As I write this I am sitting in front of what is known as the "Rosa Parks Bus." It is the bus that the famous incident involving Mrs. Parks refusing to give up her seat took place. In my research on the American Woman Parks' name has come up several times.
Let me back up. This week Logan and his buddy Derek are participating in Day Camp at the Henry Ford. The Henry Ford is like Disney World for history nerds and is a must see. The Henry Ford is made up of multiple institutions the main two being the Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village. When Henry Ford created them his goal was to tell history from the perspective of the average American. History is about presidents and important figures, but it's also about the innovations that impact our every day lives. Both the Village and Museum are dedicated to celebrating those innovations and honoring our nation's history.
So, back to the bus. In just the few minutes it's taken to type this, almost 50 people have climbed on and off the bus. A docent inside tells the story of that December day in Alabama and points out the seat that Parks refused to give up. The children inside excitedly vie to sit in the exact spot then skip off happy that they've experienced a part of history. There's even a Scandinavian tour group with professional film equipment filming about it. I have no idea what they are saying but it’s interesting to watch them explore the history of our country.
In my research about American women, I've come across Rosa Parks several times. Each time I've read that she is brave because she sat. When I read this it's felt like something has been missing. There were several people before Parks who were arrested for refusing to give up their seats which made me wonder what was different about their story. They sat. Why don't their names go down in history?
Oddly enough the answer came when I was reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In the chapter referring to habits of societies, Duhigg explains that Parks was a unique individual because of her character and her community involvement. "Parks' many friendships and affiliations cut across the city's racial and economic lines. She was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, attended the Methodist church, and helped oversee a youth organization at the Lutheran church near her home. She spent some weekends volunteering at a shelter, others with a botanical club, and on Wednesday nights often joined a group of women who knit blankets for a local hospital. She volunteered dressmaking services to poor families and provided last-minute gown alterations for wealthy white debutantes." He goes on to connect the facts and mentions that the previous riders who refused to move were arrested, but nothing came of it because they were unknowns, yet when Rosa Parks was arrested it caused a ripple through the community. She had invested her time in the community and that community came to her support.
But all that community doesn’t explain my discomfort with celebrating Rosa Parks for "sitting." Duhigg, after detailing Parks' community involvement, explained that the former leader of the Montgomery NAACP and a white lawyer named Clifford Durr bailed her out of jail. Community leaders had been looking for a case to challenge bus segregation and with Parks' sterling reputation they believed they had found a worthy cause to take to the courts. Parks' husband was initially opposed to the idea because he knew the danger she was putting herself in. Her husband's warning, "The white folks will kill you, Rosa," was not an empty worry. Threats of violence and death were common for those who dared to alter the status quo, but despite the possible danger, Parks allowed her case to be the rally point for the protests and the boycott. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and received multiple death threats. Yet, she didn't give in and she allowed her case to move through the courts. Eventually, they moved to Detroit hoping to start over after losing so much.
There! There it is! Now, I am beginning to understand what was so remarkable about her. She shouldn't be remembered as a woman who sat. She should be remembered for 1.) Her kindness and community involvement. 2.) Refusing to move despite knowing the possibility of arrest or physical violence. (I was told by the docent that the bus drivers often carried clubs or guns to enforce the rules.) 3.) Standing and allowing her arrest to be used in the court case that changed a city and became a major event in the Civil Rights Movement despite the costs. Too often we relegate people's stories to a paragraph and forget that their lives are as complicated and as deep as our own.
Rosa Parks' story is one of compassion, community, and courage. She didn't receive the notoriety she has today until much later in her life. In our culture of instant gratification, it is important to share that standing up for something and being remembered rarely happens for those who don't have a depth of character. We need to remember that standing for what you believe in is not easy and will likely not lead to fame and success, but doing something because you believe it is the right thing to do may just change the world.
Rosa Parks visited the Greenfield Village in 1992. These photos are of her at the Mattox House.
Last week in my post about summer break, I emphasized that school does not have a monopoly on learning. Summer can be all about the best kind of learning. The kind of learning that expands the mind. The kind of learning that leads to interesting places and people. The kind of learning I hope Logan will continue with for the rest of his life.
