I can’t learn it any younger

16 Jan

Last week I cycled a lot of dishes: from the counter, various side tables, and the dining table to the dishwasher, from the dishwasher to the cabinets, and back into the cycle again. I was counting this time, since I finally got down on paper the division of labor I expected the kids to adhere to now that I’m working–one on dishwasher, one on sweep & general tidy, one on laundry and the youngest on taking out various forms of refuse. I counted each session accomplished in each category by them or by me, and, well, we might be at 10%/90%, and at least that’s a place to start. The excuses were, I’m doing something. I need to have supper. I want to take a shower. I’m so tired! I’m getting ready for school. So my goal is to—lovingly—teach them to use the nooks and crannies of time within their schedule which would otherwise be wasted—to put away a load of dishes while the breakfast eggs are cooking, sort laundry while the microwave heats the milk, sweep the floor while waiting for the bathroom to be available. Yes, it doesn’t seem almost impossible to get any chores done between school and athletics and homework and sleep and fun, but now that’s me too, so we’ve got to figure this out, or we’ll run out of dishes or clean underwear.

My other goal is to keep my temper. Even on a regular day I get really miffed when people walk away from messes, and when I have to interview everyone three times before someone finally remembers it was them who dropped that wet towel on the wood floor or left the cheese on the counter. When I get up at 5:30, sub all day, drive my daughter to the barn and tutor in the late afternoon, with only a few hours at home and not much time alone, I definitely have a harder time not giving in to anger.  Raising my voice doesn’t cow anyone in this house anyway, and often leads to their saying words which in themselves should bring down some sort of consequence. I realize too that I’m supposed to be an example here–even if my mom gave up on training and did all the work herself, making it impossible for her to take on a career or other responsibilities if she’d wanted to, I’d better figure out how to do this, for their sake as well as my own.

Looking back on that paragraph, I see how readily I excuse myself. Maybe that’s a way I can win them over, with understanding, like I want when I get behind.

Next week I’m keeping out of the schools for the most part, so I can work on my son’s FAFSA application, which depends on getting our personal tax return done, which depends on getting the business tax return done, which depends on getting the accounting files up to date. Today I spent several hours trying to figure out why the program wouldn’t even open, and ended up upgrading the seven-year-old software. Once all the money stuff is done, I have to check on the progress of my son’s college applications and help him figure out how to get involved in that Palestinian volunteer opportunity he wants to do. He’s so swamped with school work and the final weeks of the swim season that the earlier application due dates are looming and he just isn’t making much progress. No time to visit campuses either.

As I said I tutor a few home bound students for my district; I fired off an email to my tutoring supervisor listing all the “challenges” of the job—things that impeded student from progressing on schedule, or made transition back to class less than smooth, and so on. With possible solutions for each. Thought it might impress her as well as getting the ball rolling toward some improvements to the program. Then I thought it might be more irritating than otherwise, me wanting to change things a few weeks in when they’ve always done things a certain way, and maybe even that was a huge accomplishment under budgetary and other constraints. I don’t even know how many students are in the program at any one time. Still, seems it might be worth drawing up something on ways schools could work better with tutored students. One who went to school a few times this week said she was pretty much ignored, as if the teacher didn’t realize she’d been away for over a month. A good teacher from what I hear, but apparently ot noticing individuals overly.

I came back today energetic as usual after teaching, which they say is a clue that you’re working in your gifts. Not that it was like that my first year full time. I had lower expectations then, just to see if I wanted to continue at all despite all the difficulties, many of which I’d bring on myself as a novice.

One of my days this week was in 11th grade and AP (12 grade) English, which went pretty well, except in my second section of discussing some poems in the large group I got too effusive and got called on it by a student. He made some comments, such as “what does this have to do with…” and also got miffed when I didn’t notice his hand raised to respond and kept calling on others, for which I apologized. When he later questioned the value of the train of thought I was on, I admitted that it was perhaps off track, though other students were engaged and seemed to be enjoying the discussion. The bell rang, and students began packing up. I overheard him say in in a scornful tone so I could just overhear, ” Well, that teacher was awesome. I learned so much this class!”

I was already feeling like I’d been too loose in the discussion, too willing to share my own views and lead things in the direction I wanted at the moment, in my overconfidence from how well the previous section had gone. But I was stung, and I walked over and said, N—-, I appreciate feedback, but your comments had a sarcastic tone that was hurtful.”

Surprised, he said that he had not meant to come across that way, but he felt that I had gone on too much at times instead of sticking to the poem. I said, yes, I heard that. He repeated that he had not meant to be hurtful, just to give feedback. So I said, “Then I’ll take it in that spirit,” nodded, and walked back to my podium.

I did not get moist eyes, did not have a noticeably quavery voice, and I’m pretty sure my lip did not quiver. But I felt utterly humbled. And as I thought about the fact that he had indeed meant to be hurtful, as he knew very well, I had to wrench my thoughts back to the value of that experience for my own growth, rather than feel angry at the student for his unkindness. If I can’t embrace a teachable moment, than what’s the good of trying to create them for students?


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3 responses to “I can’t learn it any younger

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    January 19, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    You’ve got guts!!! I call that last anecdote an oxymoronic moment–otherwise known as the red shoe–the student might claim to have not learned something–but to my mind you modeled what it means to be a learner–a blend of enthusiasm, divergent thinking–and a seeking kind of knowledge. If that student is so blessed, that class period will be noted and remembered–for the right reasons–that you showed you cared–and thought, and wondered—and could engage in the moment.

    • toesinthedirt

      January 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      I had a similar scornful, sarcastic attitude toward some of my middle and high school teachers, not giving them the benefit of the doubt and holding back respect. But I was quiet about it. Maybe if a teacher had picked up on it and subtly addressed it, I might have been forced to examine myself earlier than I did.

      Where does the red shoe reference come from?

      Nice to have you back, by the way.

      • jdawgsrunningblog

        January 22, 2015 at 5:39 am

        Tough call on that—on how we pick up those compass points–those directional arrows—-the red shoe being that seemingly innocuous, neglected detail signalling or cueing the mind into memory of that ‘other’ thing.


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