Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving
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Today, thousands of families around the country are sitting at their tables, with their families, giving thanks. There's also a good chance there is bickering about stuffing vs dressing, whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce, or who's going to win today's game. (Who is playing, by the way?)

This year, for the second year in a row, The Turtle Clan will be going Thanksgiving solo. In fact, as I write this, The Man Beast is teaching The Boy the secrets of his homemade Hawaiian rolls.

While I give thanks every day, today is set aside for a special time of thanksgiving. I've been trying to pray more this week. I tend to get sidetracked with my praying, so instead, I've been writing in a prayer journal. It keeps me focused and it's something I look forward to.

Is it right to write down prayers? I'm not sure. I do know that I feel closer to God when I write letters to him. Plus, family legacy is very important to me and I see this journal as being one of (hopefully!) many that I'm able to leave to the Kiddos.

As part of my prayer last night, I was prompted to list the five most important monetary things in my life. I could easily fill pages of my journal with monetary things that are important to me and I'm not ashamed of these things. Do I value these things above the non-material? No. But I do recognize their importance in my life.

My house, while not my own, is a safe place I'm able to go to each day. It's a place where I greet my family and dogs. Where I'm able to take off my shoes and lay on the couch and read a good book. It's the place where I go to be myself and unwind from the day.

My car is a treasured item because it allows me to do the day-to-day activities that are important to me: work, scouts, church (in no particular order). Could I get by with out a car? Yes; but I'm glad in this season of things, I don't have to.

My cell phone. It's a love/hate relationship. However, until recently, it allowed me to keep in touch with family and friends. Again, can I do without it? Now that I have a landline phone, yes, I absolutely could. (And really, 20 years ago, hardly anyone had a cell phone. How did we survive? I search weather, google how to spell a word, or search when movies were made. When I'm out and about, I'm texting home to tell the Man Beast where I'm heading. I feel safer while doing this and he feels better knowing where I am. Is something going to happen to me while I'm out? The chances are good that nothing will, but if something did, police could find me, thanks to my phone).

Food. Is this monetary or a necessity? We need food to survive, but I know from experience that the human body is a wonderful machine that takes anything you put into it and does its absolute best to make sure you keep on breathing. I've eaten some pretty crappy things in my life. And my body has continuously done its job of keeping me alive and relatively healthy. But now, I'm eating homemade goodies - breads, noodles, and soups.  I'm not bragging; I'm just very thankful for a husband who not only knows how to cook, but takes great pleasure in cooking for his family.

These are the big things I'm thankful for that money can buy. But I also know in my heart of hearts that while they are a blessing, they aren't 100% necessary. But I'm not going to dwell on what should happen if all of this went away. I could work myself up into a tizzy thinking about everything that can happen and what I would do should they happen.

This isn't ignorance or arrogance of, "Oh, that will never happen to me."

Instead, it's an acceptance of being thankful for what I have today, that could be gone tomorrow, and that I will be okay regardless of what happens.

It is a peace that comes with growing closer to God and seeing His blessings through a year of hardships.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fight #LikeAGirl

"Fight like a girl."
"Run like a girl."
"Hit like a girl."

Are these positive messages or negative messages?

It depends on the context.

Men use the phrase to insult one another when they aren't performing up to par.

Women use it as a call to action when they are conquering their struggles.

But when (and where) does doing something "like a girl" become an insult? Are we instinctively born with the preconceived notion that 1) girls perform subpar to boys and 2) when someone performs less than what is expected, they are compared to a girl - not a girl who does not {fill in the blank} just a girl?

Always™ answers this in their latest Like a Girl promotion.

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If you're unable to view the video (or choose not to), let me sum it up for you:

Adult women, adult men, and boys (boys!!) are asked to do various tasks #LikeAGirl: run, throw, fight.

Every single individual performs each task quite comically - if it weren't so sad.

Then, the video cuts to 10 year old girls who are asked to perform the same tasks.

What do they do?

What's even more telling is that when they are asked what it means to "{Fill in the blank} like a girl", they aren't sure if it's an insult or not, but they think it might be. Might be? Let's revisit these girls in 5 years and I'm sure their answers will change.

