Monthly Archives: February 2009

What Are They Thinking?

Once a week or more, I go to WalMart.  I buy our groceries there and lots of other things.  It’s not my favorite place to shop, but the prices can’t be beat and that’s important in this economy.  I can’t help but notice this odd thing about the people I see at WalMart:  they shop in their pajamas.

What IS that?

I don’t know if it’s only the WalMart where I live or if maybe it’s just a WalMart “thing”.  I’ve never seen it at Target.  It doesn’t matter if it is first thing in the morning or 4:00 in the afternoon, there are still people in their pajamas.  Sometimes there are WHOLE FAMILIES in their pajamas, shopping around like everything is just fine.

But it’s not.  They’re in PAJAMAS!  And SLIPPERS, too!  One time I was headed for WalMart and as I started to leave, I realized I had not changed out of my slippers. 

“That was a close call”, I told my husband as I changed.

“You were going to WalMart!”, he said.  “You would have fit right in!” 

I wish I had the courage to ask one of these people why they would think it’s O.K. to wear their pajamas out shopping.  But I have a feeling you shouldn’t mess with people in their pajamas in WalMart.  

When I see these people, I’m always a little worried that this thought in my head will come out of my mouth: “You’re in your PAJAMAS, folks!”  It hasn’t happened.

Yet.

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No Excuse

Today at my school, one of my third graders came in a little late.  I asked her why she was late and her eyes were big as she told this story:

Her teacher had told a boy in her class to correct some mistakes he had made on his work.  He didn’t make the corrections (I don’t know if he refused or didn’t know the right answers).  So, the teacher put his work on the overhead projector for the whole class to see and discussed the mistakes the boy had made.  The boy jumped up, yelled that the teacher had embarrassed him in front of the whole class, said “all the bad words”, threw his papers at the teacher and walked out of the room.  The girl told me she was really surprised that the boy did this, he had never acted that way before.  He was nice, she told me.

After the third graders left the reading lab, my coworkers were discussing what had happened.  One woman said she saw the teacher right after the incident and said the boy had really “rattled” the teacher- she was really “shook up.”  My coworker talked about seeing the boy, too.  She said he was angry and wouldn’t even go into the principal’s office.  A  couple of my coworkers shook their heads in disgust as if to say,  “Kids these days!” 

I was astounded that no one said what I wanted to say:  The teacher was shook up?!  What about the boy?   Was the teacher shook up and rattled because she knew she made a mistake?   How would that teacher feel if , at the next staff meeting, her supervisor put her mistake on the overhead projector for her coworkers to see?  Embarrassed, maybe?    

I know that teaching can be a challenging, thankless and sometimes frustrating job.  I have taught preschool and kindergarten.  My sisters are both middle school teachers (bless them!)  I am the last one to say that kids should say and do whatever they want.  I am constantly amazed at this new generation of kids that is often outspoken in a disrespectful way.  It is unacceptable to me.  But so is what happened to that boy today.  If he was refusing to make the corrections, then he should have consequences.  If he didn’t understand the work, then he needed help.  If he was being angry or defiant, the principal’s office is just a few buildings away.  Why would anyone make the choice  to humiliate a child?  Perhaps the teacher thought she was helping the boy, that the class could fix the mistakes as a whole.  Then she should have asked if she could put the work on the overhead projector.  I’m guessing she didn’t because I think  he would have said no.  He would not have wanted to be embarrassed.  Would you? 

Incidents like these are not new to me.  I have seen and heard about many similar incidents at my school, at my son’s schools, at schools attended by friends’ kids.  Teachers treat kids in a certain way, kids act out, kids get punished.  I am just an aide at my school, not a teacher.  I have no control, no authority like I did in my previous job.  So,  usually, I just  keep my thoughts to myself and get back to the work at hand:  being there for the kids, helping them to read better.

No one would have liked to hear my opinion today:  that teacher got what she deserved from the boy.  Everyone agreed that he was a boy who did not usually get in trouble.   Maybe today, he was pushed over the edge.  That teacher should be “rattled.”  The boy may have acted inappropriately but….so did she.  He is a kid.  What is her excuse?

Hard Boiled Eggs

I love hard boiled eggs.  Plain, boring hard boiled eggs ,as my husband would say.  I’ve eaten them for as long as I can remember.  My mom used to send me off to school with an egg and a tiny shaker of Morton salt in my lunch box.  When I opened that lunch box at lunch time, I felt so glad to see that tiny salt shaker.  Everyone wanted to be me on those days so they could have a tiny shaker like that, I was sure of it. 

When I was out in the world, living on my own, I never made hard boiled eggs for myself.  That whole boil, simmer, cooling off process seemed to take way more time than I had in my busy schedule.  When I visited my mom and looked in her refrigerator, there was always a bowl of 3-5 hard cooked eggs, just waiting to be eaten.  I would ask my mom if I could have one and she would always say the same thing:  “Sure, Honey, you can have anything you want in there.”

