Sunday, September 28, 2014

Inappropriate behavior and the 7th grade

I was assigned to substitute in 7th grade twice last week. 

The first class, a math class, it freaked me out to be in MATH, wasn't all that bad. Before I stepped into the classroom, I called LT and left a message, "I've got your dream job, I'm in 7th grade math today. PRAY for me!" However, there was little need to panic, it went fairly well. The teacher had left plans that kept the students busy with worksheets so there was very little need for them to talk.

Friday I was in the 7th grade Humanities class and it was HORRIBLE. The students weren't behaving the way they had earlier on in the week during math class. It was, by far, the worst day I've had at work so far.

Friday was a strange school day to begin with. The kids were a little off because they weren't in school on Thursday. Also, they had a "community meeting" (think school assembly) during their first period. I chose to use that time to review the lesson plan for the day. (When I get to school, I have very little time to prepare for the days assignment because I arrive later than teachers do.) The community meeting ended early so I had to teach a portion of the lesson for the rest of first period. My second period class was TERRIBLE. Not only were they disgustingly disrespectful, I had students calling each other racist and other lovely things. I called the SSC (Student Support Center) and had a staff member talk with two of them. Then she talked to the entire class. They settled down until the last 5 minutes of class.

Fortunately, I had a planning period next. I reviewed the plan, the article, and organized how I wanted the class to flow. I came up with several directions the discussion could go and how to direct the conversation, or ask questions to make them think. I did my best to be as thorough and prepared as possible. I felt good about going into 5th period so I headed off to have lunch.

The 4th period class is what the school calls "crew". It's a class that "is meant to create supportive relationships between students and caring adults." The first time I had a crew experience was when I subbed for a female teacher in the middle school, it was easy and no big deal. They were all girls. Well, since I was subbing for a male teacher this time, I had all 12 and 13 year-old boys. Just so you know, I really don't like teenage boys. They drive me crazy. Really, really crazy. I'd rather eat dirt than interact with a teenage boy. LT knows this and when I told him about my day, he laughed because he understood completely. I know what it is that bothers me, so I do my best to avoid them, but UGH! I had to spend an entire class period with obnoxious, rude boys.

We went outside to play a game that Mr. Stephen had asked we play. They were terrible. All we had to do was stand in a circle and toss a ball to each other. The challenge was to make it more complicated by adding more balls. Of course it was an object lesson, but the boys had no interest in playing. Some were laying on the ground, others were wandering off, two were trying to hit each other as hard as possible with the ball. I finally called it and we went back inside. Mr. Tim, in the classroom right next door, came over to ask how things were going. I'd been fine up until that point and then, unexpectedly, I was on the verge of tears. He offered to hang out with them until crew was over and said I could go into his class since his crew was just watching a video and playing games. What a relief!

I wonder if Tim passed on my "close to tears" moment to the front office. Ms. Maurine, the principal, visited at the beginning of 5th period. She was there briefly. It's possible she was simply making rounds, but I think it was more likely she was checking out the grade from HELL!

My 5th period was the best one of the entire day. That's not to say it wasn't challenging, but it was the least challenging of them all. We actually got to discuss some of the worksheet that went along with the article. I still had to remind groups to stop talking and be respectful, but we ACTUALLY got to have a discussion.

My 6th period class was rough. I think by then, I just expected it to be rough.

I did my best to manage the classroom, truly, I did, but, wow, it was hard being in such a negative space for a long portion of the day. Repeating, "Voices off. Please stop talking. You need to be seated. Please don't sit on the desk. That behavior is not appropriate. Please be respectful to your classmate she/he is talking. Eyes up front." gets tiring. The entire experience was challenging. I know there are things that I did very well, and there are things that I didn't do so well. I think what made it more challenging than the math class was there was a portion of time for the students to talk. They didn't handle that well. The time they were reading was nice. This feedback is going to the teacher.

On a side note, my past experience with teaching was at a massage therapy school. The students were adults, they were paying to be there and they were interested in the material. For me, teaching teenagers is significantly harder than teaching adults. Besides, I have no training to be an elementary/middle school teacher. There is a lot that goes into being an effective teacher.

So, on to the part that got me seething.

I can't post a link to the article that we had to read, otherwise I would. It was just a page in Junior Scholastic entitled, Should short-shorts and leggings be banned? It presented claims from both sides of the argument, "yes they should be banned" and "no they should not be banned." Simple enough right?


But there is a message in the article that aggravates me. In the "yes they should be banned" portion, the message, that may not bother a large portion of the population, is, it's okay to objectify women. These aren't the exact words from the article, but it states that if a girl is wearing clothing like that, the boys will be distracted. It said it in another way too. I realize I am possibly making this larger than is it in the context of the article, but this implication is real, it's understated, and it bothers me. (I also have pretty strong opinions about modesty too, but I won't go into that here.)

I agree that bodies are beautiful, both genders, but I don't think women should be blamed for a mans lack of ability to check himself. The message, in essence, gives men "permission" to act as if they are incapable of curbing their lustful desires simply because a woman is beautiful. AND, then the blame for THEIR actions is put on the woman. THAT IS WRONG, and I hate that message. It is so subtle that most people don't even notice it. But, I do.