There are two parts of our summer bucket list this year. I want to visit some interesting places and try some fun things with Logan, but I also want to work organizing some areas in the house, improving math skills, and strengthening language skills. When considering academic work over summer break, I like to think of it as bonus time. We had too much homework for me to add on more during the school year so summer is the perfect time to learn a few things that will help with next year. I also want to play some fun games that teach as we play such as the periodic table battleship and the Pringles ring.
The second part of the list is all about the go. I'm currently obsessed with my National Park Passport book and I want to collect several stamps available in our area. Detroit is part of the Motor Cities National Historic Area so several museums offer the National Park Passport stamp. On the list below, the areas with the available stamp have the green letters next to them identifying what they are. (Key below). Will we make it to all these places? Absolutely not, but we will have fun trying and often we get to them during days off school and weekends.
Without further ado, here is the Gies 2019 Summer Bucket List.
Visit Niagara Falls
Visit Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS
Take piano lessons
Visit Whiting Forest
Clean out guest room closet
Visit River Raisin NBP
Study Men and Women in the Word with She/He Reads Truth
Learn about the law of diminishing returns with ice cream
Visit Cranbrook Gardens
Go to a baseball game
Host a class party
Day camp at the Henry Ford
Visit Stahls Automotive Foundation NHA
Ride bikes to downtown Rochester
Family game night
Visit the Edsel Ford House and Gardens NHA
Play the license plate game
Visit Cambridge Junction Historic State Park NHA
Build an egg drop
Visit the Detroit Zoo
Read and complete Big Life Journal
Visit the Toledo Zoo with Fougeres
Family movie night
Memorize the definitions for the parts of speech
Visit Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes NL
Jackson Pollock Painting
Visit Yankee Air Museum NHA
Play periodic table battleship
Visit the GM Renaissance Center NHA
Build a LEGO fortress
Visit Meadowbrook Hall NHA
Visit Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society NHA
Make a Pringles Ring
Plant giant sunflowers
Read a biography of Bob Ross
Finish London puzzle
Visit the Detroit Historical Museum NHA
Finish toy puzzle
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts NHA
Memorize times tables
Read Treasure Island
We're ready to grow and go!
NHA - National Historic Area, NBP - National Battlefield Park, NHS - National Historic Site, NL - National Lakeshore
Confession: I have been working on this post for a few days now. I planned to talk about the word hubris, and maybe I will someday, but after reading and writing for several hours, I have decided to go in a completely different direction. Has that ever happened to you? I thought I knew what I was writing about but as I studied and thought I realized that the material was diverging from my original thoughts. This feeling, though somewhat discombobulating (another great word), is what I love about learning. I was not incorrect in my original direction, but the opportunity to learn something new took me down an intriguing path. Come walk with me.
My grandfather was an artist by trade and along the way, he collected some interesting books about art. One of them is called Shepp's Photographs of the World. The copyright is listed as 1892. The good old days of 1892. Everything was better back then. Well, maybe not everything. There were no antibiotics. The country treated people of color with the understanding that they were lesser citizens. The life expectancy was 48.4. But it was an exciting time. Things were looking good for the United States. Grover Cleveland was fighting the spoils system and we were had not yet fought in the Spanish-American War so there was no need to, "Remember the Maine." The country was healing from the Civil War and figuring out a new path as a united nation. Rapid changes in the world filled people with wonder and optimism. The Bessemer process had revolutionized the steel making process and railroads were connecting people in ways that had previously seemed unimaginable. The publication date is almost the end of the Gilded Age, which I just learned because I Googled it, was named that because it looked like a Golden Age, but things underneath were less than perfect. (Thank you Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner for that excellent description.) Side note: I had learned that it was the Gilded Age but never grasped the meaning behind the term. Interesting.
Today's Word: Limn
One syllable. Pronounced [lim]. verb. Defined in the OAD as to depict or describe someone or something in painting or words. As I said, this word wasn't my first choice to write about, but as I was writing about Shepp's Photographs of the World I was quoting from the preface and came across this word which I had never taken the time to look up. Let me continue with my explanation about the book and you'll see the word come up in context.
