Sunday, October 31, 2010

Restoring my Sanity

For the last ten years I've encouraged my students to make a difference, to speak out against injustice, to act out in politics or even in their local communities.  I've done this as a teacher who wants to change the world, but I haven't really practiced what I preach.  I haven't taken a stand.

Until this weekend.

This past weekend, I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC.  Though I enjoy Jon Stewart and his "tell-it-like-it-is" wit, he is not the reason I abandoned my work-related responsibilities and my family for two days.  I went in search of like-minded people who despise the polarized political system of the USA.  I accepted the hits from my husband who said, "Do you really think you are going to make a difference?"  and the queries from my more conservative friends who said, "Huh?"

I found on the lawn of the national mall approximately 200,000 people who shared my view, as Stewart eloquently explained near the end of the three-hour rally, that people are able to compromise every day.  We work together, despite our individual beliefs, to accomplish amazing feats.  Life isn't about red and blue - and like I try to teach my children, it's not about yelling "I'm right" without listening to the other view and admitting that "I might be wrong."  I want my children to grow to be reasonable, and I want to remind myself to be reasonable in the face of insanity, or what I think is insanity.  It is for these reasons that I traveled  to Washington and staked out my lawn seat near the front of the massive crowd.  And I'm invigorated to have spent 7 hours with 200,000 of my closest "friends" in this endeavor.

Despite the slant that either the liberal or conservative media will put on the rally, I will remember the energy buzzing though the crowd, and I will know that for the first time, I acted, rather than encouraged others to act, and I'm proud to have been a part of such an encouraging crowd of sanity.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mama's got too much homework

My children went to school without jackets today.  I know this because my husband said to me tonight while we were standing in the kitchen and I was sifting through the mountain of paper that had come from two little backpacks, "Is it bad that I took the kids to school without jackets today?"  I nearly exploded.

The question itself sparked my ire because the kids are both fighting colds, and it was a chilly morning.  For that reason alone they needed jackets.  What made me even madder, however, was the fact that my husband had obviously not read ANY of the paperwork that the preschool has sent home in the last few weeks.  In nearly every letter, and we receive at least one per week in each child's backpack, the teachers stressed how important jackets are because the children go outside to play every day.  There is no question after reading these notices that the kids need to wear, or at least carry, jackets to school.

I was angry, I think, because I have entirely too much to remember right now.  My colleagues told me yesterday that I am the task master of the group; they also told me I am doing too much at work.  I agree, but I'm not sure how to slow down the frenetic pace that has become my job.  So I just keep plugging away, staying just ahead of the next at bat, and failing miserably at keeping my various projects organized in any coherent fashion.

I have been managing a little better at home, completing preschool paperwork, scheduling doctor appointments, and completing house maintenance with a bit less chaos around me.  At least this is what I thought until I emptied the backpacks tonight.

The weekly teacher-letters informed me of the content of the kids' classes this week.  Like always, I struggled initially to match the "yellow" and "red" content to the correct child.  Once I did, I asked my son to show me how he learned to make an "L" with his left hand.  I continued to skim the letter, noting that the teachers encouraged us to help our child learn to put on his coat independently.  They shared the strategy that they are using in school to accomplish this feat, but I couldn't quite understand the description.  I was exhausted, and I couldn't focus.

So I turned to my daughter's letter and discovered that the "red" class is also working on developing independence, specifically on putting on jackets.  Her teachers were even more direct in their suggestion that we help them to become independent by practicing at home what they had been doing in class.  They outlined a jacket-donning exercise that mirrored the one from the "yellow" letter.  I still couldn't grasp the mechanics of it.

Though perhaps it wasn't the intent of the letters, the message I got was, "your 3-year-old twins must both be able to put on their jackets independently by next week." I nearly cried.

After a long day in the city, ironically where I was teaching about reading comprehension, I could barely visualize the "lay it on the floor backward and flip flop over her head" strategy described in the "red" letter.  I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of directing both of my kids to independence in this task - and doing it so that we make some kind of progress in the next four days, three of which I am working. I knew my husband would not even read the letter so if I were to enlist his help, I'd have to decipher the instructions, explain it to him, give him a demo, and trust that he would relay the information to the sitter tomorrow morning and practice it with them himself on Saturday since I am working.

Managing to control the tears of frustration that threatened to fall, I tossed the letters back on the pile of papers and told my husband that I didn't think I could handle all of my work in addition to all of the "homework" that the kids were bringing home.   I suppose this year is preparing me for the realities of K-12 school, and I'm learning that being a parent in the parent-teacher-student triad is perhaps even more difficult than I had ever imagined.  But seriously, Mama has too much homework right now, so jacket independence will just have to wait.  As long as my husband can remember to send them with jackets to school, I'll let the teachers take the lead on this one.