Fade into me

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Where am I?

Here, of course. Busy. Absorbed in the world of work, my students, my child, my pets.  Headed into the final weeks of the semester, managing student teachers and assignments and grant proposals, my time slips away into wisps of activity.

On the weekends, I clean the house. My bedroom often looks like a battle scene in tableau during the week. I choose the costume in which I will face the day then leave a swirling tempest of debris in my wake; shoes that didn't fit the outfit, or jewelry tried and rejected.

On the weekend, I attempt to restore order to the havoc.

This Sunday I woke from a dream that not only made me sad, it made me feel uneasy. Out of place. I am accustomed to the dreams of sadness, and when I have those I wake slowly and wait to open my eyes. Sometimes I address the sadness out loud so that it can fade. Today, however, I woke feeling pursued.  I made my way downstairs where Terrance was fully engaged in the day, coffee brewing, croissants made.  I stood before him, mute, until he moved towards me to hug me. He tries to soothe me, reminding me that dreams aren't real.

I know different.

Later, after a cup of coffee, I ponder these fleeting depths of unhappiness, as if sounding out the bottom.  What have I to feel discontent about? I have a job, in a field I love. I am using my degree.
I get to indulge in my obsessions, Perfume and shoes and dresses made in a vintage style.

I clean. I collect all the shoes and return them to their homes. I return necklaces to their hangers and the hair ornaments to their homes. Am I unhappy?

Not really. Melancholy on occasion, but I think that is my nature. I am Sylvia Plath under the fig tree, pondering the directions I could have taken, the people I could have loved and the person I might have become.

Those ghost lives can become overwhelming, crowding into my own life. I work hard to keep them contained in their boxes, but they slither out on occasion, finding their way into my waking and sleeping dreams.

I retrieve the vacuum after I clean all the litter boxes. Before I can begin, I search the carpet for the bobby pins that perpetually escape my hair. It is a joke at work. You can see my trail in the building by the pins left behind.  My hair rebuffs the attempted order that the pins impose and ejects them, leaving a trail of small metal implements in my wake.

Home is no better. I open the closet and find another three, laying there in the dark.

I vacuum, watching the eddy of feathers and rabbit fur in the belly of the machine.

I ponder the figs not eaten while I wash my makeup brushes, preparing for the performance of another week.  Would I have been happier with someone else, somewhere else? Is being busy and not actively unhappy enough? Have I have been bewitched by some eidolon of joy?

I don't know.

Mischa has discovered that I placed my cloak on the chair and quickly nestles into his spot, daring me to disturb him.

Another Sunday passes.


Friday, September 04, 2015

In August, my decade long anniversary with this blog passed unnoticed by me.

Time is like that, I think.

You watch things and wonder how long it will take you to get something done, or how long before the baby can talk, then walk, then be out of diapers and suddenly you find yourself standing next to a 17 year old woman who is considering colleges and you aren't at all sure how you ended up where you are.

I look at my face in the mirror. I gain weight. I lose weight.  I fuss a *ridiculous* amount over my skin care regime and lack of wrinkles.

My hair is developing silver streaks in it but I never notice until I do - a selfie in the right light, or a photo taken of me by my daughter.

I look at the person in that photo and wonder who the hell she is? She does not match my internal vision of myself. She looks older than I feel.


When I read back over the first posts I made here...and then follow some of my writing, I recognize myself in all facets. I make myself laugh - honestly. I read some of my stories and delight in my humor. God, was I witty!

Sometimes I think I was funnier ten years ago. But is that, too, not part of the process?

I don't talk about Emily as much - as is right. At 17, her stories are far more her *own* and far less mine.  We intersect, but in a healthy way.

Not unlike the first big separation of self at age 2, the teen to adult one is fraught with similar perils, but writ large and more permanent.

Suffice it to say that I have done what I set out to do in parenting; Raised a person that I like and admire.  She is me, without some of the lived-through-shit. As such, she is kinder and more generous in spirit and practice than I.  Her path is as clear and shiny as I have been able to make it.  Her future is possibility.


Who knows what the next ten years hold?


Sunday, August 30, 2015

My eye has been twitching since April.

At first I assumed it was because of the end of the semester was fast approaching and I had eleventy-billion things to attempt to complete and 65 students to wrangle and oh yeah, what research was I going to try to get done and did I remember to arrange what ever the hell else I was supposed to be doing....

Generally when my eye has twitched in the past, it means I am over tired and in sleep debt. A couple of good nights of ten hour sleep and the twitch fades.

Not this summer. The right eye. Twitch.

 I come to consciousness and before I open my eyes the twitch shudders through the lid.

Several times an hour. All day long.