My favorite part of Shepp's Photographs of the World is the preface. Most of the book is photographs of monuments, cities, and natural landmarks. There are some photos of famous works of art. The premise as explained in the preface is that few people will ever be able to travel around the world and see all the wonders it has to offer and even if they can travel, they won't make it to all the places to see all the things.
". . . a trip around the world, in the literal sense, would reveal to the traveler only a portion of its scenes of interest. Many of its greatest wonders lie off the line of circumnavigation and require to be reached by special journeys. To really see the world, one must explore it, seeking out spots to the north and south at every stage of the voyage " They mention that a newspaper reporter outdid "Mr. Phineas Fogg's famous flying voyage of eighty days," but continue on saying that a trip at this pace leaves little time for any sightseeing. The preface continues, "Fortunately for the public, the perfection of the art of photography . . . have rendered it possible to bring the whole world home to anyone's door in a manner heretofore unknown. The panorama of the world has been limned by the sun to such an extent that there is no longer an excuse for our remaining in ignorance of its most inaccessible or remote marvels. We can surround ourselves, in our own homes, with the scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for us, often at the cost of their lives, and visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from our own firesides."
Since first reading it, I've loved the part where it says "the perfection of the art of photography" because this is 1892. Photography was far from perfected. But today I noticed that word limned and I realized that they are saying that the sun has allowed for the depictions of these great places. The sun. Because photography is light [photo] writing [graph]. Aaaaahhhhhh!!! Isn't that so cool!?!?!
Looking through the book I see recognizable monuments, but the descriptions are no longer accurate. For example, on page 159 the Eiffel Tower is described as "being the loftiest monument in the world." In the photo of the Arch de Triumph, there is no Tomb of the Unknown Soldier because that wasn't built until the Great War. The Brooklyn Bridge is described as "by far the largest suspension bridge yet constructed".
After perusing the pages and exploring from my house, I remember the admonishment in the preface to the readers of 1892 that there is no longer an excuse for remaining ignorant of the world around them because photography made the world accessible. If the 1892 audience has no excuse where does that leave the 2019 audience? I don't believe that photography or cinematography have been perfected, but they are beyond impressive. Most of us have access to the world at our fingertips. (If you have access to Google Earth then this is you.) There are also excellent documentaries and shows about the world that allow us so much access to the incredible and awe-inspiring. So as I close today, I give you (and myself) the same admonishment the author gave in 1892 - Surround yourselves with scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for you. Visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from your own home. Travel is wonderful and I encourage it, but a lack of funds to travel does not limit the amount you can expose yourself to the magnificent world around you.
Yes, okay. It is very unprofessional and definitely not grammatically correct to use all those exclamation points but this is a whole month dedicated to reading. A whole month! Dedicated to reading and books!!!! That deserves the use of gratuitous exclamation points if ever anything did. Every March, reading month is celebrated in schools across the country. Why March? Well, it's because Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904, and he made significant strides in encouraging children to read. If you want to know more about his contributions I would recommend Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan.
Anyway, schools across America will be doing all kinds of different reading programs to encourage reading among the students. Being a dedicated reader, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. When I was a first year English teacher I required the reading of the text book and possibly one outside book, but other nothing in addition. I was often asked by parents, "How can I get my child to read?" As my teaching progressed and I grew as a teacher, reader, and learner, I discovered that motivating others to read was more about leading by example than finding clever external motivations. Here are some things I learned along the way and have helped me grow reading programs and encourage life long learners.
Never stop learning, Friends!
While in Kennebunkport on a church trip as a high schooler, I purchased a funny puppet. It was Lowly Worm from the Richard Scarry stories. Lowly cracked me up and I was a impulsive kid with disposable funds. We had fun with him on the trip even posing him with sites as we drove across the country. After coming home Lowly went into a box that wasn't opened again until Logan was around two years old.
