Thursday, September 15, 2011

What I learned at Open House

Last night was Open House at my eldest’s school.  Armed with his middle school schedule, I mimicked his day through 10-minute classes, with 4 minutes between.  Each of the teachers gave a presentation, ranging from topics they’ll cover to their teaching philosophies.  Going into the evening, I wondered about the teachers’ impressions of my son and tried to reconcile his class descriptions of the teachers with the professionals before me.  I was prepared for the usual Intro To My Class type talks, but I came away with so much more.  Three teachers made particularly strong impressions. 

Mr. G
My son starts his day with a high energy force of nature, Mr. G.  Balancing in a wobbly-legged desk while taking in the presentation, I was struck by Mr. G’s enthusiasm and couldn’t help but see why he is so popular.  Take a can of pop, shake it up, and let it rip – that’s the kind of energy Mr. G brings to school.

But he was more than energy.  In his note to the parents, he touched on differentiated learning; that is, that different students learn differently.  And in his talk, he gave examples of noticing students’ engagement, or lack thereof, and of how he head-on challenges them to work harder, to expand their abilities.

From Mr. G I took the lesson that I need to stay focused, and if I find myself losing focus, I need to use my energies to find create a new path toward my goal.

Mrs. K
It’s impossible to speak of teacher Mrs. K and not say the word coach.  Frankly, this fact made me a little nervous.  Sure my kids have had, and do have, other teachers who are coaches, but the fact that coach is almost always used in connection with the name Mrs. K worried me a little.  Would she be so much Coach that she’d lack at Teacher?

Once again I was in the presence of an energetic, organized person.  Mrs. K’s energy is accompanied with smiles; the Os on her board were filled with smiley faces.  Mrs. K shared with us the nuts & bolts, but then she moved into the good stuff: her expectations of the kids, not in her classroom but as people who will go on to live full lives.  She stressed the importance – even in science – of being able to read well, write well, and speak well.  She stressed well-roundedness and described projects the kids will create, which reach all the way to the White House.

From Mrs. K I took away that she is a teacher and a coach.  It is possible to be multi-faceted: for me to integrate all the pieces of who I am.

Mrs. S
Since my son had Mrs. S last year, I had an idea of what to expect when I sat down at a table in her classroom.  I was ready to be impressed beyond joy by her professionalism, knowledge, kindness, and respect.  Sure enough, she delivered.  She showed us how well our kids performed her last year, and then she raised the bar. 
Mrs. S showed us how she’ll work with the kids do go broader and deeper.  Once again I offered prayers of thanks for her.

And then she dropped the bomb.  She’s going to help our kids fight perfectionism.  I could have hugged her!  Not only is she teaching academics and challenge and perseverance, but she’s teaching it within a very conscious framework of a healthy mindset.

From Mrs. S I took everything I love about learning and projects, about preparedness and composure… and grounding them in imperfect humanity.

Last night’s Open House was a walk down memory lane: bumping through the hallways of a bustling school; feeling geeky because no one else was carrying a notebook; and wondering what the teachers would think of me, though this time as a parent.  It was a shot in the arm about my son’s education, chockfull of lessons for me.  I’m grateful for these fine men and women who teach my son every day, and me along the way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Out of the fog

In times of stress, I suffer waking dreams.  They’re an awful part of my sleep during which my mind is awake, but my entire body is asleep and unresponsive to my brain's commands.  It’s awful and I hate it: trying to use sheer willpower to force my eyes to open, my body to stir, to release my mind from its prison.  I find that the only way out is to sort of spiral into oblivion, which is easier said than done.
To a much lesser degree, I’m feeling like my whole life is in a waking dream these days.  Each day I feel more lucid than the day before, and when I think back to my actions of the day before, I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”  I remember my tremendous ability to ignore my healthy brain's concern about snacking on tortilla chips for a day or so when all I wanted to eat was salt. 
When the doctor first told me that I’d be off exercise (for a month!), I thought only of my ear – of the stitches keeping it closed and attached to my head.  But each day as I come more into myself, I’m finding that it's not just the stitches keeping me sedate.  My body is working so hard to deal with the trauma of surgery and to repair itself that it takes climbing the stairs or walking to the corner as an affront, leaving me breathing hard, with my pulse pounding in my ear.  I wonder how long this'll last.
I worry a lot about losing muscle.  In addition to 5-6 days of cardio each week, I’d been lifting weights twice a week regularly, and I know that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it.  I dread seeing numbers sliding down the scale, fearing that it’s lost muscle; heaven knows that fat never melts in any sort of hurry.  I try to tell myself that even though I’m not exercising, I’m still burning calories, so maybe a lower number isn’t the end of the world.  My wedding ring fits more loosely now than it has in quite a while.
Even this morning as I grabbed three stale, soft cookies to have with my protein shake and banana, I felt myself waking up a little.  I ate the cookies, even while I knew they were absolutely useless for my body.  I wanted them, plain and simple.  But here’s the progress: I logged into my food-tracking account, and I tracked those cookie calories (150). 
Then, after some debate, I decided to drop my calorie allowance, but not unsafely low.  I needed to drop it to a point where I’ll see that all my calories have to make my body healthy and strong again.  In my current state of semi-vegetation, I’ve got no room for empty calories.
Coincidentally, I received an email notifying me that a book I requested from the library is now ready to be picked up.  It's the companion to the calorie-tracking web site I use.    I requested the book way back in August, but I haven't been ready for it till now.  I take its arrival today as a little sign that it's okay to start looking forward, that there is a Way through the fog.