Think More, Do Less 

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Do you ever stop and ask yourself, is what I’m doing getting me to my end goal? I do it all the time. There can be a million people following a process but if it doesn’t make sense to me, I’m just not going to do it. I question everything big or small to make sure I am not wasting time going through motions that do nothing to advance my agenda. Just tonight I helped my son study for a history exam. They were given the blank, study guide at the end of class. Did I mention the test is tomorrow? So, we spent the night searching for answers to questions that may or may not be right that get handed in tomorrow before the exam for a grade. No one goes over the questions to make sure these kids have the right answers. They go through the motions of studying information that they think is right but what if it’s not? Is there no such thing as common sense anymore? Who is accountable and for what exactly? I’m really confused about the point behind this process. We had 1.5 hours of chemistry tutoring that should have taken 45 minutes but because of the busy, useless work that came before, he was distracted when I needed him to be focused. And then we spent the rest of the night drilling in answers that we have no idea are right because of course they are worded with trickery. School just seems like such a waste of time these days and I am losing my enthusiasm due to the uselessness of the process. I can’t help and wonder if teachers ever question if this method makes any sense. I just don’t get it. Be a thinker. Be open to change. Check if what you are doing is helping you achieve a certain outcome. Don’t blindly follow. Find your own path and lead. We need more leaders and less followers. More thinkers and less aimless doers. 

When School Fails the Child

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I had one of those dreaded meetings today. Just like many other times, the short time revolved around the teacher defending her teaching techniques rather than how we could work together to come up with a plan to help Chase be more successful in the classroom. I don’t know how to tell teachers that none of this is about them personally. Every year, another teacher is replaced by a new face. What I do find disturbing is their unwillingness to budge from their ways. As a parent of a kid who struggles more than most would understand, I have had to admit to myself that he just does not learn like other students. Teachers make assumptions about him based on other children and I really think it’s unfair. One obvious example is this teacher told me when she tells the students to brainstorm what the answer might be or why an experiment might turn out one way or another, he just sits there and writes nothing. Instead of asking why, she jumped to her most obvious conclusion. When I explained that Chase does the brainstorming in his head and a few minutes does not allow him to get his thoughts from his brain through his pencil and onto his paper, I think she finally understood. He is often misjudged in the classroom and so many things could be cleared up if the teacher simply asked. I get they have a lot of students but he is just as worthy of learning as every other kid sitting at a desk in a class. It’s not his fault and I wish teachers understood the amount of sacrifice, anxiety and extra hours these kids put in just to keep their heads above the water. It makes me sad that it’s the same conversation every single time. My heart breaks every night before I go to sleep wondering what ball will fall on top of him the following day. It’s always something and the anxiety it causes all of us is excruciating beyond belief. Shout out to parents who know this struggle. My love and support go out to you because I know the toll this takes on you too. Sometimes I wish I could do a reality show on this subject. One that might actually change what is going on in our public schools and give these kids the break they need to survive a school system who will never meet their needs. 

You Are Wrong

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There are days I get so angry that I don’t see in myself what I so readily see in others. I preach about building others up and at the same time I fail with my own child. How often do I tell him what he gets wrong? How often do I bring up a conversation about something that has resulted in his failure?  How many times can a kid hear, you are a screw up and you can’t do anything right? How many times can you beat a kid down before he just stops trying to get back up? How many times can you say your best is never good enough? Is this the only voice he ever hears? Could it be? Here is a perfect example in this email that I received yesterday from his teacher.

On Quiz #3 Chase didn’t include the reasoning and evidence part of the explanation. He touched on one of the three but did not explain why those results occurred due to molecular level interactions (which is the standard). On the second question he did a great job at explaining why water had a stronger surface tension than ethanol however that is not what the question asked; the question was about why ethanol had a weaker surface tension than water. 

 The result? A 45. Call me crazy but isn’t explaining why water has a stronger surface tension than ethanol the same as explaining why ethanol has weaker surface tension than water? 

Am I like this teacher too rigid and closed off to see his right in this so called wrong? Am I more focused on proving myself right than allowing him the opportunity to be right?

So many questions. So much guilt. So much struggle with trying to be a decent parent. Maybe I am too hard. Maybe the teacher is too hard. Maybe the world is becoming hard. Maybe parenting is too hard. 

Lord, help me to remember how important my voice is and to use that voice to make my child feel good about himself. Help me see more opportunities to commend him and hold my tongue when I have the urge to criticize. Please help me make him feel more like an A instead of a failing grade. Take my hand and guide me in raising this child and elevating his self esteem. I know I cannot do this alone.

Amen

Follow Up to Pride or Love 

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I waited with a heavy heart for my daughter to come home. I kept seeing the image of her face as she drove away. It’s not easy being a mom sometimes. When your child hurts, the pain for a parent is excruciating. This is her senior year. Naturally I want it to be special but there will always be some bumps and bruises along the way. The last words I spoke to her echoed in my mind. Try and have a good time. Find new people who feel like your people. They are out there, just look.

