Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Your Memory Box of Childhood

"One day all these great memories will be forgotten," she said, her little voice cutting in between the laughter.

"What?" I asked. Forgotten? These childhood moments of laughter and joy that we filled their childhood memory box with she was going to forget?!?

"Yeah, we won't remember this exact moment of having a dance party in the living room with you on a school night or exactly what had us all laughing in the car last night," she said.

I stared at her, my momma's heart wanting to argue and deny the truth to her claim. How did she know so much at six? Did they teach such deep wisdom in kindergarten these days? To an extent I suppose she was right. They probably wouldn't remember exact moments like these that occurred on random school nights in the living room or what exactly happened that had us all laughing in some random moments we were all piled in the car on the way to Girl Scouts one night.

But my wise beyond your years girl, all these random moments will fill your childhood memory box. Just you wait and see. You may not remember this exact moment but you will recall a childhood where your parents would occasionally dance around the living room or kitchen with you at the end of the day. You'll recall a childhood where your parents would pile you and your brother and sister in the car and take you from one activity to the next or from "one adventure" to the next whether it was going out for a winter hike in the woods or across country on another vacation, putting in your head at just five years old that when you were big and working that you were going to take your kids "adventuring like us". You'll recall a childhood where your parents went out and played ball in the yard with you after school or took you for a long run or walk with them. You'll recall a childhood where from as far as you can remember you'd bake with your mom and learn to cook from your dad. You'll recall a childhood that despite the chores you complain of doing every day after school or that you had to make your own lunch for school from the time you were in kindergarten that was full of love and family and yes more wonderful memories than you can count or individually remember. Your childhood memory box will be overflowing, my dear girl. You won't necessarily remember every moment that made your little girl heart feel so happy and loved, but you will remember you were happy and loved throughout.

Childhood is what shapes our hope, our perception of the world, our own visions for family and happiness. Your childhood memory box, dear girl, will be full because though you may not remember exact moments like yesterday or today you're getting one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child- a childhood worth remembering.

Don't grow up too fast, my girl.


Friday, February 16, 2018

From the FRONT Lines

I had to stand in front of my students the past two days and go over with them how in the situation of an active shooter we had three doors and fourteen windows to secure as quickly as possible. The scared look on their faces as I gravely reminded them of the very real threat we face today in our schools is one I won't easily forget. As a student mentioned, "It's scary how NOT far fetched the reality of this happening has become."

That reality is what has me sad, worried, and downright angry. This should NOT be the state of America! This is NOT the kind of America I want my kids to grow up in! This is NOT what I got into teaching for! This is absolutely unacceptable. I'm upset about this as an educator and as a parent, and we need some real solutions, not ridiculous political bickering where we all talk in circles until the moment passes and then we drop it again until the next shooting occurs.

This is a serious epidemic for our children. They ARE NOT SAFE. They are not safe when they go with the friends to the movies. They are not safe when they go hang out with their friends at the mall. They are not safe even when they go to school every day. These mass shootings are occurring in places where our children are NO LONGER SAFE. Yet I will continue to send my children out into these unsafe places. You will continue to send your children out. We will continue to send our children out into UNSAFE environments!  I'd like to think I'm being dramatic or that my emotions are just on overdrive and ruling any rational thought I may have. But maybe we haven't let our emotions move us towards change enough. Maybe it's that suffocating sadness, anger, and fear that will drive us to change.

I began my journey into education almost twenty years ago, a year and a half after Columbine. Never did I imagine a time where people would be having real conversations about arming teachers. I can't believe I just said that because people really believe that is the solution here- to arm teachers. I grew up with guns, I know how to shoot and handle a gun, and we are gun owners, but if I wanted to carry a gun to work every day I would have went into the military or police academy. You want teachers who have never had the mental or physical training to be the front line of defense in our streets or in our wars to now be our front line of defense in the biggest war on our children! Really, does that sound like the greatest change to make?