I've made no secret that I am a Girl Scout mom. I like what my local Girl Scout troop stands for (I cannot and will not speak for Girl Scouts as a whole). We believe in teaching girls that they have a voice. We believe in teaching them that "just because they're girls" does not mean that they are necessarily "bad" at a math or science. (In fact, Baby Girl will be the first to tell you that she's great at math and science. They are her favorite subjects!)

We've been in scouts for awhile and as a result, I've seen many of the girls mature into young women who are secure in who they are and are willing to stand up for something they do not feel is right. I believe that a large part of this self confidence is "growing up" in a "safe" environment where girls could be themselves. They were free to explore things. They were able to make mistakes and learn without being criticised.

Obviously, not all girls have the same experience.

Maybe they should.

Until next time,

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why I Chose to Medicate My Daughter

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For readers who may not know, my daughter has Asperger Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. My daughter turns 13 this summer. She was only diagnosed a couple of years ago. As a reminder, children who are diagnosed with Autism are diagnosed early. Unfortunately, those on the Spectrum and are high functioning, rarely are diagnosed early unless there is a significant delay. In fact, many are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9. Baby Girl was diagnosed at 10.

But allow me to back up; especially those who might not completely understand the disorder, what it means for my family, or how medication plays into the whole story.

Baby Girl was born bright and early one Wednesday morning. Her birth was very similar to The Boy's in that it wasn't terribly long, it wasn't terribly traumatic for her or me, and my nurse midwife was very knowledgeable in allowing my body to do what it was meant to do and her and the other medical staff pretty much keeping their hands off the process. The result was a quick healing process for Mom and a relatively predictable routine for Baby Girl.

Except it wasn't.

It actually started in the hospital (and it's only now, looking back that it seems so obvious). Both of the kids slept with me in the room. I felt it was easier if they were with me to establish a feeding schedule and insure that my milk came in. Besides, I had read horror stories about babies being stolen from hospitals and I wanted to make sure that I left with the same kid I gave birth to. Call me paranoid; I was.

Baby Girl slept a lot after she was born. Where The Boy literally scooted up my stomach to eat after being born, Baby Girl went straight to sleep. On the rare occasion she woke up, she would fall asleep at the breast. Emptying both breasts at a feeding never happened (in or out of the hospital). I remember getting fussed at by the nursing staff that I needed to wake her up in order to eat. When I did, I got a fussy baby who fell asleep at the breast. Eventually, I left her predict her feeding schedule.

In the end, she predicted everything. Whereas The Boy would sleep anywhere when it was time for his nap, Baby Girl would only sleep in her bed. Not in a booster at a restaurant. Not in the car in her car seat. In her bed. End of story.

Baby Girl didn't talk. She would babble and her big brother would interpret what she wanted. I had always heard that younger siblings typically didn't talk as early as their older siblings because they didn't need to. However, at her 18 month check up, the pediatrician started asking me questions about her speech. When I told him she wasn't speaking much, if at all, he referred us to a wonderful early intervention program and we were blessed to work with amazing women who had Baby Girl signing and saying "b" within the first few visits.

Yay, she's talking and communicating! It's smooth sailing from here!

Only it wasn't.

I was thankful that I was able to stay home with both of the kiddos while they were very young. But, there came a point where, financially, we just couldn't do it anymore and I needed to go to work to help my family make ends meet. The Man Beast and I decided to put Baby Girl into Head Start.

For the first two weeks, she cried non-stop. I was told by her teachers that this was normal and she'd get used to it. Yes, she eventually stopped crying, but she was always frightened, shy, and generally fearful. Any (and I mean any) deviation from a normal schedule would send her reeling.

Still, the teachers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

After Baby Girl graduated from Head Start, I placed her in a lottery-funded pre-k center. Overall, she did well, but she was still frightened, shy and generally fearful.