It was love at first sight. Since Logan was two Lowly has been his favorite companion. Watching Logan cuddle wit his worm has been entertaining to say the least. Logan has stacks of Richard Scarry books which have increased his curiosity and reading skills. Over the years Lowly has become dirty and his cloth has worn thin. Last year, we found the Doll Hospital and Toy Solider Shop in Berkley and had scheduled to bring Lowly in for repairs, but it went out of business before we could have Lowly fixed. Logan was crushed. He was heartbroken about Lowly's seemingly irreversible condition. Jason searched the internet and found a shop out in California. For over year we've talked about sending Lowly out west, but Logan wouldn't hear of it.
Finally after much convincing and confirming that the nice lady who fixes children's beloved stuffed animals wouldn't do anything to hurt Lowly we have sent him off.
This morning my heart ached to see Logan so scared and afraid. He was worried about Lowly getting lost in transit. He's worried about the California wildfires. He worried about earthquakes. He's worried. So we prayed. We prayed that Lowly would return to us safe and sound. We prayed that he would come back good as new and last for many years to come. Then after we prayed, I prayed. I prayed that Logan's prayers would be answered. I know he's just a worm, but if anything happens I'm afraid of how it will impact Logan's faith. He is convinced that God will take care of Lowly, but life experience has taught me that things do not always go the way I want them to. God sometimes chooses not to answer with, "Yes," but how would Logan deal with that loss?
"Trust God," is excellent advise and I believe that is true, but it's also hard. God's way is best, but often there are trials associated with that trust. I remember what it was like to love my stuffed animal friends. I didn't have a house full of siblings or tons of friends. The bond I felt with my stuffed animals was strong enough that I still feel emotionally connected to them. As I pray for Logan, I know that it will be alright. Whatever happens. But that is hard. So tonight I find myself praying for a worm and his cross country journey. Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.
One of my favorite shows growing up was the A-Team. The falsely accused Green Berets hid out in the Los Angles underground helping underdogs that were being oppressed. Often they would be overtaken and locked up by the bad guys or trapped by some scheme. (Inexplicably, they were always trapped with lots of power tools and fixable equipment.) The leader, Hannibal Smith, would devise a plan and the team would execute it. After achieving victory, he would always say, "I love it when plan comes together."
As a learner, I love it when my reading combines to form a concrete and deeply understood idea. As silly as it seems, I get that satisfied feeling of everything coming together as it was planned to be. Today's word is an example of this coming together of ideas.
In my previous career as an English teacher, I was teaching Macbeth and discussing the concept of a tragic or fatal flaw. In Shakespeare's tragedies, the characters have a tragic flaw which is the ultimate cause of their destruction. In the plays we studied, the characters get what they want, but not in the way they saw it happening. Romeo and Juliet want to be together forever. They get that, but their togetherness is in death, not life. Macbeth is ambitious and wants to be above the rest as their leader. At the end of the play, he is raised up, but it is his head on a pike that is raised. As I was teaching this concept, a student said, "There's a word for that." Questioning her I said, "A word for what?" She said that there was a word for a tragic flaw, but she couldn't remember what it was. She had read it in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I had read the book myself and but had missed that part. Fortunately, she knew where it was mentioned in the story and I had a copy of the book on my Kindle. We looked it up and, sure enough, found it. The word was hamartia.
Around the same time, I purchased the book The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. It was recommended to me by a friend. The book teaches systematic theology to young children by breaking down the concepts into very understandable ideas with many illustrations. They call things "The Ology of of God" or "The Ology of Christ" instead of Theology or Christology. This helps kids understand and grasp the understanding that "ology" simply means "the study of." One of the "ologys" mentioned is "The ology of sin". I was looking up the actual name of this ology and discovered that it is Hamartiology.
At this point, it hit. Sin is our tragic flaw. When I looked up Hamartiology the sources said that in Hamartiology, hamartia is defined more as the missing of a mark, because sin keeps us from missing the mark of God's glory and perfection. (Romans 3:23) But I think that the tragic or fatal flaw definition also makes sense here. I brought this back to my class and we discussed the impact that sin has on us. Although mankind was created perfect in God's image, sin marred that perfection and became our tragic fatal flaw.