Why don't we put our military veterans to work as guards around our schools. Government wants to talk big about caring about veterans and our children- put them to work in front of our schools and we work towards solving two problems. Yes, that is definitely going to cost money but supposedly these are two of the most important things to our government. Though I like the idea of putting veterans to work and giving them the opportunity to be find themselves a purpose and sense of belonging in a school community we have to have greater solutions than fighting gun violence with more guns.

Yes, I could too make a case for our gun laws being evaluated with how easy it so to obtain a gun and do we really need a military gun on the market, but we have a cultural problem here too that needs to be addressed, people. We have created a cultural mentality that going into a busy area and shooting up innocence people is an acceptable way to handle personal frustration and setbacks. That broken mentality doesn't change with changed gun laws. We have to change the mindset. We have to change the people. We have to change ourselves and we have to be the change.

Education policy has stripped us of school discipline and accountability of students in so many ways, yet we think the answer is to arm teachers to now shoot their possible students. We can barely discipline them but we should now be expected to shoot them? The changes over the years of  trying not to suspend because it looks bad for data numbers, the policies of not taking their phones and forcing them to disconnect for a few hours, or the we can't penalize them for late assignments, and honestly the list of all the policy changes that have taken discipline and accountability of education away, I hate to say, has a role in what we're seeing.

Not only are students not given discipline or expected accountability anymore but parents need to be held accountable for the behaviors and actions of their children. It is scary the number of physical altercations I could recite from the family and friends I know that work in public education. Parents don't feel any more sense to discipline or hold their kids accountable than the kids themselves because as a society we don't hold anyone accountable anymore. Though I'm not in the criminal justice system I've heard scary policy changes of not even holding criminals as accountable as we once did. Why not do whatever the hell you want to do if the consequences are so little?

I've preached for a long time that required parenting classes should be a must for parents of troubled youth. Do you know how many parents over the past fourteen years  I've talked to that don't know what to do about their troubled youth? Some parents didn't have the greatest parent models themselves, or they just lack the resources or support they need to figure out this parenting thing so give them the help that some of them so desperately want. Invest some money in teaching parents how to parent! Invest some consequences in holding parents accountable for raising respectful citizens.

While we're investing money in education and change that might make a difference how about some classes that teach kids things like empathy, coping skills,  civil discourse, peer mediation? Or programs in schools that actively combat bullying and raise awareness and resources for mental health?

Changed education policy of the past two decades I believe too is just widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. We are either dismissing the troubled and struggling students by not enforcing discipline or accountability and making loop holes for them to "get through" so it looks good on our school numbers. Or we are drowning the achievers and go getters in unrealistic expectations and pressure to perform on the athletic fields and in the classrooms at a level beyond decades ago because again it looks good for school numbers. They're pressured with the idea that to have a good life more, more, and more is needed of them. Both of these extremes I believe are contributing to the mental health crisis of today. Again, all government or education policy is concerned about are their damn numbers and not our kids. The kids are just their pawns, and now they have become their victims.

The reality of this is downright scary. There are so many problems to fix, but we waste our time pointing fingers so let's stop pointing fingers and make some real change. While we wait on government and policy to fight over who is to blame I get up every morning to go off to one school, while my husband goes to another, and  my two daughters go to a different one. Across the country I have countless friends that walk out that door too to also head to their schools; I have two cousins, a sister, and an aunt that all head off to school every morning. My friends' kids and my nieces and nephews head off to school every morning. There are countless schools across this nation where someone I know and care about goes each day. The reality that one day, that breaking news story of another school shooting , is going to be their school is getting closer and closer the longer we do nothing. When someone is military or police or you marry into the military or police life, you know it comes with the expectation that you or the person you love may not make it home. This is now all of our realities. I get that no one is promised another day or even another moment. Something can happen to any of us at any time, but here in America we now have to worry about death by the violence of bullets in our own classrooms. This is NOW our reality. This is now our children's reality!

