Another Good Day Done

6:20 Clock alarm with NPR

stay in bed while Dan makes “the donuts” (coffee)

listen to Story Corps

6:45 hop out of bed thinking it’s early but it’s late

6:55 Wake Maxson up

7:00 Tell Maxson to get up or he’ll be late for his exam

7:15 eat two gorgeous poached eggs on toast with a cup of coffee

7:30 say goodbye to Maxson and wish him luck on his math test

7:40 Hop in the shower and start morning get ready routine

8:30 arrive at school

8:50 – Young Fives room is set for the day

9:00 start one on one Reading Recovery lessons with first graders

12:15 Lunch of left-overs in Teachers’ lounge

12:30 Greet Young Fives for the afternoon

1:00 – Mr. Stegink reads “The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend” as Mystery Reader

1:20 – Third grade Buddy Class – great things happen when multi-age kids come together

1:55 – Friday recess duty. It’s beautiful day!

2:35 – Taking pictures of Griffen washing the tables. I’ll send it to his mom because he is being big boy.

2:37 – Griffen pinches his finger on the spray bottle. It’s all over. He wants to go home.

3:45 – Bus duty.

5:45 – Leave school, go home, touch base with family, change

6:00 Jamberry Nail party at Shelli’s, good teacher talk time

11:00 Home, jammies, blog

12:00 post – another good day. Looking forward to my girl day with Susie tomorrow.

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I am. I am not.

I am not…

I am not who you think I am after a few casual conversations.

I am not my mother.

I am not done taking risks and pushing myself.

I am not done learning.

I am not conservative.

I am not a linear thinker.

I am not a fluffy headed person.

I am not easily offended.

I am not political.

I am not weak.

I am…

I am a person who keeps herself pretty guarded.

I am a mother.

I am inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do the thing you think you cannot do”

I am passionate about learning and stretching myself.

I am a big picture thinker with a little dose of impulsiveness.

I am a believer in the rising tide which lifts all boats.

I am a sharp cookie.

I am forgiving.

I am well versed in politics.

I am a product of my childhood in many ways.

I am strong and  resilient.

They Come Through You But They are Not From You

Your children are not your children

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you
And though they are with you they belong not to you
You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
They have their own thoughts
You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams
You can try to be like them
But you can not make them just like you..
.

I am pretty sure I had nothing to do with the way my kids have turned out. My husband and I raised our boys in this house together. We had strong ideas about what kind of parents we wanted to be and what kind of kids we wanted to raise.  We like to think of ourselves as progressive, open-minded people. We like to think of ourselves as accepting. We like to think of ourselves as people who think everyone should have a fair shake in life. Yet, somehow, we ended up with young adults who are much better certainly than I am. They are kinder people. They are more in tune with those who marginalized in our society. They see beauty in people. They seek justice. They are lovers of animals. And they have faith that they can make their world a better place. They certainly have their own thoughts. I sure do enjoy watching them emerge into young adulthood. If you have had any involvement in raising children you know that they become their own person. All you can do is stand back and admire what they have become.

Heidi – I wish you well.

Heidi, I always knew this night was coming. I said farewell to you. But not goodbye. While I wish you new discoveries and much self-actualization in your new California home, I must admit that I  hope to see you back in Michigan a few years down the road. I know California calls you and you itch to leave West Michigan. We are a little too midwesternly for you. I do hope you find people who recognize your amazing talent. I hope you love the weather and the socio-politics of northern California. I hope you find a circle of friends who inspire you. You deserve it. Really. But when you are done…please come back to your Book Club girlfriends in West Michigan. We know you.

Some Things in Life Are Hard

Some things in life are hard.

They’re supposed to be…

hard.

Parenting and friendship.

Neither have ever been a walk in the park or a 1970’s sitcom thank you very much.

Sometimes they need, need, need everything you are capable of,

and more.

You need each other.

You starve, shrivel, dry up without them. You suffocate with them.

You swear they’ll suck the very life right out of you.

They send you to hell and back.

Yet, they lift you up.

The struggle is the gift.

Some things in life are worthwhile.

They’re supposed to be.