Today's Word: Hamartia
Four syllables. Pronounced [hah-mahr-tee-uh]. Noun. Defined on dictionary.com as a tragic flaw. Today, I challenge you to contemplate your own tragic flaw. The sin that you cannot conquer on your own that only Christ can clean up for you. It can get overwhelming, but praise God that he didn't leave us without hope and offers us salvation from our hamartia.
I would also like to mention that this discovery was made possible by three things. (1.) The Holy Spirit guiding and directing in my life. (2.) Reading a wide variety of books on a wide variety of topics and reading what the students in my classroom were reading at the time. (3.) A classroom that allowed for expression and curiosity. I allowed the student to question me and my limited knowledge regarding the word for a tragic flaw. I indulged the curiosity of the moment by stopping the lesson and searching for an answer. I came back to them with updates as I learned from The Ology. This all took time away from my original plans, but the impact was much greater than had we just moved on. Shortly after this, a student brought in a page from his Word-a-Day calendar. I still keep it hung on my wall to remind me of the lessons we learned and the joy I felt in teaching those students.
This post was published at exactly 11:00 Paris time which is 5:00 am here in Michigan. That is the exact time 100 years ago when men lay down their arms and the world celebrated the end of the War to End All Wars. The celebrations were massive as people felt hope and peace that had been missing for the previous four years. They longed for a period of peace and rest after years of anxiety and doubt.
100 ago less than 35% of the American population had electric lighting. Radio was not yet a mode of communication and people were wondering if cars could ever replace horses. Their lives seem so foreign to us, but in truth we have so much in common. We hate to see the hatred that tears our country apart. We fret and pray while watching fire destroy homes and land. We fear terror and violence. So much has changed and yet, so much hasn't.
Before the war, people had faith in humanity and the hope that through science and technology the world could see perfection. The war shattered that illusion. Men shot and killed each other over yards of land. They launched gas attacks and watched as men gagged and suffocated to death. After the war, many suffered from Shell Shock, or what we would call PTSD, but never received any kind of care or treatment. The world embraced the "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!" because there was no point to life. They lost hope. They lost faith.
With all the reading I have been doing about World War I, it has been really difficult not to get depressed after reading about the atrocities and tragedies. For example - Look at the photo above. Look at those happy joyful people. In 1919, a pandemic flu will come through and 1/3 of the world's population becomes infected and another 50 million people will die. 50 million. What happened to all that hope? How can you find hope in the midst of that?
But then a verse that we usually associate with Christmas came to mind and I have been meditating on it ever since. Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." If that doesn't fill you with hope than truly nothing will. People do nice things sometimes and I love that, but I don't place my hope in people. They will always fail you, but rather my hope is in Christ.
The future is coming when War will cease and we will finally know peace. The Prince of Peace will reign and death will be no more. Isn't that something worth celebrating?
The poppy is the flower of remembrance. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the many men and women who have served and who are still serving in the military. Thank you for your service and the sacrifice. You sacrifice your comfort, your time, your family, and your lives to see that our nation is protected. Thank you. You are remembered and loved.
I have always been interested in World War I. Usually, people rush over the first world war to get to the more popular and more easily understood second. I'm not sure what it is about World War I that grabs my attention and keeps it, but I find the stories captivating. The impact the war had on our culture is still deeply felt 100 years later. So that's where we are now. November 11, 2018, will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war. On that day there were great celebrations around the world. There was also sorrow in the countries that lost the war and that sorrow would only be compounded by the Treaty of Versailles.
Last year, my family discovered a packet of letters that had been collected and saved by my Great, Great Aunt Jessie. She was a school teacher who wrote to her former students who were serving in the war. I've been working to transpose these letters so they can be easily read and studied. (Follow this link to find out more about Jessie and the read the first letter.)