 For those of you who did not read my first post, Pride or Love, the dilemma was whether or not she should get on the senior party bus for the semi- formal dance. There would be many kids on that bus who made her contemplate whether she should get on it or not. They are kids who behave in a way she doesn’t support but it was the senior party bus and everyone wanted to be on it. The problem was, everyone was not really given the opportunity. Through bullying or mocking of just plain “meanness”, some kids would not be permitted to step foot on the popular bus.

Hours later she arrived home looking very relaxed. She took control of her own destiny and ultimately her own happiness. She gave up her seat on the party bus and she stayed at the dance. Whether she knows it not, she made an important choice last night that I hope will be the first of many to come.  She did what was right for her own soul. Popularity, being part of the big, popular crowd was not worth sacrificing her own self worth. She is more like her mom than I ever imagined and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s easy to step on the party bus. It’s easy to get lost in a crowd. What isn’t easy is standing on that curb alone while the bus pulls away. She is enough without the crowd, looking more beautiful than ever as she waves goodbye and the bus pulls out of sight.

Yes, Virginia, the  School System is Flawed

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I could be way off but I really believe it takes more than one person to make or break something. I am seeing all this speaking out against Betsy Devos. I don’t know anyone personally who has had a worst experience than myself when it comes to the public school system. I can tell you from experience that if you have a child who has learning disabilities or simply difficulties, the school system is a total failure. I have lived in three states and experienced schools at the elementary, middle and now high school level. I think people forget where the funding comes from and who decides to what and where the money goes. I can also say with confidence that the entire system is broken. I don’t care who is in charge, the change has to happen on a large scale level and I haven’t found a school system yet that even cooperates with the way the system is set up. The schools I have been a part of actually receive funding to help kids like my son and even though he has a 504, they refuse to follow it. Last year I had a teacher refuse to supply him with notes even though it is an accommodation on his plan. When I spoke with the principal, he supported the teacher not to give notes because this man was so brilliant he taught from his head. By law, that school was required to supply those notes. When I asked for a textbook or something that would possibly help him, I was told they had no way of getting their hands on one. I volunteered to sit in a class during state testing and counted 34 old textbooks in the course I needed help with sitting on a shelf and not being used. They flat out lied to me in that meeting and had the resources there all along. They collect money everytime they pass go. I can tell you the money isn’t being used for  what it was meant for. I haven’t found one school who held any interest in doing anything to help him and they ignore and spit on his accommodations. So what does that have to do with DeVos? Do I think she or anyone else has the experience or knowledge to change the current problems in our education system? No I do not. But I do believe we need to gut the whole process and start completely over. It takes more than one person to raise, build or maintain a village. People need to wake up and admit the problems are much deeper than we pretend them to be. I don’t have any answers but I do agree the public school system is widely flawed.

Stay Calm

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This week I am having a relapse. I can feel the anxiety building a little more each day. This is a stressful time of year. Not only are the holidays approaching that bring with them shopping, packing, traveling, family but also final exams. It’s been a full on study-fest here the last few nights along with writing and editing papers. I am relieved that this will all come to an end on Friday and then we can finally move on to eating cookies, singing Christmas carols, and packing. I struggle often with the pull I feel toward education. I really believe my calling is the classroom and the more I watch my own kids go through the system, the more I see the need for some new ideas. I watch these kids trying to fill out packets of questions to review for their exams fully knowing that no one intends to go over it with them. If these kids struggled through the information on previous tests and quizzes, how in the world will they now magically understand it for a final exam? Does no one consider the answers on their “study guide” will most likely be wrong and they will waste time studying information that is just not accurate? Does it not make sense that the reviews should be teacher lead to possibly make the information stick this time? Is it realistic to give kids three class periods to sit and work independently when a review is meant to go over what has already been learned and not spend countless hours searching for answers that will be too late to study? Does the review really have to be handed out the week of finals? Wouldn’t it have made since to give it the weekend before? I don’t know. I guess having a kid who struggles in school has forced me to see the education system a new way. The bottom line though is every teacher has the freedom to run their class a certain way and I don’t see much benefit or value the way my kids teachers are running theirs. So much wasted time. So much busy work. Quantity without quality. I just don’t get it. Many of my kids teachers are kids themselves so they view the process from a different set of eyes. I guess they too will see the many flaws as they watch their own kids enter middle and high school. Oh the joys of being a stressed out parent. Time to hit the treadmill and run away from it all.

A Reason To Be Grateful

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We all need that one person who is always there in our time of need. Recently for me, that someone has come on the form of a seventeen year old girl who has been tutoring my son through algebra and now geometry. It’s amazing how one small person can make an enormous difference in someone’s life. Not only does she help him get through worksheets and exams but she takes a tremendous amount of stress and worry off my hands. So tonight, on this last day of November, I am grateful for this girl and hope she finds someone as reliable in her own life as she has been in ours. What are you grateful for tonight?