Tag Archives: teaching

For the love of sixth grade

Can you find me?

When I was in sixth grade, I had the coolest teacher ever. I now suspect that Mr. Warbrick, the first male teacher I ever had, was fairly new to the field. Teachers who so enthusiastically do their own thing, I’ve come to learn, are either fresh and green or comfortable veterans.

The memories that stand out to me from that year of school are consistent for the way our activities made me feel – excited, interested, capable, respected and fun. Aren’t those the emotions school is supposed to inspire? Our classroom, the former library, was a suite of three rooms. We were tasked, as a class, to agree upon a theme (we chose jungle), sketch out a design and then paint our main classroom space. The smaller room on the right became the designated reading room, which we furnished with a couch we had fundraised to purchase. The smallest of rooms was a kitchen and, again, we worked together to raise the money needed to buy a secondhand refrigerator which we used to keep our lunchtime ice cream sandwiches frozen until class movie time.

I learned a lot that year. Things like how to do the hustle, what it feels like to be recognized as more than merely the girl who’s always reading and the possibilities of what can be achieved with collective effort. It was a fantastic academic year for me despite the fact that I recall nothing of what we studied during official class time. The lessons I learned were more about how to be a human being.

As I approach my twenty-fifth year in my profession, I find myself becoming more reflective of who I have been as an educator – and who I want to be. I’ve shared a library for the past fifteen years and, while collaboration can be stimulating, this year I am feeling compelled to break out a bit and do things a little differently. My way.

I want to create an atmosphere which allows children to grow, while also reflecting my experiences and viewpoint. I want the library to be welcoming and comfortable and I want to make connections – between myself and students, kids and books, and information and the world.

I got started last week with 15 orientation classes for 6th graders. It was a hectic three days, but I was exhilarated. We talked about areas of the library and dystopian literature and the amount of pressure – social, academic and athletic, students feel and I vowed to not add to that burden. That doesn’t mean we won’t tackle academic tasks, just that we both need to remember that these students are eleven years old.

My students were awesome and I’m filled with gratitude that my job is to work with all these kids. I’m so lucky – and my goal is to make as many students as possible feel exactly the same way. I think it’s going to be a very good year.

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Filed under Education, favorites, Librarians, Libraries, musings, Observations, Schools, stress

I’m your Mom, not your pimp

I’m really concerned about today’s young people* and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what a shitty world in which the next generation is  growing up. Does saying that make me sound really old? If it does, so be it. Unlike much of today’s youth, I can live with a little criticism and negativity.

It may not be fair to make comparisons to my own young adulthood since my situation was a bit different, but when I consider the responsibilities which were foisted upon me at a young age, I have a hard time accepting how lame dependent my sons continue to be on their Dad and me. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m appreciative of the fact that we can provide them with financial and other types of support, but their collective inability to navigate through life without relying heavily upon us, strikes me as kind of bizarre. I’m only half kidding when I say that I’ve wondered at times if they would starve if we were gone and they were faced with a manual can opener and a pantry filled with canned goods. I honestly don’t know if they would even know where to begin.

It’s a similar situation when it comes to finding a job, something both of my younger sons have been needing to accomplish (shout out to the fully employed LL!). Apparently, one of my sons had no idea as to how to actually obtain employment. When I asked him how his friends with jobs may have found their way to employment, he said they “knew people.” I suggested he might want to either search online help wanted ads or visit some retail/restaurant spots and ask for applications. Radical, right? How could he not know this?

What prompted me recently to actually utter the phrase that titles this post, relates directly to finding a job. As he was walking out the door to walk to school, my 14 year-old  asked me to “get him some babysitting gigs.” Keep in mind, he’s the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family and knows nothing about actually taking care of children. When I asked him about his skills when it comes to diaper changing, he informed me that he’d like to start with older kids, like 3 or 4 year-olds and then work his way down to babies because babies are harder. He may not be experienced, but he isn’t dumb.

Maybe you need a babysitter? Or a son?

 

*am I alone in this?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, family, ideas, Local, moms, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer, upstate New York

The miseducation of Megyn Kelly

EA35741F-D438-4A06-BCD2-191A164884E8Last spring I ran a half marathon in NYC, kind of a bucket list item if I were to have such a thing. I originally registered for the race because a childhood friend brought it to my attention and it sounded fun. Anything to go to NYC, you know?

It wasn’t the cheapest half I’ve ever run, but I was ok with the entry fee because it was an all women race and I think there may have been some charity component to it. Until I saw that Megyn Kelly was the media sponsor for the event, that is. Then, in all honesty, I considered bailing because, yes, she bothers me that much.