To commemorate this 100 year anniversary I am currently immersing myself in all things World War I. I am reading about the Red Baron, Lawrence of Arabia, Edith Cavell, Alvin York, and so many others. A few weeks ago I posted about my love of history. When I talk with people who dislike history, I usually perceive that they were taught it from the wrong perspective. I am concerned with the education of anyone that doesn't include a broad study of history because of what that study provides the learner. According to John Green, "The opportunity of studying history is the opportunity to experience empathy." Experiencing empathy for people in the past is what gets my mind racing and my heart pounding. Those people were real. They loved and lost, were hungry and full, they celebrated and mourned. They felt sore and didn't always want to get out of bed in the morning. They worried about their children and loved their friends. Yes, we are all different but we are also all so similar. My favorite kind of history is the history that tells the story of a shared human experience. By immersing myself in the war, I'm hoping to feel what it felt like to be there in the midst of the crowds celebrating the end of the war, anxious about when my loved ones would be returning home.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing the text of the letters and poems that were in that packet of Jessie's as well as some posts based on my reading. I am also so excited to be given the opportunity to share information with the students at the school I graduated from and where Logan currently attends. I've got my presentation created and my outfit picked out. (I'm super psyched about the outfit; I'll explain why later.) Now I'm working on getting visuals and preparing a display.
If you have any questions about the Great War, if you're looking for book recommendations, or if you would like to see the letters please let me know.
I love photos like these because you can see so much personality and emotion. The man on the far right of the large group of men looks like quite a character. Contrast him with the purposeful slouch of the man closest to him. I adore the smile of the man on the far right in the group three. My guess is the man in the middle said something funny right before the camera snapped the photo and he lost it. Remove the uniforms and replace them with modern clothing and both of these photos would look totally normal. Men working together. Men posing and laughing together. This is the shared experience of being human.
I envy teachers who have been in the same classroom for decades and never quit improving their craft. That's where I saw myself when I began teaching. I was going to be an amazing history teacher and tell wonderful stories that entranced and inspired my students. When I couldn't find a job as a history teacher and ended up teaching everything from preschool to high school government. It's not that I gave up on history, but rather I threw myself into whatever classroom I was in and fell in love with it. Now, we've moved around the country and for various reasons I've come to accept that I will never be that experienced teacher. This was a difficult realization to accept, but I'm slowly seeing God's wisdom and plan for me. I'm embracing my experiences and learning through travel and substitute teaching. My experiences in a variety of classrooms, as well as my broad reading, have given me a perspective on the world of education that is half insider and half outsider. Throughout the 15+ years spent in classrooms, I've observed student behavior and noticed changes brought about by parenting trends and technology.
I'm never one to say that there is only one problem, nor am I attempting to trivialize a situation by suggesting that changing only one thing would fix everything. That said, there are major failings that complicate the work that teachers are trying to do and they hurt students. Today's word relates to something I consider a cancer in the system. Something that is eating at the heart of our schools and drastically damaging it.
Today's Word: Adversarial
Five syllables. Pronounced [ad-ver-ser-ee-ul] Adjective. Defined in the OAD as involving conflict or opposition. One day, while teaching middle school grammar, I mentioned that what we were doing was so repetitive and seemingly a waste of time. They had learned the same material each year from second grade to sixth grade, but we were still covering it because they couldn't remember the rudimentary parts of grammar. A candid student looked at me and with no disrespect intended said, "I try hard to forget everything at the end of each year. It's my goal to remember nothing." O-kay, umm . . . well, there's our problem. That night, haunted by his comment, I thought about the word adversarial. My classroom was an adversarial place. I worked hard to teach them and they worked hard to avoid my work. They were like lawyers carefully studying loopholes in tax laws. They wouldn't commit fraud, but the goal was to pay as little to the system as possible.
The adversarial system is present in three areas. I see this every day in the students when subbing. I assign something and the students get to work. Then the conflict begins. They get out their iPad for something and I catch them playing a game or searching for nonsense. They are talking to their friends and I catch them chit-chatting instead of working. After dealing with the offenders the class usually settles into a routine of them working to complete their teacher's assigned task, but it's obvious that it's only my vigilance that is keeping them going. I'm not talking about bad kids here. These are good kids with great teachers, but it seems as though this back and forth is part of what school is. The students will do something until they are told not to. The teachers and staff have to catch them and if they aren't caught the students congratulate each other on their avoidance of correction.