Still, the pre-k workers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Soon after, we moved to another city when The Man Beast got a promotion. The first day at school was dismal for The Boy and we ended up homeschooling for the next three years. That journey came to a close and The Man Beast and I enrolled the kiddos in public school in November of the boy's 4th grade year. Baby Girl was in 1st grade and it was her first exposure to public school. The classroom sizes were larger than she'd ever experienced and she was lost and frightened. More days than not, she had meltdowns. Her teachers (wonderful, wonderful women), I'm sure were at a loss of what to "do" with her because of this. I talk to teachers now and they mention how mature Baby Girl seemed. They admitted she was shy, but they never had to worry about her following the rules or doing what she was told.

They only thing they did have to deal with her were meltdowns she had due to other students not following the rules or doing what they were told.

Still, all of her wonderful teachers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

And then comes that fateful weekend when Baby Girl went to a local amusement park with her Girl Scout troop. As part of the outing, the girls swam in the pools and slide on the slides in the adjoining water park.

I did not go with her on the outing and was interested to hear how her day went, but I knew something was wrong when the scout leader and co-scout leader pulled me aside and started asking me various questions.

Evidently, Baby Girl did not do well at all during the outting. When they got a snack, she went into a meltdown that what they were throwing away was wasteful. When it was time to change into her bathing suit, she went into another meltdown.

We were new to the Girl Scout family, so I don't fault them for the questions they asked. Were The Man Beast and I going through a divorce? Was there abuse in the home? Were there drugs or alcohol in the home?

Again, I do not fault the ladies at all for their line of questioning. In fact, I welcomed it because it showed they cared. Of course, my answered to their questions were, "No", but the question remained: why did Baby Girl act the way she did?

The next year, I admit, is a bit of a blur. We saw a few doctors, including psychologists. We finally found one that really seemed to listen and one, amazingly enough, Lynne seemed comfortable with.

Her first official diagnosis was Social Anxiety Disorder. A diagnosis didn't suddenly cure her, but it did make both of us feel better. Even as a young child, she had something she could hold on to and make limited sense of as to why she felt the way that she did.

Soon after she was diagnosed, I went to work for the school system and went back to school. I worked in a special education classroom where students had various diagnoses, including Autism. The lead teacher in the classroom had been working for quite some time and was very knowledgable in the field of Autism. (She later told me that the very first time she met Baby Girl, she knew she was on the Spectrum. She didn't tell me, she said, because she wasn't sure I would be willing to hear it).

After working with students with Autism and completing course work in college on Autism, I began to study more about the disorder. And the more I studied, the more I thought something else was going on with Baby Girl.

We went back to her psychologist (he had released us after six months of visits) and I explained to him that I felt like there was more going on in Baby Girl's brain than just social anxiety. He agreed that he would re-evaluate her and his conclusion was the same as mine - PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified)/Asperger Syndrome.

Now that he had a new diagnosis, he took Baby Girl back onto his caseload. He also changed his approach and how he coached her in how to handle things. It was actually Baby Girl who discussed medicine.

Her psychologist referred her to a psychiatrist. She disagreed with the Asperger Syndrome diagnosis, but fully supported the PPD-NOS one. She agreed with Baby Girl that medicine might help.

Baby Girl was relieved; I was worried.

Still, the Man Beast and I felt it was important for Baby Girl to not only have a say in her therapies, but also that she feel she had a sense of control - an element that had been lacking in her life and was, therefore, hugely important to her.

Her doctor placed her on a very mild anti-anxiety medication and requested a follow up in a month. We went back and the doctor asked Baby Girl how she was feeling.

"I still feel stuff."

When the doctor inquired further her meaning, we discovered that Baby Girl felt like she was abnormal because she had feelings and she was under the assumption that "normal" people not only didn't feel what she felt, but that they didn't feel at all.

The doctor was speechless and I was heartbroken.

The doctor reassured her that it was normal to feel things and the reason why she was on medication was to help her gain control of her feelings. (Baby Girl's mind is very analytical. She wants to know the "how" and "why" of her world in order to make sense of it. This helps her gain control.)

She's been on medication for two years now and due to various circumstances, has had to have adjustments made in her dosage. She seems both doctors on a monthly basis and talks with them quite openly about what is going on in her world. With their help, she is learning to cope with the everyday events of middle school. She takes her medication at the same time every night. It helps her sleep and helps her get through her day. She knows when she skips a dose because she feels the anxiety come back in a wave.

