teacher.
We know that children need a clean, safe environment and have physical needs that must be addressed before we can reach them with academics. But we have schools without sufficient personnel to serve those most basic needs. Some campuses share nurses, counselors, specialists, even custodians. Many of our schools are in critical need of repair and renovation. Again, money is the issue.
We “talk the talk” about technology and innovation and we see all the children on television who use laptops in class and we don’t realize they represent a TINY portion of our children. We still have many students in our country who do not have a computer in their classroom. Laptops are sent to children in other countries and we all smile and clap because little villages across the ocean are connected to the world. We don’t realize that many of our own children will never touch a keyboard. There are still classrooms in America where students share textbooks!
We know that children need time outside and physical activity and social interaction, but many of our schools have crowded sub-standard playgrounds that haven’t been updated in years. Many schools have playgrounds only because of years of fund-raising by parent or teacher groups.
We know that the creative arts are not only beneficial to our minds and hearts, but provide a rewarding career path for many young people. But what are the first programs to be cut from declining school budgets? Art and music.
Like everything else in our country the education system relies on money and the wisdom of those who spend it. And like everything else in life, there are inequalities. You can find schools in our country with vast sports complexes, Olympic-size pools, modern computer labs, impressive band programs, teacher assistants, special tutors, dance programs, blah, blah, blah. Our mistake is in seeing those as the norm, as the average, as something available to all if they just “did things correctly”. Yes, we often think that struggling schools must be “doing something wrong” when in fact the only thing wrong is their location. Because of the way money for education is raised and allocated the education of YOUR child or grandchild is all about location, location, location. Land, taxes, money, voters. That’s what it’s all about folks. And until we adjust our priorities and figure out a better financial system for funding education we will NOT be able to give a quality education to every child. There WILL be children left behind. Money and priorities…we need to quit arguing about curriculum and fix those problems first.
It’s strange that my thoughts begin to alter as soon as the calendar says September. Never mind the blazing hot temperatures or the fact that my students are still wearing flip flops…my brain says “fall”. So it was that my grocery cart last week contained beans, cornbread mix, soup, and potatoes. I’m sure that pancake mix, extra coffee, and sausage (for Gary) will be on my list soon. (And yes, I said “mix”. You know I don’t really cook.)
When I was a child there were major changes with each season, but especially fall. In the fall there was a frenzy of harvesting and canning and freezing foods. Mom was busy sewing heavier clothing. We scoured garage sales and flea markets for coats and sweaters. There were cleaning and gardening chores that had to be completed before the onset of miserable weather. Blankets had to be washed and hung on the line to dry. Quilts were aired out.
Much of winter was spent near our wood stove, merely surviving the weather. We bundled up, ate hearty foods, watched our little TV, and waited for spring. It wasn’t too uncomfortable if we had accomplished all of our fall tasks and prepared well.
Today we’re blessed with so many conveniences that the seasons seem to blend together. Better heating and lighting, an abundance of foods from other regions and countries, and the availability of cheap clothing make a lot of winter “preparation” unnecessary. But I know my body still lives in the “old days” when I find myself in the cereal aisle stocking up on oatmeal as though a blizzard has been forecast! I don’t do much…but I do what I can. LOL
Yesterday I laughed with a friend about her granddaughter’s reaction to kindergarten (in another district). Her grandchild’s first impression of school was: “I’d rather stay home. It’s not really that much fun.” Of course my friend was quick to point out to the child that she has to adjust to the routines and expectations and that she’ll “like it better soon”. Then she made a comment that stayed with me for the rest of the evening. “She’d better adjust…she has about twelve more years of this!”
As a teacher I have always seen kindergarten as the foundation of the school years. But we can also think of it as job training. If we consider the number of years kindergarten students have ahead of them, then we can see the “big picture” and understand that school is their first career. In fact, many of their parents have never worked twelve years at the same job!
Like any job there is a basic set of skills that must be learned and a set of expectations that must be met or you don’t get paid, and in some instances, you don’t get to keep the job! Kindergarten is the training year that teaches children all the basic skills required for the job ahead: behaviors, responsibilities, routines, expectations, testing. Every year after this is simply more of the same: more responsibilities, higher expectations, and more testing…with the assumption that good behaviors and routines have already been established. Isn’t that the basis of any career? You learn the basics, behave well, and then perform better and better if you hope to advance.
I wish more parents would see the “big picture” and quit acting as though kindergarten is an option that can easily be repeated.
So very grateful for the inch of rain we received yesterday! I was feeling a bit down about my neglect of the garden. I’ve been too tired and in too much pain lately to drag the hose around after school.
I was also a little discouraged by my inability to find anything “interesting” to photograph yesterday. Then I walked into my laundry room to get something and glanced out the window…this beauty was preening on the fence. Even though I had to make do with a few photos through the window, he was indeed interesting!
Saddened this weekend by the death of a dear friend in CA. I haven’t seen her in years, but I know her passing will affect many, many people. She has a wonderful family and scores of friends. She was one of those people who had a knack for putting others at ease.
This is the first day of the first “serious” week of kindergarten. Tests are over. Results have been tabulated. Lists have been made. Time to get to work and provide each child with a little concentrated instruction to meet their individual needs. That’s why it’s so very important to have less than twenty students! I just can’t understand how anyone can successfully teach a class of 30 kindergarten children. Some of my students can’t hold a pencil. Others can write a sentence. Some can’t cut with scissors. Others could cut out a snowflake. One of my students doesn’t recognize any letter of the alphabet. Another can already read! One-size-fits-all education doesn’t work.
Assembly this morning. A little “rah-rah” is good for the soul! I love to look at the older kids and pick out my former students. Some of my earliest students are already married and working. Others are in college. Great to hear success stories and see family photos! We really do touch lives and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.
Making some medication and diet changes this week in hopes of discovering the source of some pain problems. I know…” a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”… but I’m very careful about researching health-related information. And even though my doctor rolls his eyes when I mention the internet, it has been very useful in the past. Nothing like reading the results of thousands of other similar experiences and making comparisons. Just have to be careful to sort out the “hype”.
Delivering my crime book to the library this week. It’s the type of project that could literally go on forever and ever. That’s why I set a page limit and I’m stopping. Lol I have enough cases and names to 1. Give readers a sense of the times. 2. Give researchers an idea of what is available for their own work. 3. Give families a start in finding their criminal or victim relative. 4. Prove that most current residents of Caddo are lucky their ancestors lived through the “good old days”. 5. Compile a book that is interesting enough to make some money for the library. No, I don’t keep the proceeds from my books.
Well, it’s Monday. Let’s get on with it!