My boy was born loving hard boiled eggs.  I told myself I was a mom now, I had to make time to cook  my boy hard boiled eggs.  But I wasn’t consistent, even for him.  He would say,  “Remember that time we had hard boiled eggs?  I wish you could do that again”, like he was talking about some long ago trip to Disneyland.  I’m not a mom who feels guilty very often but the lack of eggs in my son’s life made me feel a little inadequate as a mother.  When we would go to visit my mom, I’d tell my son,  “She’ll have eggs. ”  But it wasn’t the same as having our own eggs.

Then, over the last year or so, I’m not sure why but things changed in our house.  I started cooking hard boiled eggs all the time.  I made sure there were  (almost) always 3-5 cooked eggs in a bowl in the refrigerator.  My boy would ask on a random day if we had any eggs and I could say,  “Yes!  We have eggs!”   Sometimes, we would run out and a day or so would pass without any eggs, but then I got a great idea.  When I took the last egg, I would leave the empty bowl out on the counter to remind me to make more eggs.  If you know my mom, you know that this is probably exactly what she does to make sure she always has eggs in her fridge.

And you know what that means? 

I have become my mother. 

I knew it would happen one day.

I Never Used To Pray

These are hard times for everyone.   Just watch the news for five minutes and you’ll hear it:  housing slump, unemployment, stimulus plan, going to get worse before it gets better.  It’s the same every day.   Here in California, a budget has just been passed that attempts to make up for a huge (huge) deficit.  Guess who will be paying for that deficit?  Yes, us, the taxpayers.  Taxes will be raised, the sales tax will increase and we can expect our car registration to double.  Kids will have a hard time getting a decent education due to more than 8 billion dollars in education cuts.  On top of this, we are in the middle of a drought.  We have already received the notice in the area where we live that we’ll be paying double for any water we use over our allotment each month.  Guess we won’t be filling up that pool when it’s 110 degrees this summer.  Sorry, kids!  How much more do they think we can take?

Both adults in my family of three are facing possible layoffs come summer.   I am in education (see above about the budget cuts) and my husband is in construction (yay for the housing slump!).  What will happen to this beautiful house that we love and take care of so well?  Working in a public school, I have first hand experience that lets me know I made the right choice by putting  my boy in private school.  The kids in my area have a tough edge to them (see last post) and then there are those cuts in education (yay for the budget!).  My boy is challenged academically and is (most important) happy at his school.  What if that school is not an option for us next year?  We are better off than many, I realize.  But still, I am left with a kind of sick and worried feeling on a daily basis.  What will happen to us and everyone else?  Will we be the ones to lose our house or will it be someone close to us that we care about?

I suggested to my husband that we make a plan for tough times ahead.  He asked, in a defeated tone of voice,  what plan would that be ?  I can see his point.  So, like everyone else, we’ll hunker down, plan as best we can, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  We really have no other choice.

I never used to pray.  But now I do.  Not so much to God, that guy with long hair and flowing robes.  I pray to a higher power, something or someone that is bigger than us all.  I have to give my faith over to that higher power and trust that things will work out, that they will be O.K.  because, clearly, I do not have control over this.

These Kids Are Tough

I work in a reading lab at an elementary school.  Every half hour for three hours each morning, different groups of  kids come to the lab from their regular classrooms.  During that time, they are working through a reading program that helps them to read better.  Myself and the other aides each have a group of four kids and we guide them through the program, helping whenever we are needed.  I really enjoy this job and love being with kids every day.  It’s easier than being with adults sometimes.

My most challenging  group of  kids (all third graders) comes to me at 10:00am.  They are working far below grade level,  have short attention spans, avoid doing work and get discouraged easily.  These are my favorite kids. 

Last week, one of the girls in this group, whose grandma has custody of her, announces that her mom has moved back here from another state, is pregnant and is living in her uncle’s trailer because he died and doesn’t need it anymore.  This girl goes to her mom’s trailer every day after school but they can only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Her mom has lots of canned food, but no can opener.  The girl has planned to bring a can opener for her mom that day.  Then they can have something besides peanut butter and jelly.  One last thing:  the girl says her dad just got out of jail and is moving to another state.  She doesn’t know who to stay with, her mom or her dad- it’s so hard to decide!  (I didn’t have the heart to tell her she’s not going anywhere, her grandma has custody of her, for good reason)

A boy in the group says it’s the same for him:  his dad lives in a different city than his mom and he cries every time he has to leave his dad to go back to his mom.

Usually, I would remind the kids that they needed to get back to work, but I stayed quiet this time.

Another boy says he misses his parents because, since the family lost their home, his parents are staying in a nearby state with a relative who can’t have kids at her apartment complex (“It’s just for old people.”) while his brother and him stay with a relative here.

Another girl tells us quietly that she has never met her father.

And these kids are supposed to pay attention and learn to read better?

The First One

So, this is the first one, the first post.  I have to start somewhere, right? 

I won’t claim to be a wonderful writer, with all the punctuation and grammar correct.  I am mostly a good speller, but sometimes I make mistakes.  This is just a place where I plan to get all those thoughts out of my head, before it explodes.  Now, that wouldn’t be pretty, would it?