I fear I am painting a bleak portrait of these students. Please understand. They are not alone in this behavior. Adults trying to make conversation with kids often ask them if they like their teacher. They ask, "Does she give much homework?" Sometimes their comments about their dislike of homework have more to do with their own school experience than their knowledge of the kid they are talking to. People make comments congratulating kids when they have a day off school. I highly doubt anyone does this to intentionally make kids hate school, but they do it none the less. Parents can add to the adversarial system by getting mad at the teacher when the student is struggling with their grades and/or behavior. Parents are not always supportive of their child's teacher and by making their disagreement obvious they put a wall between the teacher and their student.
Society puts a great deal of focus on those individuals who succeed seemingly effortlessly. Spoiler alert: this is impossible. I won't take the space here today, but look up books like Outliers and Grit to see what it takes to be outstanding. How people get attention is a mind-boggling study into so many different aspects of culture, but I am confident in saying that being a hard-working student isn't in pop culture's idea of "cool."
So how do we end this adversarial system? A huge problem will take a huge solution, but here are a few things that I believe can help.
Students need to be part of their learning. I had a sign on my wall that outlined the responsibilities in my classroom which read, "Teacher's Job: 1. To provide the tools for the students to learn what they need to know. 2. To ensure a safe environment where everyone can learn. Student's Job: `1. To learn what they need to know. 2. To be safe." This is very simple, but it places the responsibility for learning onto the students, not the teachers. If a student doesn't know where the capital of the United States is that isn't the teacher's fault. It is the student's fault and they need to add that info to their bank of knowledge. Students should know that school is their opportunity to prepare for the world. The teachers are there to help them achieve their dreams not to crush them. Students should feel empowered to learn on their own and work for their own success. I am so tired of hearing people say things like, "No one ever taught me to . . ." Hello!!! We live in an age where you can learn about anything and everything from the resources of the internet. Watch a YouTube video, read a book, go to a lecture. It is not the responsibility of school or teachers to teach everything everyone needs to know. It is the teacher's job to teach you how you can learn everything you need to know. The learning is up to you.
Teachers should be careful not to send mixed messages about the benefits of learning and school. Obviously, teachers are pro learning, but sometimes we do things that are counterproductive. In college, my education professor told me something that has really stuck. She said to never reward students with no homework or leaving early because it cemented in their mind that homework and class were bad things that good kids avoided. She said that too many teachers (and parents) give worksheets and reading as punishment. This affected me deeply and to this day I am very careful about how I talk about learning.
Parents and other supportive adults can help by changing the conversations they have with kids. Ask questions like, "What are you studying in school? What have you learned this year?" I make Logan and anybody else I am driving home tell me something they learned that day. If they say they didn't learn anything I say, "Wow, well, I'm paying money for you to be at that school and your teacher didn't teach you anything. I'm going to have to call her when we get home. She should be teaching you something in the eight hours you're at school." At this point, my sarcasm has demonstrated the point and they will quickly come up with some fact or math operation to discuss with me. Discuss what is fun about school and find commonality with kids over that. And please, please, don't buy t-shirts like the ones below. Encourage your child's learning and champion their new knowledge. The benefit of homework is a complicated discussion, but if you are opposed or have issues please talk to your child's teacher rather than criticize the work itself.
Education is a complicated topic with layers and layers, but one thing is clear. No one benefits from an adversarial system of education. I think we would all benefit from working together to make learning something to celebrate and avoiding the slamming of the work that schools do to provide learning experiences.
Seeing kids wearing shirts like these always makes me sad.
Today's Word: Dishearten
Three syllables. Pronounced dis-hahr-tn. Defined in the OAD as make someone lose hope or confidence. Synonyms: discourage, frustrate, demoralize, depress, disappoint.
I love my son more than anything. He is my only child. I didn't intend to have an only child, but that is what we have and I love him with all my heart. We have great adventures together and things are usually good. Except for this thing called school. When he was in preschool, I was his teacher and he was one of my most troublesome students. I thought that was just because it is hard to teach your own kids. I tried to work with him, but he couldn't have cared less about the alphabet and things that I was trying to impress upon him. We worked together for hours through play, educational programming, books, workbooks, etc. You name it; I tried it. Despite all my best efforts, he remained solidly uninformed. Well-meaning friends would say stuff like, "Have you tried workbooks? My daughter loves to do them." I. Tried. Everything. Then I got a new student who only played video games and had a TV in his bedroom that he watched incessantly. Both he and his mom casually confirmed the inordinate amounts of screen time. Also, this kid could read. Like really read. Everything. I talked to his mom and she said, "Oh, yeah he just started reading one day. That's normal, right?"