195CD914-570A-4548-A772-0D5CFDE6FBE8Why? Because anyone willing to sit down with, provide a forum to, and pose for photos with, a man who denies that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School ever occurred, is despicable, in my opinion. I’m not going to even mention his name because I find him so reprehensible, but I’m sure you know about whom I’m speaking. I have some understanding about journalism and the fact that media professionals don’t necessarily endorse the beliefs of those they interview, but, this guy has deeply offended and caused pain to families who lost their children in a horrific way. He doesn’t get a pass, nor does she, in my book.

Yesterday, I hosted a Halloween related event in my library and I was a bit dismayed by the some of the behavior I observed. We had set out some snacks for the kids, like you do, but failed to stand guard at the table where the huge box of goldfish crackers, Oreo cookies, clementines and candy corn were being offered. Without direct adult supervision, the middle school kids were shockingly selfish about helping themselves to as much as they wanted to have without consideration of the fact that the kids behind them might end up with nothing. I was kind of appalled. I wanted and expected better.

Reflecting on it last night, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the pattern of actions of Ms. Kelly, beginning with that controversial interview referenced above, and those of the children yesterday afternoon. There’s a sense of entitlement and lack of consideration for anyone but themselves that, quite honestly, repulses me on some level.  This failure to demonstrate empathy for parents who have lost their children, and, on a much smaller scale, those who may not enjoy the same treats we have due to our own greediness, distresses me.

What do we expect from our children? What should we expect from personalities who want to be in our homes via social and more traditional media? I want and expect better. How about you?

 

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Filed under Education, Libraries, Local, moms, musings, Observations, politics, Schools, television, upstate New York

Valentine’s Day massacre – sponsored by the NRA

mw_template_2017Last night’s run took me along a route I don’t often get to experience on foot. I had plans to meet a friend down at Nine-Pin for Fin’s pop up, (and knew that stretching my legs before my upcoming flight would be beneficial), so I decided a downhill run to the Warehouse District would check all the boxes. The weather, while damp, was refreshingly mild when I set off and my route to Broadway evolved as I made my way to the reward of a ginger cider and lobster mac and cheese.

I took State Street down to Washington Avenue, admiring the architecture and feeling appreciative to live in a city that is filled with beautiful buildings and parks. My mood was good and my body felt strong. I was happy until I noticed the flags flying at half-mast on numerous buildings. I mentally paused to consider what the occasion might be for the flags to have been lowered, quickly concluding that it must be an acknowledgement of the latest school massacre. I wonder whose job that is, to raise and lower flags each time American students are murdered in their classrooms. I expect that their arms must be pretty damn tired.

This morning, as I got ready to leave my house for work, the list of names of the most recent victims were read on the radio and I was compelled to stop what I was doing to listen. Their ages gutted me – many were just 14 or 15 years old. What was your biggest worry when you were that age? Zits? Making your school’s sports team or landing a role in the spring musical? Maybe an upcoming test or project? I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t concern over whether a classmate armed with a semi-automatic weapon would be shooting up your school that day.

Why are our elected officials ok with students being murdered while at school? I mean, they must find it acceptable, right? They continue to accept money from gun proponents and refuse to consider legislation that might prevent these sort of things from happening again and again and again. Doesn’t that make them complicit? I’ll answer that myself – Yes, our government is responsible for creating a situation in which civilians can purchase and possess firearms which can be used to perpetrate crimes like what we’ve witnessed time and time again in our country. They should held accountable in every way possible – sue them, vote them out, spread the word about how people like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are beholden to the NRA.

Our children are not replaceable but every single one of these f*ckers who choose dollars over public safety are disposable. Let’s stop memorializing teenagers with stars and stripes and start ensuring that children who go to school in the morning return home in the afternoon on a bus and not in a body bag.

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Filed under Local, News, Observations, politics, Rant, Schools, Uncategorized

Vote No

I’m done with apologizing for my eventual pension and benefits. I fulfilled the educational requirements for a professional career, received a state license, and have worked more than two decades in public education to provide students with necessary intellectual and practical skills.

It’s been a privilege to get to know so many young people and quite frankly they, along with my colleagues, are the best part of my job. Despite what your impression may be, it isn’t always easy to be an educator. The hoops we’ve been forced to jump through in terms of testing and professional evaluations have stolen hours upon hours of time that could be better spent teaching and providing our students with opportunities for growth and individual attention. Bureaucracy has always been, to me, the Achilles heel of education.