In June, I asked my doctor about it - in between blood tests and mammography and your general "Hey, how the fuck did I end up 45 and now talking about a whole range of other bizarre physical issues that seem to be kind of happening, including my deathly fear of melanoma so can you look at all these spots on my leg and hey also while we are talking about legs, my right leg THROBBED for two days after flying, can we make sure I don't have a thrombosis for fucks sake?"

My doctor is lovely. "Do you think it is neurological?", she asks.
"Nah. I don't. I think it was stress and overtired and just end of the year bullshit", I say, "but it has never lasted this long. It's just annoying."

My first strategy, like my first strategy for most everything, is to ignore it. Create a wall of simple non-acknowledgement.  If I fail to see you, you don't exist.

The results of this strategy are also typical of my former experiences.  It doesn't work.

The twitch amps up. The shudder, which had previously lasted a few seconds,  extends itself luxuriously stretching out into waves of twitching.

By August I am having never ending twitching in my right eye. This is a level of hell I had not know existed. A sub level.

Level .03 - Never ending eye twitch.

I am also consumed by a terrible fear of writing. My brain refuses to tell stories. My brain refuses to take data and consider implications.

"NO", my brain says, "I fucking think not." My eye twitched in sympathy.

I am forced to concede that something is causing my eye twitch. Something I am not addressing.

I try homeopathic remedies. Not much help. I decide to flee back to acupuncture.  My plan of non acknowledgement, like all my plans of non acknowledgement, has backfired stupendously. What I try to ignore comes to me like a stone gollem, planting itself inside my body.

The words inscribed on this  gollem are "Face this or suffer. SEE this, or suffer."

I do not know why I can't seem to learn this lesson. My instinct is to subvert and ignore. In this way, I pretend I am not vulnerable.  Not to loss. Not to grief. My outer face is stoic, while my inner state begins to plot how to get my attention.

Inertia, I understand. Sadness, I deeply understand. Grief? Loss? I don't seem to be able to embody them and, as such, my body goes to war with itself.   My efforts to stop my emotional bleeding mean that I sacrifice parts of me to preserve the luxury of not seeing.


See this.

Twitch, Shudder.

See this. Acknowledge this.


Some days

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Some days, you come in to your office.

The office that you have to unpack because

you had to pack it all up so the carpets could be cleaned

after a pipe burst and demolished some of your hooked rugs

and your child's portfolios from preschool with mold

and the buildings people acted like you are insane for even being upset

because why did you have anything of value in your office anyway

and you are just so over it.

You walk up to your door and see this sitting in your mailbox:

Puzzled, you open it.

And find this:

A note from each of the students who are about to go student teach this fall.

You cry a little.

And you realize why you do all of this.

Coco, Adieu

Monday, August 03, 2015

I held her as she died.

A strong kick as the seizures rippled through her body. A moment of calm as I told her I was there, that she would be all right, just relax...and then another kick.

Three times she did this and then she was gone. Ten minutes before midnight.

I held her in a way she would have never allowed had she still be alive, curled up in my arms, my head bent to her fur.

I cried again. I'd been crying off and on since the evening before when I knew death was coming for her and as soon as she evaporated into the universe, I cried anew.

I lay her on the floor so Jackson could understand that she was gone.  Jackson was not having it - he was hunched in his tunnel and was not interested in saying goodbye on my timeline.

There I was, crying and confused as to what I was supposed to do with the body of my dead rabbit.

The voice calls for me from the other room. It is Emily.

She has a hellacious vomiting virus that has waited until this moment to reveal itself.

I clean the bucket filled with vomit and trash and return it to my child, soothing her. I tell her that I will come and get her in a few minutes and she can stay in my bedroom. I don't mention that I have to find a box for the body of Coco.

Once I transport her to the garage, I clean the next bucket of vomit and get my sick 17 year old child into my bed.

"Did Coco die?", Emily asks.

"Yes. I held her until she was gone."

"Where is she?"

"In the garage, in a box. In the morning we will take her to the vet and have her cremated", I murmur.

My rabbit has died, and my child is now vomiting in ten minute cycles.

"This kind of sums up motherhood, I think" says my daughter, just as she begins puking again.

Yeah, I think, it does. Adulthood too. 

WWDD? Part 2

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I've been graced with some gifts of temperament that have made the children in my care regard me differently.

I am a watcher. I observe twice as much as I talk. When I do talk, I try to frame my questions using language that is modeled on how I understand them to understand things. This means I have listened to their conversations and am using their language and interests to inject myself into their brains.

90% of teachers have no idea what is really going on in their classrooms. By this I mean the important "stuff". The relationships, the rules of play, the things you can say and the things you can't say.  All of this "stuff" is not produced by the adults - it is produced by the culture of children. Most teachers simply don't hear it.  They don't listen.

