Friday, December 14, 2012

Just. So. Awful.

I don't think I ever really felt fear before I was a parent.  For those of us who live regular, mundane lives - that is, lives that don't require us to perform super-human tasks in high-risk situations, those of us lucky to never see combat or face enemies - there really isn't a reason to.  But once I became a parent, a tiny pocket of fear started creeping deep down inside me.  Not so much a fear of living, but more a worry.

At first, I worried that something could happen to me, and I'd leave my children, already once parentless, motherless again.  Perhaps that is narcissistic of me.  But I remember joking the first time Jason and I took a trip together, without the children, that perhaps we should take separate flights.

Then I also worried that I would lose one of them.  And not just in that moment-of-panic-because-my-2-year-old-just-ran-into-the-middle-of-the-street fear.  That (fortunately) is just a passing fear (at least it was for me).  But I remember driving down the freeway on my way to work one day before Tate underwent his cleft palate surgery, as I passed the hospital where he would be treated and worrying about how I would cope if something went wrong during that surgery.  That was a selfish fear, I suppose.  And of course Tate is fine.

But now, here I sit at the computer, my children are safely playing games and watching TV in the other room while noodles for Kraft Mac n Cheese boil on the stove, and I'm reminded of my parental fear again.  I'm not even sure if my children know what happened in Connecticut today.  I don't want to tell them if they don't.  There's no need for them to be afraid to go to school. 

I know that I am very lucky.  I can anticipate a holiday season filled with smiles and happy memories.  And I can only imagine the emptiness and shock that families living through the Connecticut tragedy must feel.  This should be a time for hope, not horror.  A time for giving instead of grieving.  A time for sharing, not taking from others.  I certainly didn't need a reminder of how lucky I am.  I know it.  I believe it every day.

I know what happened can't be ignored.  Our school district-- completely across the country and about as far away from Connecticut you can get while staying in the 48 contiguous states-- sent out a statement about school safety and the availability of crisis counselors for children in the district.  But I think the best advice I've seen as a parent was this quotation by Mr. Rogers (it's been posted in several places):
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
I can't stop bad things from happening.  But I can choose to focus on the good in humanity in spite of the bad things.  And that's a good lesson for me to remember.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Pedagogical Criticism

I admit it.  I have opinions about what my kids should be doing in school.  In many ways, I am much more hands-off than other parents, I think.  Even when I disagree with what a teacher is focusing on, and even when I wish a teacher might handle something differently, it's actually pretty rare for me to say something.  Mostly, I figure my kids will have to learn lots of different ways to get along in the world, and they will have to work with and for lots of different people.

But sometimes, teachers do things that are stupid things.  Not just silly mistakes- we all make mistakes.  But stupid, wrong things.

For example:
Why, why, why does my fourth grader have to study his "spelling" words (which are really vocabulary words) so that he can recite them word-for-word.  And write them that way, too?

To me, this is stupid.  It does him no good to recite a definition if he does not really understand it.  It is especially stupid when those definitions include other words that could probably be vocabulary words in themselves.  Doesn't it make more sense for him to define the word using his own words?  Then he at least demonstrates - on some level - his understanding of the words.

Another example:
When my child happens to omit or mis-spell a word in the definition he has memorized (or attempted to memorize), why, why, why does he have to write the words, in isolation, 5-10 times each?  What is the value in that?  We are not talking about words that a kid needs to practice either.  One week Casey had to write out the words, "of" and "where" five times each because he left them out of the definition.  Even though he totally knows how to spell them.  One week, he had to write the word "physical" ten times.  Even though on his test he spelled it how his teacher spelled it the first day she introduced the definition ("phisical").  She subsequently corrected her spelling.  But I don't think Casey should be punished when he learned it how she originally wrote it.

And that's what the silly exercise is-- punishment. It's writing to punish kids.  Which angers me, too.

But what's the point in expressing any of this to his teacher?  It will make her angry and defensive. Even though she's wrong.  Sigh.