relationships

Dear Ms.K., Thank You for Giving My Daughter Detention

zbz5kp7d9z8-patrick-tomasso.jpg

Dear Ms. K.,

I want to thank you for giving my daughter detention today. Per our previous email, you informed me that she has been late to your class every day for several days. This baffled me, as I drop her off an hour early and you are her first class of the day. After several warnings, you emailed me to let me know that should she be late again, she would get detention. I assured you she would not repeat that mistake.

But of course, I cannot guarantee the actions of anyone besides myself.

After confronting her, she hurriedly assured me she learned her lesson. She explained that she gets hungry and her friend meets her to bring her food. Her friend is not always so quick.

Oh, are we blaming our friend?

No, no. It’s not her fault. Mom, it won’t happen again!

I try to give my daughter freedom within strict guidelines. A  “C” in a class at any time means her cell phone gets confiscated until the grade goes up. How she operates within her hours and activities is up to her.

When I remind her to make time for breakfast in the mornings and to pack a snack, I am met with heavy sighs. She is too busy styling her hair and applying makeup to worry about breakfast.

So it happened again today. She didn’t eat breakfast. She got hungry and met her friend. She was late to your class. And, as you promised, she will now have to serve detention – one hour after school tomorrow.

In the car, she was shaken. She’s never had this kind of consequence from a teacher before.

“It’s my fault. I got hungry. I didn’t pack any snacks or eat breakfast. It’s my responsibility. I will pack food the night before.”

I wanted to lecture  her and reinforce the lesson. I wanted to voice my dismay and disappointment. Instead, I said, “I am very proud of you for taking responsibility for this and not blaming anyone.”

Thank you, Ms. K., for doing the right thing. You are helping my daughter develop character and responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Success

Whirlybird Lunacy

lhsgbavacws-antonio-lapa.jpg

There is a label, in the education field, for parents who “hover” over their children in an overprotective, and micro-managing way: helicopter parenting.

As teachers, we get it.  You don’t want your child to ever “fail.” You want to prove to your child, the world, your self, that you are an involved parent. But you are not doing your child any favors.

When you hover, you:

  • subconsciously tell your kid that you don’t trust him to do it himself;
  • create anxiety for your child;
  • cheat your child out of the opportunity to work independently;
  • cheat your child out of learning from failing; and
  • cheat your child out of accomplishing something on his own.

 Sometimes, effective parenting means surrendering.

 

 

 

Health · Personal Success · relationships

5 Magic Words

photo-1445445342298-0b6cc73cba63-1

It Is What It Is

I used to hate this saying. I often heard it after I complained about something. What kind of retort is that? It just made me angry. “It is what it is.

When I was a kid, my home was toilet papered and egged. They wrote  “chink” on the driveway. “This happens,” my father said as our family cleaned the mess up. The words stung, like alcohol on an open wound. How could he react in such a weak manner?

And yesterday, my daughter cried. A boy she considers to be a good friend made a racist joke about Asian eyes and dental floss. I was inflamed! But she sat – quiet and still and oh-so-wise, in the puddle of ignorance, stupidity and pain this boy caused. She said, “I want to talk to him and explain why it was hateful and hurtful. He will understand and never do it again. I know he’s a good kid.” As her mother, I could only see red. Someone broke my daughter’s heart and made her question this world (once more), just so he could get laughs. 

And I knew. I knew the anger I felt was a false sense of power.Being angry makes you feel energized and ready to mobilize. But anger is fear on steroids.

“It is what it is” is not a rallying cry to be passive. It means,”what you see before you, IS.” 

When I was undergoing surgery for breast cancer, these five words were embodied in the doctor’s confident hands, the nurses’ night time vigil and my family and friends’ constant support. This IS the situation and we’re taking care of it right now.

It’s about accepting that which you cannot change. If you can’t change it, your anger and defiance – your energy – are wasted. You continually generate negativity.

In fact, acceptance is the first step to proactivity. Once you accept reality (that which IS, that which you cannot change), you can use your energy and creativity to begin to make steps to exact change. A couple of wise friends of mine often say, “This, too, shall pass.” Everything is impermanent. Accept each season.

 

Personal Success

Wake Up!

dog-sleeping

Sometimes, I feel like people are asleep. I mean, sleeping is nice, right? So why not be awake and be asleep? Just close your eyes to that which you do not find pleasant. We really do not wield much power in reality anyway, right?

My daughter came home extremely upset today. A boy in her class drew the swastika on his arm. This is not the first time. It’s the third time he’s done this. She told him (for the third time) that this is absolutely unacceptable, that it’s a symbol of unspeakable atrocities against mankind. Um, Holocaust, anyone?

He laughed and said he was just “joking around.” And then he told her to “lighten up.” [Does this kind of rhetoric sound familiar?]

Crying, she said, “Mom, I’m just terribly sad and AFRAID.”

Our current political climate, our literal climate, our rising gun violence rates, and our collective unconsciousness are not instilling confidence in our children.  Do the right thing. If your school tells you your child is drawing swastikas on his arm and books, then give him an education and a serious consequence. Teach him that it’s wrong.

Don’t “Boys will be boys” it.

I’m going to call that boy’s parents and I will let you know if they are “asleep” or not.

 

Health · relationships

Even if You Don’t Want To…

One of my summer school students – I’ll call her Liliana – was woefully deficient in her math skills. Going into 5th grade this year, she should be prepared to work math problems with fractions. However, she was still struggling with simple addition and multiplication. After working intensely for over a week, she grasped basic multiplication quickly.

After successfully solving four multiplication problems, I told her, “OK, you’re ready for division.”

Her eyes grew large. She stepped back from me. “No, not yet.”

“Liliana, you’re ready.”

“Just one more.”

“No, you’re ready. What’s the matter?”

She just stood there, silent.

“It’s ok if you make mistakes at first. That’s how you learn. Look how far you’ve come!”

She looked at me doubtfully. I gave her a problem to sort out, after working one through for her.

She returned with her work. She had made one small mistake. Her brows were furrowed. She was looking at her mistake.

Yet she had successfully worked out several steps correctly before that.

“Look at how far you came, Liliana! Look at how many steps you got right. Focus on that. And now, study your mistake. This is learning.”

She’s still working on division. It will take time. But you and I know that  if she’s determined and works consistently, she will master it.

How many times do we shy away from the next step? How many times do we say, “Not yet”? And how many times do we focus on our mistake and not our successes?

Take that next step, even if you don’t want to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Success

Father’s Day

 

Summer School. Day Five.  12 students. Ten more days left. Our days together are so few and there is so much to do.

Kids are like mirrors. I am always learning from them and they show me things about myself. They help me be better. Today, I was teaching them how to use Word: how to open it, type in it, save , change fonts, etc. We were making Father’s Day cards and the fact that one student’s father just went to jail was not lost on me. “If you prefer to write a card to your mother or grandparent, that’s fine.” She chose to make it for her father anyway.

“What if I need to write it in Spanish? My father can’t read English.”

(Taken aback): “How do you communicate with your dad then? How do you talk to each other?”

“We say, ‘How are you?’ and simple stuff like that.”

“OK, Type it in English and we will translate it to Spanish when you are all done.”

Several kids nodded and resumed typing. I continued walking around, helping, realizing the chasm within their families.

One student asks, “Mrs. Wipff, are you going to call Anthony “honey” too?”