I do. It is the first thing I do. Listen. Watch. Sit down and wait.  Sitting down on the floor can be a revolutionary act. So many adults never get on the floor with children. To do so would be to give away their power, their status as the privileged knowledge havers.

Not me. I am on the floor as soon as I am in a classroom.  In fact, here is a tidbit from one of my research journals:

Overall, I think the children are less accustomed to adults being on the floor with them - so this is a new approach for them - Me being right next to them as they play - being interested in their play in this manner. Both teachers mostly sit in chairs, or otherwise lead the class standing up. I have not observed either of them on the floor at any point yet 

I plop down and wait. Eventually someone will wander over. They approach, they retreat. They wait to see what I will do? Will I discipline? Will I spring up and become an adult?

Children who are accustomed to the "Stand up and talk and be busy and tell me what to do and when to do it" adults are suspicious when one who doesn't fit their mold wanders into their classroom. They don't believe you. They actively distrust you.

If they encounter a teacher who does not control their every movement, they aren't sure what to do. They either freeze, or go a little wild.  Both motions need to be decoded and managed with the child. The frozen children need reassurance that it really is all right. I am not going to offer the freedom and then smack their hand.

The wild children need help understanding that I am really not there to oppress them. The consequences to their actions must be very clear and very consistent. They don't fear punishment, but punishment isn't the goal. Self regulation is the goal.  If you take the entire box of goldfish crackers, you won't be able to EAT the whole box of goldfish crackers...so take a scoop and I promise that there will be another scoop if you are hungry.

Both sorts of children need one thing above all : Truth. Children will follow you when they know you are being honest. Not cruel. Not sarcastic. Honest.

My years of teaching myself to be soul exposingly honest have their roots in my work with children. Children know an honest adult. They draw to us.  Sometimes I think they are shocked to find the diamond in the coal bed of adults.

A phrase I share with my students is this - (and it has worked for the majority of children I have used it with): "I know what you are doing, and it is not acceptable. This may work with other adults, but I am not one of them. You need to rethink your strategy."

One of my students this semester came back and said "Oh my god. It was like (Child's name) saw me for the first time."

Yep. No sickening "It hurts my feelings when you....."  or any of the other mealy mouthed versions of adult speak.  Bump that.  My message is direct. It doesn't threaten false punishment. It doesn't even blame the child. It states the issue. It clarifies and it ends.

I am also the proud purveyor of a Look.  The best teachers can silence a room with a look.  My students don't believe me....until I use it on them. I show how I can stop conversation by moving my body near behavior I don't want to happen. I don't need to yell. I just need to watch.

I have a nephew who - last year when he was being sassy to his mother and I walked up behind her and stood, looking at him said: "I want Auntie Dawn to stop looking at me." My response was "I heard your mother ask you to do something. You need to take care of that."

He took care of it.

Adults who yell without cause, who threaten at every turn, who show contempt for the children with whom they share a classroom?  They demonstrate that they are not trustworthy. They are not emotionally safe. And what do we know about how humans learn? They can only learn/thrive when they feel emotionally safe.

So does this mean that I have a silent working classroom in which no children have conflicts? Oh, let me wipe a tear of laughter from my eye.

My classrooms are loud. Busy. LOUD and busy. I am not fussed by movement or noise - even with my Undergrads. My tolerance for productive noise is high.  Conflict is loud and messy. I want people to feel their feelings and name those feelings. I will wrestle with children on a wrestling mat. I will allow bristle blocks to be wrapped in my hair while I sit in a salon dramatic play. I give children access to my body and my brain as a play partner.  Even now, when I am in a classroom for observation of a student teacher ...I end up playing with the children. I can't help it.

When I move into that space - as partner in play/knowledge my locus of power shifts. I am not the ALL-GIVER-OF KNOWLEDGE, ALL RULE MAKER. I am on par with the children, but with a Plus. They don't forget that I am an Adult.  I don't forget I am an adult. I am an Adult with Child privileges.  This means that they get some adult privileges.

That adult privilege is power.  I step away from points of power over which I do not need control, or in which control can be negotiated.

 Do I need to tell someone if they are hungry for snack? Do I need to control if someone needs to use the bathroom? Do I need to say if someone can have a drink of water?  These are small steps. You build a negotiated power and let it fly for a bit.  If needed, you renegotiate.

As adult, I may need to bring specific concerns or knowledge to the table - for instance, we can't be out on the playground at X time because another class is using it....but perhaps I can ask the other teacher if we can swap times? Adult models the way to problem solve and involves the children in the process.  I don't magically fix something, but rather expose the thinking behind the larger issue.  Cripes, sometimes the children come up with better solutions than I've considered.