During a conversation in class, one male student commented on this, blaming the girl/woman for being distracting. "If you're walking in the hallway and you see..."

I stopped him and asked, "is your comment going to be appropriate?" Anyway, he made another attempt to say the same thing and I stopped him and said, a little heatedly, "You know, I'm a woman and I don't appreciate being objectified. There is more to me than my body."

Then another guy interjected, "Wow, this has turned into a feminist conversation."

Oh no!!!    

I kept it to myself. Thank goodness class was over 2 or 3 minutes later.

Once school was over, I talked with the assistant principal about my concerns with the article and the comments in class. It was a brief conversation, I felt heard and we even laughed.

So, here is more on this topic and message. This link is to an article about an incident that recently happened in my home town. It reinforces the legitimacy of my concerns. (And reminds me why I really don't like some small towns.)

Pocatello teacher fired.

First of all, the teacher wasn't doing ANYTHING remotely school related AND, it was her boyfriend holding her boob. SHE wasn't holding her boob, his pecs or even his crotch. HE was the one doing that, and SHE'S the one that got fired. He only got reprimanded. WHAT?!?! HE was the one being inappropriate! What the HELL??????

Why is that okay? 

IT'S NOT!!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Olivia and I survived a week without LT

He was on a "hardship" assignment to Hawaii for the week. He had a great time, and his youngest Sister just happened to be there too. So, they spent some time together. 

We, on the other hand, struggled. We were busy with something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! So, that meant we got to bed late, homework suffered and we hardly read. AND, I think O was experiencing PMS for the first part of the week. Wow, we had a rough time in the mornings. Once, on the way to school, I was talking about getting ready and being on time. She told me, "I don't want to hear it." Whoa.... I don't think so. 

Here is a snapshot of conversations with LT.
LT - "I went out to dinner with Tab and her family. Blah, blah, blah... happy, blah, blah, blah.. relaxed, zero stress."
M - "O has turned into the spawn of Satan."

LT - "I am meeting up with Tab to go on a nice hike."
M - "We had a 45 minute stand off because I wanted to brush her teeth."

LT - "I went to the PCC and I'm outside of the Temple waiting for the next session."
M - "When you come home, I'm going on a vacation for a week."

He came home with a ukulele for me, so, I forgave him. (I've always wanted a ukulele. I took a class when I lived in San Antonio, but never bought the instrument.)

I'm several weeks into the school year and so far so good. I absolutely LOVE what I get to do. I go from grade to grade and help with whatever is needed. I've done some "one on ones", meaning, I've been with one student for the entire day as their aide. I dread those assignments because they are so boring. UGH. This last week I filled in for O's 1st grade teacher. I was in her room for 2 hours. Wow, it's a lot of work to be in 5 different places at once. The students were working in groups for a portion of the time and, of course, each group needed help at the same time. I really enjoyed it though. It could have been rough, but since I'd been in Helen's class last year and I had a sense of how she ran things, I wasn't stepping into the unknown. It also helped that I'd visited her class a time or two already, and the students had seen me. Besides, my cubby is in her room, so they see me come in and out.

One day, a student made me a sign with my name on it. I thought it was sweet. Later that same day, she made me a heart. Aw, how nice. Finally, she made me this hand. I thought, once again, it was sweet, and it started bordering on creepy.

It's just plain EMBARRASSING
I had a MAJOR deodorant fail at school. The sad thing is, I didn't know it was a deodorant fail for a few days. I had just started wearing Carinessa tops (mo-mo) and I thought the synthetic fabric was holding the odor. So, I put on a BRAND NEW top and I still smelled. I thought maybe it was my shirt, but it wasn't. It took me several days to even consider it was my deodorant. UGH! It's embarrassing to walk around all smelly. 

So, someone threw up in class last week. I have "issues" with that and I never know how I'm going to respond. O threw up this summer, in front of me, and I, surprisingly, handled it very well. But this time....well.... when it was all over, I was pretty embarrassed. 

It was the end of the day and the students were sitting in a circle on the floor getting ready for dismissal. One girl was walking toward the door and she emptied her stomach, splat. I panicked. I tried hard to ignore it and calm down, but.... I plugged my ears and said, "no, no, no." I made my way to the door as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the most direct route took me close to the offender. So, instead of going that way, I stepped over people in the circle and made it through the door. Car riders had just been dismissed so the halls were starting to fill up. I had to get somewhere private quickly. The music room was the first empty room and I ducked in. Wow, I was in bad shape. I was hyperventilating and crying and... it was ugly. Bear, the service dog who shares that room with the teacher, came over to comfort me. Kenzie, the music teacher, talked with me for a bit. It was so embarrassing. 

What the Hell????
I was in a professional development training last week and the person I was sitting next to was stressed out. She was using a coping strategy to help her. Don't get me wrong, I think coping strategies/skills are great and I'm all for them. However, hers was one that put me over the edge. I shuddered a lot and nearly gagged twice. What was she doing, you may ask? She was eating ketchup. Yep, she had a bunch of packages and she was sucking the ketchup out of them. Shake, shake, tear, slurp is what I heard. What the hell?