In less than ten years I will retire and receive a pension and yes, Fred LeBrun, you can call it generous. I’m really sorry that you, Mr. LeBrun, work for a company that doesn’t do the right thing for their own employees, but I don’t believe that means I don’t deserve to have a good quality of life in my later years. In fact, I think it’s really unfortunate that every person in our incredibly wealthy country can’t look forward to having the same.

It seems to me that our collective efforts would be better spent working together to provide all Americans with an existence that allows for a stable life rather than attempting to eliminate teacher pensions through an opening of the New York State Constitution. We need to stop accepting the ever-widening wage disparity in our country and come together to demand health care and retirement benefits for all citizens. We’ve earned it.

Vote on November 7th – and don’t forget to address both the front and the back of the ballot.

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Telling the truth – in Albany

We are living in scary times, friends. I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious about the state of our country and the relationships we have internationally. It seems like a long time since I’ve woken up without having to wonder what kind of outrageous statement or action with which Donald Trump has greeted the new day. It simply doesn’t always feel good to be an American in 2017.

Last Friday, though, was a bright spot in an otherwise dark time thanks to the New York State Writers Institute. Their schedule this fall is fantastic and the symposium they hosted over the weekend was absolutely tremendous. Although I was able to attend only two sessions of the event, I walked away with a glimmer of hope and a new sense of pride in my city. Bravo, Paul Grondahl and the NYSWI.

A few observations about the panels I attended:

  • The participants* were smart.
  • The audience was interested and mostly respectful.
  • Page Hall was packed.
  • The time went remarkably fast.
  • It was affirming, inspiring and reassuring.

Check out the rest of their schedule of events. There’s something there for everyone – and it’s free.

*Participants included moderator, Bob Schieffer, Douglas Brinkley, Franklin Foer, Amy and David Goodman, Maria Hinojas, Harry Rosenfeld and Tim Wu.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Events, Local, News, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

Reading is the least expensive vacation I’ve ever had.  Sometimes I go to the future and other times to the past, but the destination isn’t the important part to me usually. It’s just getting away from now.  At a time when I sometimes feel physically assaulted by the daily news, a low budget escape is exactly what I’m looking for in a book, even when the book’s conclusion is not the one for which a reader would be hoping. Hey, after November 8, 2016, I’m kind of used to that anyway.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot of this YA title, but it’s essentially the story of 3 boys and the teacher who taught them far more than they ever expected.  It’s at times outrageously funny and heartbreakingly sad, but most of all it’s a book that reads as real. If you’re lucky, you once had a Ms. Bixby in your life. My favorite quotes are below.

Ms. Bixby sighs the Teacher Sigh. The one they must give you as you walk out the door with your teaching degree.  Equal parts exasperation, disappointment, and longing for summer vacation.

When I suggested she brush up on her astronomy, she seemed offended, saying that she probably knew things that I didn’t.  I told her that was highly unlikely. Then she asked me who the lead singer of Led Zeppelin was. I told her zeppelins could not be made of lead due to the obvious weight issues.  She said “Case closed.”

Change is the only constant.

Topher is a constant, like pi or radical two.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

You can’t always pinpoint the moment everything changes.  Most of the time it’s gradual, like grass growing or fog settling or your armpits starting to smell by midafternoon.

There’s a difference between the truth and the whole truth.  That’s why they give that big spiel in court, when they make you place your hand on the Bible and promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Because they know if they don’t, people will try and sneak around it. They will leave out the details, skip over the incriminating stuff. Keep the worst parts to themselves.

You have to slay the dragon to be the hero. Not easy to do, but at least you know what you’re dealing with. Dragons are easy to spot…but there are no such things as dragons. It’s never that clearcut. Sometimes the thing you’re fighting against is hiding from you. It’s tucked away. Buried deep where you can’t see it. In fact, for a long time, you might not even know it’s there.

You know how, in movies, everything comes around full circle and you’re back where you started? Turns out life isn’t like the movies. Life doesn’t come all the way back around again. It’s not a straight line either. It angles and curves, shoots off a little, twists and turns, but it never gets right back to the place it started. Not that you would want it to. Then you wouldn’t feel like you had gotten anywhere.

Live every day as if it were your last. The truth is – the whole truth is – that it’s not your last day that matters most. It’s the ones in between, the ones you get the chance to look back on…They may not stand out the most at first, but they stay with you the longest.

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Filed under Books, Librarians, Recommendations, Uncategorized