I retain certain rights in my classroom. However, they are rights that I have earned. I don't stop play unless it is genuinely dangerous. I will allow some games to go to their logical conclusions that I can see coming a mile away. BUT, I know if I step in and stop it then an important lesson in a safe environment won't be learned.  Instead, I voice my concerns...and step back. I don't abandon. I don't condemn when everything goes to hell. I wait and then say.."Yeah, I was worried that might happen. What should we do now?"

I am a partner.

WWDD? Part Three to come


Monday, May 25, 2015

There are some questions I am asked every semester by my students.

Of course, sometimes it is because they know I will launch into an entertaining tangent. Mostly, however, it is because they are genuinely confused by the chasm between what they *know* and what they *see* when they are working in classrooms with students and cooperative teachers. 

Our program in teacher ed sits in a unique place. The students will recieve a license to teach Birth-5th grade.  This means that, unlike most of their other elementary ed peers, they get a firm and thorough grounding in developmentally appropriate practice.  My students KNOW what should be happening in a DAP classroom. They understand developmental arcs of cognition.

Many of the questions have to do with why children are being taught in the manner in which they see in local classrooms. We talk about curricular mandates that don't make sense when you look at the brain development of a 6 year old. We talk about the pressure on 5 year olds who may not have fine motor development locked down.  I talk about how they need to be smarter than the curriculum guides they are handed and told to administer in order to comply with "Fidelity of Implementation"
regardless of if the children understand the concepts in the first place.

From the standpoint of child development, most of PK4- 4th grade curriculum is a shit show - aligned downwards from what a child should know when they graduate high school.  But that is a different blog post. 

The thing we talk about most, outside of bad curriculum, is behavior management. 

Now some of my students are going to comply with bad policy and practice. They are nice people who do as they are told. If the principal says "Do this", they are going to do it. They might not entirely like it, but they will do it. 

In other students I see the spark. The reflective spark. The "why?" that makes up a majority of my professional life. Why do we do what we do? Is it helpful? Is it harming? Is it my agenda? Am I sharing power with my students? Am I being rigid? Do I believe that children are thinking, active agents of their own learning who will lead me to their cognition if I pay attention?

These questions all boil down to this - "Do I know the students in my classroom and am I modulating my responses/actions/plans to what *they* need?" Not a mythical student who should be at any point in a curricular plan, but the humans in front of me.

For most teachers, they find a plan and stick to it. It is a human instinct. You find something that works once and you cling to it for dear life. If you disciplined one child a certain way and they responded in a way that pleased you, then Voila! There is your discipline plan for life!

Sigh. If only it was that easy. Cripes, some people make money off of selling behavior management kits, or books, or ridiculous behavior management curriculum based off of behavioristic models ( like Pavlov's dogs or Skinner's pigeons). 

The truth is that there is no magic bullet for a teacher when it comes to behavior management. The other truth is that if a teacher isn't good a behavior management then it becomes very difficult to see any learning happen in the classroom.

So, what do my students see most? Rigid rule following that is applied evenly and without consideration for the situation or the person.  

This can look like: Forget your homework once - lose recess.
Forget your homework twice - lose a week of recess. And so on.  

The teachers who believe that these strategies work believe that the transparency of the rule of law will act as a deterrent. 

Some teachers obsess over things like silence and walking in a very straight line down a hall. They fight with children over every perceived wrong in order to maintain control. They make up rules that you must walk to the slide on the right side of the playground and exit on the left hand side of the playground. They believe that one tiny inch of perceived power given over to children will equate to a Lord of the Flies scenario.

In their classrooms, they are the absolute power. The children are there to comply. Any non compliance, even minor, is a threat to their authority and will be crushed.

Now, some children do all right in these classrooms. They aren't generally children who have self regulation issues. They put their heads down and survive. 

The teachers who employ these methods...well, I don't think they like or respect children very much.

If I am honest, I have to believe that these teachers live in a sort of fear. A fear that the children will over take them and then what!?  I also find that they are rarely honest - with the children or with themselves. The reasons they give to children for why the rules are there? Invariably false or exaggerated reasons. 

Guess what? Children know when they are being lied to. They know that walking up the slide or swinging on their bellies will not lead to the collapse of human society. They know because they have done it hundreds of times and nothing has happened.  The adult in these cases becomes some bizarre harbinger of doom that never arrives. Sure, it could. A giant piece of metal could fall from the space station and kill me too, but I am not living my life in fear of that happening. 

At this very basic level, children are taught to disregard the adults. "Don't listen to them, they know nothing" is the whispered echo of the rule.  The adults get shriller. The children listen less until they have cocooned themselves inside against world in which it is clearly Adults Vs Children.

Then, a different sort of teacher comes into their life.  That teacher is a Dawn. 
She operates very differently. 

Part Two to Come

◄Design by Pocket