She will be the first to tell you that her medication helps her manage her life. It does not turn her into a zombie. It does not make her suicidal. It takes just enough of the "edge" off so that she can function.

She is a soon-to-be 13 year old girl. She experiences all the ups and downs of other 13 year old girls. She gets angry. She gets tearful. She gets confused. She gets hurt.

What her medication does, however, is allows her navigate the "normal" in her life while maintaining control. As a result, she has fewer meltdowns in school. She has made a handful of good friends, with whom she's quite candid about her difficulties and who, God bless them, help "talk her down" if she's having a particularly bad day.

Everyone's choice to medicate or not to medicate is an individual one and I encourage anyone considering the option to do their homework. But I hope that by sharing our journey, I've shed light on a controversial issue that has a happy ending.

Until next time,

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Does Modesty Perpetuate Rape Culture?

{Trigger Warning: The topic of modesty and rape is offered in a frank discussion as I see it from my perspective.}
I spend a lot of time on Facebook. In fact, many would say too much. But Facebook is where I choose to interact with family and friends, as well as stay up-to-date on popular trends. When it comes to news, I use Facebook much in the same way I use Wikipedia. I get the gist of the article or idea and then go seek more reputable sources for information. (You did know that Facebook is not a reputable news source, right?)

A couple of weeks ago, my news feed started blowing up about modesty and rape culture. Apparently, many believe that modesty perpetuates rape culture.

What is rape culture? What does it mean? I had to look it up (Again, Wikipedia is my starting point. But for the most part, everything I researched had the general consensus that this was an appropriate definition. So, I'm going with it)

According to Wikipedia:
Rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society,[1] and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape
 Proponents of the modesty = rape culture movement say that modesty does several things:

1. Modesty puts the blame of rape on the victim.
2. Modesty focuses on the women.
3. Modesty makes the man blameless.

By simply doing a quick Google search, one gets many (many!) verses that are used for supporting modesty. And what I've found is that, yes, the Church's idea of modesty (as a purely human concept) does, in fact, focus on these facts, so much so, that it shares in the Secular World's view - a dangerous stance, to be sure).

Modesty puts the blame of rape on the victim.

There is a sad truth in our society - two, actually. One, rape isn't discussed. It's often swept under the rug. Two, if a woman was raped (because, men don't get raped), she somehow instigated it. She drank too much.  She dressed too provocatively. She was where she didn't need to be.

Modesty focuses on women.

Modesty is typically associated with women. A woman needs to be covered, being careful not to show too much skin. Men do not have the same standards put on them. Unless he is walking down the street without a stitch of clothing on, pretty much anything goes. (Although, there does seem to be some heavy controversy associated with the baggy pants look.)

Modesty makes the man blameless.

Men, apparently, are idiots. Watch any television sitcom and most of the laughs are at the husband's/man's expense. The classic scene: the wife is away (consider it a night out, a conference, or just grocery shopping) and the husband is clueless. Therefore, modesty suggests that the man is blameless in his actions as response to what a woman is wearing.

Despite all of this, I fully support the concept of modesty.

But I do not support it in a traditional sense. Rather, I propose that modesty is this:
John 7:24 
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 
1 Corinthians 10:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 
I purposely chose two verses that did not contain the word "women"or "men" because I believe modesty is an idea and a practice that applies to everybody.

To me, modesty goes beyond clothes.*

No, I do not believe that people should dress in ways that expose more skin than they should. I am not suggesting that girls/women wear clothes that make them sexless. (Meaning covering them so much that one can no longer distinguish if an individual is female). I am also not suggesting that a female cannot wear shorts or a tank top. She can wear shorts and a tank top without exposing an abundance of butt or breast. Even as a female, I find boobs in my face a little distracting.

But I do not let the guys of the hook here, either. I feel that there are certain places that you should wear a shirt. Aside from working in the backyard or at the pool, I feel boys/men should wear shirts. I absolutely believe in the "No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service." mentality.