Slow Exhale

I’ve been told before, “Your sons are not the same”. I didn’t need to be told that. When they were little they looked very much alike and although they are 21 months apart strangers would stop and ask me if they were twins. They both were tow head blonds with bowl cuts. But, that is where the likeness ended. Tanner was as effervescent as his younger brother, Maxson was cautious and shy. This is a story about Maxson. I’ll tell the lesson of this story upfront. It goes something like this. “What you focus on grows” or “children are resilient in spite of their parents” or something like that.

Maxson has always been reserved and while he is a very intelligent person with a quick engineering mind, a traditional school setting has never been the place where he shines. Give him a project, something to fix, or something to build and he will dazzle you! This is his senior year in high school and last fall I had reason to panic because senioritis seemed to be kicking in early and with a vengeance. I know that all seniors go through this to a degree. Yet, I kicked into “I will drag you across that graduation stage” mom mode. I arranged for him to work with a couple of subject area tutors every week. Looking back this was probably overkill. He probably didn’t need it as much as I needed to do it.

A mere three months later and this young man has matured and risen to the challenges in his life that stand between him and that graduation stage. He gave a presentation in our faith congregation today about the Boy Scout Eagle project he is organizing  which he needs to be complete within weeks after his graduation. On his own he also arranged for a job at Gerber Boy Scout camp this summer. How did things turn around so quickly for this young man? Maybe it was because he started seeing that he was capable of success. Maybe he saw his parents’ faith in him. Maybe success breeds success. Maybe his latent resiliency was there all the time and I worried for nothing. What I do know is that I am damn proud of this kid! He’s going be fine. Exhale…

There’s Something About Kids and Water

“Do we have to wear our coats?” Today was my recess duty day. After a long winter of wearing my snow pants, coat, neck gator, mittens, and hat I was able to go outside with – nothing extra on but my puddle boots. The playground is one big melting mess with puddles and streams running through melting snow, ice, and mud. The kids were required to wear snow pants and boots to keep their clothes dry. But no coats! Just try to keep kids out of water – it’s not possible. There is a magnetic attraction. Some teachers get really perturbed with the kids playing in the puddles. When I look down at the streams of water running across the playground I am taken back to my own childhood. I remember a similar spring day when I found a stream of water amongst melting the ice and snow. I took off my boots and socks, rolled up my pant legs and waded in. It was exhilarating! It was mystical. I was really getting away with something. This memory is one of my most treasured. So when I see the school kids wading into the water as if drawn by some overwhelming unconscious power. I remember the feeling. Oh, I remember!

Poverty Simulation

Tonight I attended a Poverty Simulation with my school colleagues. Although I had attended the same simulation several years ago when I worked for a non-profit healthcare agency, I saw things with new eyes tonight. I teach in a fairly affluent suburban district. However, my school is on the edge of the district and is therefore more diverse ethnically and socio-economically. We are a Title I school with about 20% of our student population qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Poverty is a reality for many of our families. My hope is that this experience is not a one shot deal. My hope is that we go back to our building tomorrow and start having those really frank conversations about how we can become more supportive and welcoming to families in crisis. I really think our staff needs to do this in order to meet the needs of all of our students. I am anxious to have conversations about requiring families to provide teacher gift money, field trip money, classroom supplies, a daily snack for their child, and the never ending fundraisers. I also think we need to rethink family involvement. I am a strong believer that schools need strong family relationships in order for students to be successful. I am also a strong believer that we need to teach parents how to support their children academically. We need to hold family reading and writing nights and demonstrate how to do a family read aloud. We need to have family math nights and have families play math games with their children. I truly believe that schools need to help families give their children the support they need. We need to help parents develop strong bonds with their children. We need to provide families with links to community resources. And more than anything we need to suspend all judgement of families who don’t seem to measure up to our middle class family ideals. We need to assume that all parents, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status love their children and want the very best for them.

7 Lessons Learned from Teaching

I have learned so much and I have learned so little. I have come so far and I have so far, far to go.

1. Teaching really is about building relationships with kids. Every child wants to look into the eyes of her teacher and know she is loved, known, and respected.

