peachyteachy

For realsies

Bribery: Still and Always, Moral Imperative November 15, 2015

Image: brothersoft.com

I wrote the following more than three years ago. I found it because I am a one trick pony who wanted to write again about bribery as a moral imperative.  It is clear that this deeply held belief has come to be held more deeply than ever. I have been buying record numbers of  “treats” to hand out like so many little placebos as I convince the youngsters that every sweet  is an indicator that they are achieving like Einstein. Truly, it usually buys me a few minutes of reduced decibel level. As a matter of fact, I was working with a colleague a few days ago when she erupted with candy from God-knows-where, proclaiming herself  a human pinata! Bribery is alive and well and living in school, my friends! That deserves a treat!

Do I want my kids to do the right things for the right reasons? Sure!

Do I tell my students that they should behave as if their grandmother is watching them at all times? Yup. God knows I shouldn’t be the only one carrying that macabre little thought around the world of the living.

Is there a little Lego set in my closet, awaiting my son’s completion of swimming lessons without melting down and leaving the premises once? Um, why, yes, there is.

Hey, I have never paid money for good grades! That is my ex’s job.

The kid is older than most of the other “Goldfish,” loves the water, but has remained absolutely terrified of going underwater.  Water in his nose, eyes, ears or mouth is reason for extreme distress.  He’s a tiny bit high maintenance. Previous attempts at swimming lessons have gone terribly wrong.  It hasn’t helped that the teachers have had exactly one strategy in their “toolkit” when it comes to getting kids “used to” going underwater. It goes something like this:

  Boy: “I CAN’T GO UNDERWATER!!!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!”

 Aquatics Instructor: “You have to.”

 Boy: (climbing instructor like a tree, screaming) “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!”

 Aquatics Instructor: “Okay, okay, you don’t have to go underwater.” Dunks him under.

 Boy: Comes up sobbing and doesn’t stop until class ends and we can leave the Satanic waterpark, having learned the invaluable life lesson: Never trust your swimming instructor. Sweet.

This display would, of course, be followed by the natural born swimmer kid who is next in line executing a back flip with a half twist into the water.  I am looking around as if to figure out which parent goes with that screaming, flailing child.  Which works for exactly ten minutes, after which we are greeted daily with whispered “Here they come”s.

You get the idea, and surely understand why part of my preparation for this swimming session was calculated bribery.  I didn’t tell him that he couldn’t cry, because I am not super pumped to shoot myself in the foot on any given day, but I did say that he would need to stay with the class for the whole time every day.  This, he did.  The first two days were painful, and did involve screaming, crying, and, yes, being forced underwater after being told he would not be.  While this does not synchronize with my personal philosophy, we managed to make it out of there mostly intact (remember, the bribe requires not melting down AND leaving the premises).  “Keep your eyes on the prize!” I said brightly.  This referred to the unknown surprise bribe awaiting him, should he complete the session.  Let’s face it, he won’t be getting a certificate for passing Goldfish!  My bribe is kind of like the “Participation” ribbon that is so coveted by the mediocre athletes of the world.  Only cooler.

The happy ending is that he turned a corner somewhere around the third day.  Strangely, this coincided with the fact that he had a substitute instructor that day who was actually skilled and was able to give him some baby steps to take to help him move in the direction of surviving wetness of face.  We call this Divine Intervention, and I am appropriately thanking the Universe.  He WILL cry today because it is the last day, and he’s like that.

Sometimes the bribery thing works, sometimes not.  I don’t honestly think that it made much difference with the swimming thing; he gets credit for making the progress that he made (as do all of the angelic host that helped him).  He also gets a prize. If folks are really up in arms about this bribery thing, tell it to the Olympic committee.

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Cheap Anti-Depressant: Pay it Forward November 8, 2014

Filed under: inspiration,life,motivation,parenting — peachyteachy @ 6:18 pm
Tags: ,

This morning, I was in the checkout line at Aldi.  Aldi is a discount grocery store. I freaking love it.

Today, the shopper in front of me had filled her cart, and had overshot her budget. She asked me for a dollar, and I responded, truthfully, that I had no cash (I am a plastic person; not super proud of that). Things proceeded. I waited. I started to think judgmental thoughts. All of my  ugly cultural biases started to rear their ugly heads. I started to think that I had chosen the wrong lane, which is my shopping specialty.  She kept taking things out of her cart.