Ultimately, however, modesty is about attitude/motivation. Are clothes meant to portray a message? Yes. Without a doubt. What that message is depends on the wearer. A man or a woman's Power Suit exudes a sense of wealth and/or success. If anyone sees someone dressed like this, they know that the wearer means business. And stores would have us believe that clothing is supposed to exude a sense of youth and sexiness, regardless of the age they are marketed to. (Anyone remember this little fiasco?)

I'm teaching both of my kids about modesty. My son is certainly not going to think it's okay to make sexual advances toward a girl if she's dressed a certain way. I teach my son not to rape. I teach my son to respect girls/women, even if their dress says otherwise. Is my son going to look? Yes. Is he going to think impure thoughts? Yes. Is that the fault of the girl? No. But his actions stop there.

I've gotten very lucky with Baby Girl in that she doesn't like wearing clothes that show too much skin. She's very modest, in and out of the house. She doesn't wear clothes - even clothes her father and I would allow her to wear - because she's not comfortable in them. I understand this because, as a teacher, there are clothes I no longer wear - anywhere - that I used to wear everywhere five years ago.

Clothes send a message. Regardless of the message, each individual is responsible for their own actions. Girls don't ask for "it" by their dress, but they also aren't stupid. They know someone is looking. They want to be saw. Guys know that they're being looked at, too. Eye Candy isn't limited to just one sex.

Modesty is a matter of attitude. How do you want to put yourself out there? Does a rape culture exist? Yes. It manifests itself in a number of ways: blameless attackers, off-color jokes, silence. But the idea of modesty in and of itself does not perpetuate rape culture. What a woman wears and how a man acts are mutually exclusive. People who think that woman "ask for it" are deluding themselves.

But at the same time, modesty has a purpose. Modesty goes beyond clothes and it applies to both men and women. Perhaps this is what we should be teaching.
Modesty is modesty.

Until next time,

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*I do have to go on record as saying that I do not let Baby Girl wear a bikini. I do not believe young girls should wear them as I do not believe they are "cute". As a victim of rape and sexual abuse, I am of the mindset that there are child preditors out there who are stalking children. (I suppose in this case, I am perpetuating rape culture. I see it as a way of protecting my daughter, much like I teach her about stranger danger. Is every adult she talks to out to get her? No. But she would be wise to be careful who she talks to.) 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pity Party's Over - Time to Flush

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Do you ever just mentally wake up one day and realize enough is enough?

I've slowly come to this point in my life.

Things have been downright sucky these past two years. I could go on and on about how sucky. I could give explicit detail, down to the nitty gritty suckiness of it all. But I won't.

I won't because it doesn't do you (or me) a bit of good to dwell on how sucky things are and how much we can't control them. Sometimes, it just is. I could easily wax philosophic about the meaning of it all. Why we struggle the way we struggle? Why some people seem to struggle more than others? And most importantly, why some people seem to come out of their struggles stronger, while others come out strangled (figuratively, speaking)?

I could address this now, but I'm not going to. I don't feel qualified right now to even begin to theorize these questions. Because when it comes right down to it, I'm currently in the middle of my struggle and I cannot make sense of it all - and to do so would be arrogant, if not, presumptuous.

I'd rather approach this subject at a later time, when I feel more equipped to give you the I-was-down-and-out-but-God-saw-me-through speech. I have no doubt that I'm going to come out the other side of this struggle stronger and wiser.  (I already did it once before.) I do trust God. I don't know His timing. I don't know His purpose. And I don't know what He wants me to learn in all of this.

But I've recently come to a conclusion. I need to be present in the journey.

In the past, when I've come through struggles, I only reflected after I was through the valley. While I was in it, I kicked and screamed wanting out of it as quick and as painless as possible. I feel my response to trouble is very, very human. After all, who enjoys struggle? Who enjoys pain? No one.