2. I believe families know their children the best and want the best for them. I want parents to know that we are in a partnership for the success of their child emotionally, socially, and academically. Every year my families are the best!

3. Every day is a new day. A chance to begin again. This is true for me and this is true for the kids. You can be sure that I made mistakes as a teacher today. I am reassured by the fact that the sun will come up again tomorrow and I will again give it my very best shot. I want my students to feel the same way.

4. It is important to plan everything. I need to know what it is I want my students to learn with each lesson. I need to have learning targets posted, refer to them, and ask for personal ratings.

5. It is important to not plan everything. Sometimes our best learning happens when we have a spontaneous class meeting to talk about how name calling makes us feel and breaks the promise to “Be Kind” that we made to each other on the first day of school.

6. Read Aloud is the one thing I will not sacrifice in a busy schedule. It’s too big of a sacrifice.

7. Passion for learning is contagious! If I’m engaged, excited, and learning my students are engaged, excited, and learning!

10 Things- Right Now

These are ten of the things on my mind right now.

1. It’s late – Maxson needs to get to bed. He has an Algebra quiz in the morning and needs his rest. But, he is a Senior so I should let go and let him feel the natural consequences of his decision to stay up too late. Parenting is always rife with self-doubt.

2. The 50th anniversary march from Selma happened on Sunday. Thinking of Reverend Colleen and her wife, Linda, who were able to march. Can’t wait to hear their reaction.

3. I have a poverty simulation on Thursday. I did one when I worked at Planned Parenthood several years ago. I am really looking forward to going through this experience again with my teacher colleagues. I am hoping for a lot of good conversation around Collins Elementary on the topic of poverty. We are a Title I school and I feel that we need to improve our sensitivity to kids and families who are living on the edge.

4. I am anxious about turning out my light. I am wondering if my sleep will be restless as it has been the past few nights. I might need to try some Melatonin. Wakefulness at night does not make me want to hit the grounding running in the morning.

5. I can’t wait to finish the bulletin board I started this evening about my students’ responses to “Have You Seen My Dragon?”

6. I am concerned about connecting with Carter tomorrow. I recently read an article about connecting with students for 10 seconds per day for 10 days total. It’s the 10 X 10 plan for improving behavior. Mike Pickard, former principal at Meadowbrook Elementary in Kentwood, Michigan taught me the value of building relationships with kids. The relationship is the foundation on which all learning is built. I am struggling right now with Carter. I am struggling to build a strong foundation with him. Right now he doesn’t seem to care about his relationship with his peers. He is very young but his peers are getting impatient with his impulsivity. I am trying to catch him when he is engaged and keeping his hands to himself. I am hopeful that this approach will help him be successful.

7. I am worried about my cat, Scarlett. I haven’t taken her to the vet for a while and she has been sneezing lately. Her appetite seems good and she seems to be acting normally. Still, I do need to make that appointment.

8. I want to be able to get up early to read. I am not good at this at all. I am certainly not a night owl but lately I’ve had a hard time getting out of bed. I am hoping to have enough inspiration to get up early tomorrow morning. I know I’ll enjoy it. I am actually a morning person. I relish an easy beginning to my day. I’ll get up early, make a press of coffee, and curl up with my afghan and “Land Line”.

9. Tomorrow is Wednesday, a very busy day at chez Stegink. Maxson has Boy Scouts. He needs to get working on his final merit badges. I am so proud of him for being withing spitting distance of his Eagle rank. But, he needs to follow through on so much before he turns 18 in less than three months. My fingers are crossed and I am doing the mom nudge.

10. I am looking forward to spring break. I am looking forward to family time. I am looking forward to spending time with my niece, Katie. Katie just graduated from my Alma Mater with her teaching degree. It is fun to have another educator in the family. And have I mentioned how proud I am of her? We’ll have so much fun together on spring break and I plan to spoil her. I am so grateful for my family. Tanner, my eldest, is spending his spring break with his cousin, Brendan, in Asheville, NC. Brendan is Katie’s older brother. We have spent vacations together several times in the past. Some of our favorite family memories are of vacations we took with my sister, Lynnette, and her two children, Katie and Brendan.