I was sitting in church last week next to a lady with a little boy who was a year-and-a-half. He liked to roam and he was occasionally fussy. When he fussed, she picked him up and gave him a toy or a book. Once I looked over and she had her boob out and was feeding him. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about breastfeeding (and boobs in general) but there is a way to be discreet. I DON'T want to see someone else's boob. AHHHHH. It was horrible. Based on what I already know about her, I shouldn't have been surprised. But, really? Her blouse was unbuttoned and she was squeezing her boob. Why couldn't she use a cover or something. What the hell?

O Speaks
M - "I don't know how to decorate a table."
O - "Leave that to me, I'm a party maker."

O talking about her baptism dress - "It's so beautiful. It's like a thousand minutes of beautiful."

I was talking about what I needed to write down /say for my Mum's memorial service. O went into the other room and came out with a note pad and a pencil.
O - "I think you need a red pen because it's like Nana's blood."

"My son Eli has been pretty anxious lately. He is overly apologetic and always thinks people are mad at him. So we are temporarily removing the phrase "I'm sorry" from our vocabulary. During this hiatus we are allowed to say "fart." Sometimes you just gotta laugh so you won't cry." Jesse Curtis

"Life's a beach. Unless you're a lifeguard, in which case life's a long day of babysitting all the sunburnt morons of the world." Tiffany B.

M - "I need to get a referral to take my daughter to Patient First."
Them - "Have you tried to contact her primary provider?"
M - "No. They are closed on weekends."
Them - "Is is a military facility?"
M - "Yes."
Them - "Do they have another number to call?"
M - "Yes, but the message tells me to call this number."
Them - "Have you called their number?"
M - "No."
Them - "You need to call that number first before I can help you."

From the Hank's file
Fionaism of the day: Mom, thanks for not doing stupid things!

Fiona - Where's my backpack? 
Dad - I have no idea. 
Fiona- of course you have no idea, you're not MOM!
(I sure miss that family.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Of Death and Dying

My Mum died 4 weeks ago. 

It's okay.

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

I chewed out my brother for being an asshole. He hadn't visited our Mum since she left her home at the end of June. I was the one taking his kids to see her, and I was in no mood to hear him complain about how busy he was and how hard it was to pack his house for an unexpected move. I was doing all that for Mum, without him. I got it. So, I chewed him out. He walked away pissed off and I left in a sour mood for the hospital with my nephew and daughter. 

She wasn't doing well, at all, when we arrived. The social worker needed to talk to me about where my Mum would go when she was well enough to leave. All of it was overwhelming. 

It was always overwhelming. 

Next, I had a brief conversation with the nurse and then stepped to my Mother's bedside. 

I just knew.

I sobbed. For the first time, I just let it go and sobbed. I think it surprised O and Rowan. O left the room to get me tissue, that's what she does when I cry. Rowan sat in a chair in the corner with a shocked look on his face. I held my Mum's hand, smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead. The nurse came in and tried to comfort me. She rubbed my back, I thought it was sweet. And, I still sobbed.

I just knew.

I told O we needed to go in the hall to give Rowan some time alone with Nana. He was the grandchild who was closest to her. They loved each other a great deal. 

In the hallway, I texted my cousin to see if she could take O and Rowan up to Sun Valley. We were supposed to leave that night. Rowan was participating in the Symphony Youth Workshops and needed to be there in the morning. My Dad made the 6 hour roundtrip from Sun Valley to get them.

My brother and his daughter showed up, Rowan had texted them. I took off to get dinner and pack an overnight bag.

The room was peaceful when I returned. Mum was just resting. I held her hand. 

The doctor asked to speak with me outside of the room and we talked about my decision to switch my Mum to palliative/comfort care earlier on in the day. It was in accordance with her living will, but he wanted to make sure I understood. 

I did.

I curled up next to my Mum. I told her I was going to be with her the entire night holding her hand and that she wasn't going to be alone. 

She died an hour and a half later. 

I listened to her breathing and then, she stopped. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. A mother and daughter holding hands, and one peacefully passes away. I memorized that moment, and it will always be with me.

I'm so glad I was with her, and I'm glad she didn't die alone. 

I don't remember much between her passing and the memorial service. I know a lot of people helped me but, it's all a blur. Although I wasn't fully aware of life that week, I did remember a poem Mum shared with me decades ago. She said she wanted it read at her funeral. It is beautiful.

Gone From My Sight
Henry Van Dyke

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

"Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

"Gone where?

"Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

"Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying..."

My Mum is not a taboo topic. 
I don't mind talking about her, the summer and how I'm doing.... Death is a part of life, and it's okay. I'm sad. Her passing was expected though. I've grieved a lot. 

However, when the phone rings, I wonder if it's my Mum. 

But, it won't be. 

It never will be. 

And, that's hard.

Most of the time, I'm fine. And then, sometimes I get hit with emotion. At school last week, a fellow TA was talking to me about a "team time" she wanted me to cover. She mentioned it was grandparents week and I realized O doesn't have her Nana anymore. And then I remembered I didn't have my Mum anymore, and I started crying. 

I know all of this will take time.