Our government has failed us. Absolutely failed us and put our children in the line of fire in front of a hail of bullets. So to wait on our government to protect us at this point seems a loss cause. We can't wait. We need to be talking to our the leaders in our schools. What security protocols needs to be updated in the building? Figure out a way to raise those funds asap. What programs are in place for mental health? What programs are in place for parents of troubled students? How are students being held accountable and taught to get overcome failure and setbacks? WE DO THEM NO FAVORS BY NOT LETTING THEM FAIL. Start talking and start working together in our communities. The change starts with us.

To make change is going to take some money, it's going to take voices, it 's going to take ACTION.
But what do I know? I'm just a teacher, a teacher on the front lines of a war against our children.

It's time to step up, America, and do the right thing for our kids' futures.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Gender Equality Between the Sexes???

When it comes to gender equality or the existence of inequality still in today's society there are many arguments about whether there is still inequality and in what ways that inequality still exists. It's 2018; women have had the right to vote for almost a hundred years, the laws of today say we're equal so where's the inequality some like to ask??

My students and I actually had an interesting conversation about this when we read Sojourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman.  A student pointed out that the argument about the issues of equality isn't about our laws. Our laws state equality, but our social expectations and behaviors is where inequality is still alive and well. We also talked about how with Emma Watson's Equality is Your Issue Too that feminism is not just about women but about these misleading social expectations and behaviors we as a society project onto both men and women. I've heard the arguments against the existence of gender inequality in today's society but here me out for a moment on the ways inequality still exist when it comes to our 21st century social norms, expectations, and behaviors. I'm not even going to touch on political issues; these are every day ways any of us- men and women- could still experience gender inequality.

 I only have my own experiences to speak from here and though neither my father nor my husband have ever made me feel oppressed because I'm a woman, there are interesting things I've taken note of lately about inequality when it comes to our behaviors and expectations. Maybe there are some here you’ve seen firsthand for yourself. Again, this isn't just about women but also how men face it themselves and if you have not read Emma Watson's Equality is Your Issue Too check it out or watch the video.

1.The unspoken social expectation that men pay and are the ones making the financial decisions:

Both when dealing with the sales people for the estimate on our bathroom remodel this summer and in shopping for a car for me, I found it quite annoying that the salesman tended to direct his questions and information to my husband over me, even after my husband said I was the one making the final financial decisions in both situations. It’s not like either was rude, but I think it’s just one of those social habits the same way handing the dinner tab over to the man rather than the woman is. As a woman who manages our family’s finances the unspoken expectation that men are in control of the finances drives me crazy. It’s not fair to men either to have the expectation that they should be the one paying for dinner or anything and everything for that matter. Maybe on a first date it’s a gentlemanly thing to do, but I’ve also seen girls that bum drinks off guys in a bar because of this ridiculous notion that men should financially pay for women. So the financial expectation that it’s a man's responsibility and women are incapable of handling  finances or financial decisions is a social norm we still need to work on.  


2. The idea of one gender or the other being incapable because that’s just the way “men” or “women” are:

 The thing that has killed me lately with this is that some of the recent things told me have come from other older generational women such as the expectation that I should take care of scheduling something for him “because he’s a man”.  Ummm, no he’s very capable of taking care of himself and it’s rather insulting to him probably to suggest that he’s not capable. Or that I can’t do something because “I’m a woman and my husband won’t let me.” I’m a grown woman and my husband actually respects me to make my own decisions and would be the last person to tell me what I can and cannot do just because I’m a woman. Men are not incapable of taking care of tasks that have in past generations  befallen on women, and women are not incapable of doing things on their own that they once had to have a male escort to do. Both are quite independent.


3. Telling a woman she can't do something with her children that her husband could do because she's a woman and it's not safe:

It is unfortunately unfair that there is even some level of truth to this. As a parent of daughters I often wonder how often we will use this concern for their safety against the threat of men from preventing our daughters from doing something, yet we'll allow our son to do it. This is where as a society we must do a better job of raising our sons and in teaching our daughters how to be safe and cautious of their surroundings and situations in order to be capable of handling themselves in an unfavorable situation they may find themselves in.