As Logan grew I did all the things that experts say will make kids love reading. I have books around the house, I read aloud to him, we listen to books. Everything. Guess whose arm I have to twist (figuratively) to get him to read. Then I run into parents who do none of the things and yet their little darling has just finished reading a series of 10,000-page books.
In school, he does his work halfheartedly no matter how much I take away or ground him. I've always made him do his homework without interceding, other than quizzing him on his verse and spelling. I've never been one for micromanaging his progress and I've never required or expected all As. But now he's in 6th grade, the work is hard, and he is struggling in some classes, failing in others. We have tried so many different things -- more than I care to share at the moment, but I am feeling at my wit's end. I want to have a life. During the days, I'm working at a school as a substitute and in the evenings I want to write, clean, work out, and more. The LAST thing I want to do is sit and work on homework, but with him struggling I don't know what else to do. I want him to be independent and even require he make his own lunch and take care of himself, but he is fighting it. I don't want to check his every paper and be on him about studying and practicing, but if I'm not on him, he doesn't do it. We've tried rewards, punishments, and everything in between. The homework grades suffer unless I am sitting next to him doing nothing. If I begin to work on something else he is instantly distracted. When I try to teach him how to complete the worksheets he is struggling with, we have arguments like, "Mom, I don't have to copy answers out of the book. She doesn't care about that." My response is "Clearly, what you are doing isn't working because you got bad grades on all those other papers. Yes. Yes, your teacher wants you to write the answers out of the book." He gets mad and we continue the argument.
Just now, I am supposed to be leaving for Wednesday night church, but I was trying to write. Instead, I looked over his paragraph that he was supposed to re-write. 1.) He turned the first draft in late losing points he can't afford to lose. 2.) He didn't put any of the things he's been taught in the paper. I insisted on looking over it before he re-turned it in which he found to be necessary, but I found 4 run on sentences, 3 errors in dialogue, countless spelling errors, to name just a few of the issues. Now I'm running late and . . . now, a few hours later, we are back. On my timeline, I wanted this published much earlier, but couldn't because I was helping him. So what do I do? I've never believed in checking homework, but he's failing the classes and failing to understand why. I feel like I'm being crushed by the work and that everything I desire is going to have to wait until he is out of school. Six more years? Ugh.
So this is it. Now you know why we really love summer. There's no school. This is particularly hard to admit because I love school. It's what I do. It's who I am, but every school year is a nightmare that leaves me feeling broken and well, disheartened. It's hard working so hard to get very little results.
I'm sorry. I know my tone today is sarcastic and annoyed. I scrapped my previous planned word and went with disheartened because I had to be real and put our struggle out there. I'm sorry for being nasty about the mom and her brilliant kid who learned to read without help. I'm sorry for being sassy about the motivated kids who read 10,000-page multi-book series. I don't want to hear about medication, essential oil, the latest guru, etc., but that doesn't mean I'm putting my head in the sand either. I discuss the issue with our doctor who is fabulous as well as teachers and friends. I seek help. Tonight, I just need to know I'm not alone. Maybe next week I should write about catharsis.
God knows my struggle and is well acquainted with my pain. I know that no matter how disheartened I feel He will never leave me or forsake me. My son is a great kid. He is loving and kind and smart. He's been cross-referencing his books since he was a baby and can connect details like nobody's business. I am wowed by him in so many ways. If, as an adult, he loves God and cares for himself and his family, I will consider him a success disregarding his career choice be it street sweeper or chef. Thank you for the chance to feel real. I hope that by sharing this you can see deeper into my heart and know that I am never coming from a place of having it all together. Maybe that is the lesson God is teaching me here. Humility. I don't have all the answers, but I know Someone who does.
All the goofy looks. All the funny smiles. All the awkward stages. Always loved.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."