But maybe part of trusting God and His timing is to attempt to see the 'Why' in everything?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you"

  • Truth: God not only has a plan for you, he knows His plan. In other words, He's not flying by the seat of His pants thinking, "Let's see what happens." No. He knows. 
"Plans to prosper and not harm you"

  • Truth: God is not out to 'get you'. I don't believe we are punished by God. I think the plans He has for us are good. He is not out to hurt you. He wants the best for you.
"plans to give you hope and a future"

  • Truth: Our hope is in Him. Our future is in Him.
So, knowing these truths, can we ask ourselves why we go through trials and tribulations? We surely can.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perserverance. Perservance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
"No only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perservarance; perserverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  Romans 5:3-5 
If we want to be completely honest with ourselves, when we reflect back on our hard times, those are the times when we grew - in our faith, withinin our relationships, and closer to God. And at the very least (as has been my experience), in my deepest and darkest moments when I wasn't walking closely with God, looking back, I can I see that He never left me. What an awesome truth!

I say all this to say that I've had a little pity party with myself for quite some time. I call it the Pity Pot. And I say it's time to flush. (Yes, it's a little crass - but is the visual not perfect?)

Nothing much has changed in my situation. I don't foresee anything changing tomorrow. Or next week. Or quite possibly, next month. My situation is going to take time to get through. I've been kicking and pouting, wanting it over for awhile now. I want my situation over. I want things better. Of course I do. I'm only human.

But much of my situation is out of my direct control. I can't "fix" it. And maybe that's a good thing. If there was a problem and I was able to fix it, would I learn anything from it? Would I grow?

Probably not.

Instead, I'm going to pause and think: "What am I to learn from this experience?" (Full disclosure: The idea was not my own. I've been talking to some very wise and God-fearing women. Or more likely, the Holy Spirit has been talking to me through them.) And if we subscribe to the idea that life has purpose (I believe it does) and that life is a journey (I'm starting to believe it is), then the purpose is in the journey. It's not the end game. It's the game itself.

I'm going to embrace my journey - embrace my race - and watch and see how God is going to use it for His glory.

Until next time,
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Life as a Paraprofessional vs. Life as a Teacher: Part 3

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This is the third part to a 3-part series chronicling my take on the differences between a job as a paraprofessional and a job as a teacher. (View Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Let me preface this list by saying that I believe that paras and teachers have the potential to equally rock the education world. They can love and nurture students in a way that only an educator can. They can help students become great.

That said - there are some definite differences between paraprofessionals and teachers. This list is not to say one is better than the other. Rather this is meant as a tongue-in-cheek comparison of how I perceive the differences of a paraprofessional's job and a teacher's job. (And any teacher who has worked as a para or vice versa should be able to relate to my list.)

Calendar Reduction Days – “Yay! I get another day off. Yeah, it kind of stinks that it’s a Calendar Reduction Day, but hey – a day off is a day off!”

Calendar Reduction Days – “Another day of instruction lost! Sure, I get a break…but getting these kids back on schedule is going to be quite the challenge come {insert day of the week, here}.
Pay Days – “I worked all month for this?”

Pay Days – “I worked all month for this?”
Relationship with Students – “Good Cop” As a para, I was able to be “nicer” and more of a friend. When I had to discipline students, it was because it was Classroom Teacher’s Rules (as I would tell the students). This supported the classroom teacher, but looking back, it probably put her in worse light with the students that what was necessary.

Relationship with Students – “Good Cop w/ Bad Cop”  thrown into the mix. As a teacher, I make the rules and all of them are in the students’ best interest.  As a result, I’m not seen as lenient as a para might be because I’m looking at the big picture: What do I want to teach this student? What do I want this student to get out of an experience? And in the case of social skills, how can I teach this student proper skills? Nine times out of ten, it is through routine and consistency. Oftentimes, it is black and white with no grey in between.
Summers – 10 weeks of not thinking *anything* about work and enjoying some fun in the sun

Summers – Down time is important for teachers, and we’ll get it. But we’re also thinking about next year, planning for next year and gearing up for next year.   
Responsibilities – “What do you want me to do?” As a para, even if you take the initiative, you always refer back to your lead teacher – what does she want done, how does she want it done, etc.