4. Expectations of household chores:

Chaunie Brusie wrote this great piece for Babble  on how even as mothers with sons and daughters we tend to ask and expect our daughters to help out more around the house than our sons. Now in both her and my defense our sons followed after two older sisters so maybe if our sons were the first born we wouldn't have to more subconsciously make sure we're expecting the same out of our boys around the house that we are of our girls.As a woman that works out of the home as much as my husband I expect and he does contribute around the house as much as I do so therefore our sons should be held to the same expectations around the house as his sisters. There is no "the house is the woman's responsibility" around here. Now when there are large yard projects there are times he tackles the outside while I tackle inside but we're both helping and going with the projects we'd each prefer to tackle. When I am home in the summer and he's working I do try to get most of our housework done during the day while he's gone so both of us can have more restful evenings and weekends. We both cook, we both clean up, we both work on laundry, though he tends to tackle the outdoor work and I tend to do more of the actual house cleaning we've both pitched in on those when needed.  When I surveyed a group of moms online it was refreshing to see that for the most part it was similar experience in their modern day lives too with their husbands. The days of husband coming home after work and watching TV all night are over, but so are the days of mom being home all afternoon watching her soaps. When it comes to social expectations and norms I actually feel like from my childhood to my experiences now this is one of the things that has made the greatest gains. Equality when it comes to husband and wife and the running of the household will look different for every family but the important thing is that it's an agreed balance in whatever designation of who's responsible for what looks like for each family.

5. That the care of the children are primarily the woman’s responsibility:

Trust me I get it that mom tends to be the default parent. How often do kids walk right past dad next to the fridge to ask mom for milk in the next room? But men are just as capable and in many cases do as much care taking of their children as mom. My husband deals with the getting them ready and out the door every morning by himself, he knows how to change diapers quite well, he’s gotten up with them in the night, he’s taken them on his own to doctor’s appointment. And to act like “wow, you came to the store with the kids by yourself without your wife” is a compliment is actually insulting, insinuating that they are not capable of being the primary caretaker of their children when in fact they can be. This is where I feel men get hit with the negative side of flawed gender expectations in our society.

6. Women's battle with perfection to meet impossible expectations:

It’s interesting to me that women tend to battle with meeting perfection and have a higher case of mental disorders and attempted suicides than men.  I tend to believe because there is this social message out there that we’re not good enough. We’re not skinny or pretty enough because we don’t measure up to some absurd image of perfection that is posted all over magazines and the internet.  As women if the house or kids aren't taken care of a certain way then the blame falls at our feet because the expectation is those things are our responsibilities over the man's, but if he falls short it's "well, at least you tried or that's more than what some do" and he is excused. There is this impossible expectation that women need to do it all today with career and home, but not nearly as much social pressure for a man to meet these higher expectations of performance (not saying there's not the expectation in our own individual homes but it's not there socially for men to the same regard as it is to women). If a woman stays home she's criticized in one regard, yet if she works she's criticized in another. Yes, we could definitely make the connection that the same negative image is projected onto men that stay home because again to think it's acceptable for a woman to stay home with the kids and not the man, is feeding into those gender stereotypes that feed the reality of the inequality we still face.

7. Excusing boys behavior because "they re boys":

 As a mother to a son and a son who is my youngest child at that, I have to really self consciously train myself not to set this trap for him. I can’t excuse his inability to follow directions, for being too rough, for lacking a sense of responsibility and contribution to things around the house because “he’s the boy”.  We can't have the expectation that girls need to be quiet and obey, but excuse our boys from this "because they're boys". It's not right to either gender.

As a mother of a son and daughters, I am suddenly taking stock of how these social habits creep their way into my parenting because they do. If I don't self consciously check myself I continue to feed these unfair social norms to my daughters and son. Making change with these habits and expectations starts with how we treat our sons and daughters and husbands and wives in our own homes.  With not even touching on the political issues of equal pay or reproductive rights and women's health, these are gender issues that are still in need of correcting and change in our modern day 21st century society so when people say they're feminist or for gender equality there is still definitely progress to be made.

                                                           Photo provided by Guardian