The checkout people at Aldi are super nice, as a rule.  The guy in this lane was clearly doing his level best to remain patient.  But there was still a chunk of order on the conveyer belt that remained to be sorted. . .

Then I said, “Ma’am, if you are still having trouble covering it, I would like to take care of it.”

She went from stress to joy instantly.  She high fived me, then my son, thanking me again and again, and telling my son that he has a really nice mother.

The fact is that I have faced financial panic at many points.  I remember my mom counting change.  I have applied for public assistance when I was working full time, to keep my family afloat.  It sucked.

This woman could have easily been one of my student’s parents.  But it doesn’t matter, and I will never know.

I covered twenty-one dollars of her groceries.  No huge virtue of mine at all. Instead of feeling pissy and annoyed (a real option, let’s face it) I got to feel, without a doubt, that I had made a right choice today.  The biggest and best choice of today.

 

Check It Out August 1, 2014

NEW BLOG ALERT

You can help to build a blog that will explore some of the issues surrounding the standardized test score-based school reform movement.  It will also look into how we can support kids to navigate the educational waters these days.

http://biggerthananumber.wordpress.com/

 

If We Had Taken Three Days of Tests in Third Grade March 30, 2014

Filed under: education,parenting,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 1:06 pm

When I was in third grade, I was dwelling on the outskirts of what might be deemed “painfully shy.” I lived in fear of being called to the Principal’s office.  This was ridiculous, because I never stepped out of line at that point of my life.

As children prepare for the ordeal that is state testing, I considered that little girl, who she was, and how she would have handled this level of demand at the age of eight or nine.  I realized that a large chunk of my self-esteem was built upon the fact that I was successful academically.  In short, I was a good reader, writer, and student in general.  As a smart, shy kid, I also experienced some painful times at the hands of the pack.  In many ways, I was fragile.  How many of us are solid at the age of eight?

I am not sure that the little girl that I was at eight would have handled the “higher” standards and the curriculum that teachers must slam young learners with today.  The one area where I had succeeded would have been threatened.  Would I have risen to the occasion, embracing the challenges of abstract, dense, no break for play, programming that is today cloaked by words like “best practice” and “data driven instruction?”  In high school, perhaps.  In elementary school, I fear that it would have broken me.  And I was a “smart kid.” I later proved to be a sort of natural test-taker, a fact that I consider pure luck of the draw in brain wiring.  Had I taken these lengthy, impossibly rigorous tests when I was so young, would I have followed that trajectory, or would I have experienced failure after failure until I was turned off from learning altogether?

It is said that children are resilient, and in many ways this is true.  That principle is being tested (no pun intended) as never before. As we continue to hold our most at-risk populations to the same measure of success as those who enjoy far greater privilege, we claim to be creating a system where graduation rates will increase.  I am not so sure.  I have watched fifth graders who went all year without passing a unit test in math or reading.  These students made growth, became better readers, learned mathematical concepts they had not before.  But it wasn’t enough for them to feel any measure of success.  The gap we claim to wish to close has been made intentionally wider.  As a teacher, I have feared for my career and felt frustration with the students when they could not somehow write something that, up until last  year, was included in the curriculum for two or three grades later.

I have students who have lived their lives in refugee camps, and students who live in dangerous conditions with parents who have their own negative history in education.  Our school is in a neighborhood where bad headlines are made regularly, where it isn’t safe to walk at night. We need to examine what we are creating for these huge numbers of at-risk kids.  Do we want them to feel like they belong out there, or in here?  Or worse, nowhere?

I didn’t grow up with money, but my parents were educated, and I was safe.  Even children of relatively stable situations are feeling levels of stress that we have no business inflicting on our  younger citizens.  My hat is off to the parents who have chosen to act on their convictions that something needs to change.  I encourage any adult to reflect and recall the experience of being a child in school–and then imagine adding in this factor that colors every day of instruction.  A useful exercise, if nothing else.

 

A Human Being/A Human Doing January 12, 2014

“I am a human being, not a human doing.” Such a trite little New Ageism, probably coined by Stuart Smalley, back before Al Franken became a US Senator.

Actually, I did come across a blurb that encapsulates the sentiment:

 “I am a human being, not a human doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

The To-Do List is, as we all know, never done. NEVER.  What a freaking recipe for disaster. Even if every item were ever crossed off, another five or so would stand up, front and center, to remind us of our basic, gnawing,  inadequacy.   Sweet.