Responsibilities – “What needs to be done?” As a teacher, you run the show. There is no one to refer to – you’re it. You’re calling the shots. It’s a whole different ball of wax. (How many clich├ęs can I fit into one bullet point?) The long and short of it is: You are responsible for every single human being in your room, whether they are a Little or a classroom helper.
Duties – Hands-on, deep in the trenches. Yes, paras do a lot of the dirty work, often more than the teacher. As a para, I didn’t quite understand why.

Duties – Hands-on, deep in the trenches PLUS the bookkeeping side of things. Take care of the student. Teach the student. And please turn in 23, 654 reports/forms by the end of the week.

This first year as a teacher (which I'll delve into at a later date), has been an eye-opening experience. Viewing teachers from a para's eyes, you're not always sure why teachers do what they do. You're not sure why the act the way they act. You don't know why they make the choices they do. But as an educator, I look back at the times I saw an educator do something, say something, or make a decision I didn't understand and I understand now. There is a whole slew of things that go into a teaching profession that I didn't realize as a para (and they certainly don't teach it in any college course I ever took!).

Most of the things I reflect back on are of a serious nature, but overall, this post is meant to be lighthearted. I value my job as a teacher and am so glad I made the decision to go back to school and become certified in my field. However, my years working as a para were invaluable to me and I would not trade my time in someone else's classroom for anything.

Regardless of whether a para or a teacher, I believe if at the end of the day, you can still say you love your job (and more importantly) your students, you're right where you need to be.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Planning, The Process, and The Prize

Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid
I seem to quite good at setting goals, but not so good at seeing them through. In the rare instance that I have seen a goal through to the end (either because of the genuine desire or genuine necessity), I've often reflected in how I felt after I've achieved a goal. I am beginning to see a pattern.

First, I am excited to be starting a new project. It is usually all I can think about or talk about (to anyone who will listen). I know I'm deep in a project when I begin dreaming about it. This happens with any goal I've set. When I started researching the low carb way of eating a couple of years ago, I submersed myself in information that would allow me to learn all I could about it. When I completed a NaNoWriMo challenge back in 2008, I lived, breathed, and slept my novel(ette).

Later, I become overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task in front of me. This is when that ugly self-talk comes creeping into my brain. ("You'll never finish this." "What made you think you could do this?" "You're going to disappoint everyone?" "They're all going to laugh at you...") This is usually the stage where goals are not realized. I never move pass the anxiety to work through it. For the goals that are reached, I usually have some form of accountability that sees me through to the end. (For my degree, I knew my family depended on me. That and the fact that I had taken out all of this money in student loans and knew that quitting was not an option.)

A little while later, the euphoria comes back. "Yes, I can do this!" "Yes, I can finish." This stage usually occurs when I'm deep in a project and things are going well. I have a momentum that keeps me going. (With my low carb eating, I was losing inches and weight and it felt good! People were beginning to take notice, providing me with that external motivation.)  

Enter another bout of anxiety This stage actually repeats itself quite frequently through the process, depending on how long the project lasts or how big it is,

Finally, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am almost there. It is going to feel so great to finally reach my goal!

Until I do.

After reaching a goal, I feel a moment of euphoria and then an unbelievable feeling of let down. Suddenly, reaching a goal has become terribly anticlimactic. I forget about every struggle I went through to get to where I am currently standing and instead have inner dialogue with myself:

"That wasn't so bad." (When it really least at the time.)
"I could have/should have done it better/differently." (Maybe or maybe not. But the truth is, I did the best I could at the time. And why don't I just bask in the glory of my accomplishment?)

The doozy - "What now?"

"I've lost 25 lbs. What now?" (Do I lose more? Do I start an exercise regime?)
"I've graduated college. What now?" (Do I go back to earn a more advanced degree? What area?)
"I've written a 50,000 word novelette. What now?" (Do I write more? Do I edit it? Do I start another one?)

I was so concerned with this facet of my psyche that I asked the Man Beast his process in accomplishing goals. He agrees that for him, goals are anticlimactic and he finds himself searching for more. So, either we're both very broken or both very human.

What about you? Do you enjoy the planning, the process, or the prize?

Until next time...

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