Monday, January 24, 2011

Quick Quiz

What's the most feared three-letter acronym in education?

I'm curious if everyone will have the same answer as me, and if people outside of education have any clue.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Today we did another lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. (I teach Science or Social Studies every Tuesday and Thursday.) Our kids were starting to remember the stories, but I didn't think they'd really gotten just how unfair everything was.

I started out by doing a read-aloud, but on the SmartBoard. I called students to sit by what color they were wearing. I told them, "Well, red shirts are the best, so if you have a red shirt, come sit in the front row." A couple of kids looked at me quizzically, but they went with it. "Blue shirts, I guess you're okay. Come on up in the second row. Remember, only red shirts are good enough to be in front." Then I continued. "Everyone else..."

The other kids started to stand up, but I said, "You have to stay at your seats." There were a couple of angry faces, but only one spoke out and I shushed him quickly. "Now I need someone to go turn off the lights." Hands shot up. "But it's an important job, so I want someone with a red shirt."

We went on to read this book, and when I had a question to ask, I only called on kids with red shirts. One time I said another student's name, but stopped myself and said, "Oh, wait, I need to choose someone with a red shirt. Those are the smartest kids." The girl I had almost called on was indignant, and I heard some surprised gasps, but I kept moving with the lesson and at the end, called everyone down to the carpet.

I talked about how Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't like that people were judged by the color of their skin, and then I asked the kids what I had been judging them by. Some of the kids- especially those in the back of the room- had hands in the air immediately. I explained that I didn't really think shirt color mattered, but we talked about how it made people feel when I pretended it did.

A few minutes later, we finished the book, with everyone sitting together. I felt like it had gone well, and the kids really seemed to have understood on an emotional level (not just a cognitive one) how it would feel to be judged on an arbitrary characteristic. (A lot of teachers do this with eye color, but I didn't think I had enough variation in our class to make it useful.)

I noticed at the end of the story, one girl was crying. It was the girl I had almost called on but then stopped to call on someone with a red shirt. I felt terrible- even though I'd meant to make the situation feel unfair, I didn't want her still upset! Especially because she's not one of those kids who cries often.

We all went back to our seats, and I immediately went over to her. As she sat down, I told her that I hadn't really meant that she wasn't smart enough to answer the question, that I was sure she knew the answer, and that I was only trying to show how unfair things used to be. She nodded. I asked her if she was mad at me, and she said, "No."

I was confused. "What's wrong?"

She looked up at me, wiping away one of her last tears, and just said simply, "I'm sad that someone killed Martin Luther King."

I don't know if it was the shirt color segregation or what, but something hit home.

Friday, January 14, 2011


It has been a crazy week.

Last Thursday, I checked my phone and had 3 messages at lunch. I never have more than one message, and even that is rare. Mom was desperately trying to get ahold of a family member who had called her, and I had a bad feeling even then.

When my cousin called back, she said her father had two brain aneurysms discovered a few days before,  and they had led to a massive stroke on both sides of the brain. When we got the call, he was on life support but declared braindead.

They kept him on life support until they could find enough patients for him to donate multiple organs, but the funeral happened in a matter of days.

I know they can't be pleasant for anyone, but funerals are tough for me. My dad died when I was young, and every funeral I go to reminds me incredibly of that rough time. I'm still nowhere near over it (even though I recently reached the point where I'd been alive longer without my dad than with him). I have trained myself, basically, to push back the grief when I need to. Or even when I just want to. Most days nothing really gets to me- and even if it does, I'm usually able to move on through my day and deal with it when I get home.

A funeral is a giant reminder of everything. I can't push it back, or get away, or concentrate on something else. It's there, staring me in the face, with every awkward hug and each line of "On Eagle's Wings." Every second I can't manage to distract myself, I become 11 years old again and can't stop crying. The grief that normally lies dormant and dull suddenly becomes sharp and insistent, especially when there's a picture set out of my dad and uncle together when they were young and grinning.

For me in this case, the person's death was sudden but not entirely shocking, as he'd suffered many health problems in the past. But my heart ached for his family. His kids are only in their 20's, and yet both of their parents have died in the past 5 years. I know how much it hurts to lose your dad, but I can't imagine how the pain would magnify if my mom weren't here either. It doesn't feel fair that they have to deal with that.

I did my sub plans on Monday, drove home to beat the snow, spent most of the day at the church, drove back, and taught again on Wednesday. My week felt strange and 'off', and I kept fighting off really thinking more about what happened so I could get through the week. Honestly, during the days I didn't think I could deal with it and still teach. And after work, I've kept myself distracted as much as possible because I haven't really wanted to deal with it.

Throughout all of this, my grandfather has been in the hospital, too, dealing with a plethora of ailments that seem to be worsening and complicating each other more each day.

I got a message yesterday that my mom and her siblings were driving down to Florida immediately. The doctor gave word that Grandpa's chances weren't good of making it out of the hospital. They're fighting a monster case of pneumonia for a chance to fix his heart, and he's just been moved to the ICU where they are trying 'last chance' options.

I feel like I don't know what to do, because there's really not any concrete thing I can do but pray and it doesn't feel like enough. I feel guilty because I keep putting everything out of my mind, even though I know that tends to be how I deal with things until I can't do it anymore. I can't stop worrying about my cousins and my grandma and my mom and everyone who is closer to the situation than me. I'm sick of having to keep my phone in my pocket at work because I might need to take an emergency call or check it and find a message that something else has gotten worse.

I don't know what I want to come of writing about all this, but I needed to. Either one of these situations would be hard, but I'm really struggling with facing both so close together. If things get worse for my grandpa, I'm afraid I'll just... unravel. Hopefully the antibiotics will start working soon.

P.S.- I know I have some friends who will want to pray and think of me, but please don't. If you want to do something like that, think of my grandfather and my cousins, grandma, and mom. They are dealing with a lot more than I am right now.