I have a colleague who writes stuff down and shoves it in his pocket, a sort of deconstructed to-do list.  There is a certain genius in this, I think, not because it is foolproof and he will never forget something, but because he WILL.  There is space for a human being to accidentally wash away the reminder of the human doing when the jeans hit the wash with one pocket uncleared.  Disaster? Hardly.  I, for one, need to remember from time to time that the world is, in fact, NOT going to come crashing to a halt if something on the list slips through the cracks.

But what if it’s something important?

Really? Is it? Will it be in a year? Will it result in  someone being deeply hurt by me? Mostly, even seemingly crucial deadlines would, in fact, end up compromising my ego more than anything else. For me, some of my most egregious errors probably were in the following category: I am freaking out and sick to my stomach about the message I am getting that there is no way I can do enough or be good enough at work—and that pain and fear makes me edgy and impatient with my loved ones.  Oh, yeah, priorities straight as an arrow there.  Doing a couple more hours of data recording for my teaching job is going to take care of everything.

What will take care of everything? How the hell do I know? I suspect it has to do with shutting up and letting my son’s words wash over me when I am overwhelmed: “You’re the best Mom ever.”  When I forget, he tells me again.

I was reading something the other day that gently reminded me of the fact that we really are all just a mess and that’s okay and no one knows how the hell we’re going to traverse the next little bit.   So we try to make a little to-do roadmap and it never feels as neat as we think it should.  Because to-do keeps on collecting, tenacious, like dust.

“You’re the best mom ever.”  It is super shiny, every time! No to-do attached! What a relief.

 

 

 

Image: http://www.holisticwithhumor.com

 

 

Fa-La-La-La-Loss December 28, 2013

Filed under: humor,inspiration,life,parenting — peachyteachy @ 9:02 pm
Tags: ,

This year, the holidays giveth, and the holidays taketh away.

It is not as if I invented this phenomenon; so many forms of loss take no vacations during the holiday season.  People die, people leave, people fall short of expectations.  And then we are stuck with those loss memories during the holidays for the rest of time.

For the Peachy household, this was the year that the recent college graduate got a job in a big city, and left the day after Christmas.  Proud? Yes! Excited for him? Yes!

Heartbroken? That too.  This is it.  This is IT.  We had settled into the “I have a kid at college” routine, where we looked forward to those extended breaks, and had a period of sadness after the return to school.

Then, after graduation, we had an extended period of transition—a lovely time, in many ways—one that would, arguably, have festered after a time into something far less desirable.  But, as it was, not bad at all, especially for little brother.

I have this weird guilt about the fact that my chance to be the perfect parent has just expired.  The most foolish of aspirations, haunting me.  He brought a package of tempera paints over from cleaning his room at his dad’s house.  I bought those paints when he was little.  Clearly, we didn’t paint enough.   He’ll probably bring that to therapy.  Or, worse, to some future girlfriend.  She’ll breezily break out a whimsical art project, and he will confide in her the insecurities born of those early non-tempera painting projects. “Even though the paint was there all the time!”

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how proud and excited you are for your kid.  It’s your baby and, at some level,  your heart will never know how to let go.  You cry. You watch sit-coms. You research gourmet food stores near their new apartment.

Happy Holidays.

 

 

The Cookie Business: A Young Writer is Born October 13, 2013

Filed under: cooking,humor,parenting,writing — peachyteachy @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , ,
My son carries on the family tradition of writing weird stuff.

My son carries on the family tradition of writing weird stuff.

The Cookie Business. Chapter 1 B.O.A.t H history.
Building Our Army
It’s hard to recruit troops into armys, but we are the first cookie deticated army. We recruit children because they are (list) cheap, quick, and love cookies. We pay 40 free cookies and 5$ per child. Once we have 100 children we have a proper army. I already have 3,000 children because a war just broke out. War started because someone challenged cookies with lollipops. A teenager was who started the lollipop army.
Capter 2 UpGrading
We need weapons, they had hard hitting lollipop stick blasters, we had dough turrets; they also had lollibombs. We needed more than standard turrets so we had 11 year old kids (our smartest children) build new weapons. (LIST) Chocolate chip blaster, doughmerangs, and choco tanks. But they now own the air.

I promise to update as new chapters become available. Obviously, he follows a painstaking editing process.

 

 
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