Perfect Saturday

It was a lovely Saturday that revolved on attending two birthday parties of my littlest Samuel’s friends.  They are turning five.  Samuel is turning 5 NEXT MONTH.  It was a joy to see him play and interact with his little friends from pre-k.  Unlike me, Joshua and Samuel are social butterflies.  They say hello to people as we walk past them, they inform our neighbors from across the street where we are going and make new friends instantaneously.   It was an awesome day for the boys.  Too much cake, pizza, games, jumping, and singing had them in the best mood ever. I would glance over at Samuel playing with his friends, his best friend Maddie was holding his little hand deciding on what to play next.  Chuck E. Cheese was first, and because two parties were happening on the same day it was very early.

Later, we headed to the second party.  At an inside trampoline park.  It was the first time ever going to one.  The boys were immediately attracted to the bounce house, trampolines, and slides in the park.  I could only hear the little squeals, screams, and laughter of little kids.  There were also loud whistles that the kids were immediately drawn to in their treat bags.  I was sure the little rascals were going to be exhausted but as soon as we got in the car to return home, Little Josh asked where we were headed to next.

There were no set plans, I called my little sister to get together for dinner. I love that I can do that.  It was not until three years ago that she moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Area 3 years ago.  I adore seeing my boys with their cousins.  They are strong, smart, intelligent little girls and just watching them grow is such a privilege.  While the kids played, I sat with my sister to enjoy one of our conversations.  We can talk about anything, and since we are both in education and we share many of the same preoccupations, thoughts, and experiences, it always ends up being some of my favorite conversations.

As we chatted about our jobs, future, and parenthood, the boys ate their ice cream, and my nieces quickly proceeded to do as many cartwheels as they could. It was the perfect night to sit outside, eating ice cream and talking about whatever thought about.  I can honestly say that spending time with family is one of my favorite ways to spend my weekend.

Our topics of conversation weaved in and out as we can talk about a myriad of topics.  This is what we talked about last night that was a highlight for me. The theme that kept arising and we keep gravitating towards is change, the only constant in education.  It made me reflect about my experiences as a teacher, my next step in my career, my desire to have a greater impact in this field.  Since she attended a lecture by a superintendent, she shared some of the takeaways from it. There are several thoughts that resonated with me, for example, the fact that embracing change will broaden your perspective.  I am a firm believer that when a person embraces change, they are placed exactly where they need to be.  The people surrounding them will be exactly what we need to grow personally and professionally.  Although I have embraced change as a teacher, it becomes difficult to embrace change in a bigger scale.  How often do we put our hand down, or do not raise our hand at all to embark on new professional journeys because we question if we can do it at all, or again, the question of balance arise again.

I love how a light-hearted fun filled day is turned into a reflective evening with deep and meaningful conversations that makes us reflect.

 

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Don’t Cry Over Lost Glasses

As tears began streaming down your cheek, I finally realized that I had pushed too hard.  It is another late day at school, when I tell you we have to rush to pick up your little brother from pre-k.  We pick him up and I decide we are just going home to prepare something quick for dinner.  Your tia (aunt) calls and invites us to go to an event that begins in 30 minutes.  I agree to go, and walk out of the room to find you in full Darth Vader costume (yes, you are obsessed and I blame your daddy for this).  You look up at me excited to finally be at home, be free, outside the school walls that you know ohh so well because mommy just spends way too much time there (the joys of being the child of a teacher).  I tell you to change, and to my surprise you immediately follow directions not because I tell you but because tia is just the person you cannot miss the opportunity to see.  I help you put your shirt on, quickly point out where your shoes are and now I ask for your glasses.

Oh your glasses, who are nowhere to be found. They have disappeared and of course you notice my level of frustration.  You feel it to your core, you begin crying and demanding your little brother to help you (in a i-am-going-to-push-you-until-you-find-my-glasses).  I hear the argument and rush to see that even though your little brother often has the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes at finding things in this house, there is no success.

I do not know why but I am still positive that we are going to be able to drive across town in less than 15 minutes.  I try to rush you and your little brother until finally I stop and look at you. My little boy, emotionally you are drained from your day at school, you have been patient with me waiting until I leave yet another staff meeting, and talk about my other kids to colleagues.   I push you. I push you so much you are in tears. You keep saying you need your glasses and guilt overrides all emotions.

I am sorry.  You are happy to be home because you can actually play. I ruined a peaceful day for you after all that you are asked to do at school.  I am sorry because I allowed myself to fall prey to what I am trying to avoid: being on the ‘go’ day after day, rushing from one place to another, rushing you to the car and rushing you to get off the car time and time again.  I am sorry because I know that sometimes there are triggers that upset you and this time that trigger was me.

You are now crying so hard and I know that it will be hard to calm you down, so I silently cry with you. I hug you and tell you mommy is sorry for rushing you. We will find your glasses, eventually, I promise you. I sit you on my lap and once again I realize how fast you are growing, how far you have come. I need to enjoy the perfectly ordinary days because they will be over too soon.

We compromise. You quickly decide to play Ninja Turtles with your brother, and I find your glasses exactly where you said they were not…my room.

 

You will never have this dayDarth Vader and Superman

Slice of Life #3

I am here for YOU

Multiple sighs were heard this morning as my students realized that instead of a fun learning day, we would spend all day responding to 48 math questions.  The materials were passed out and the pencils were freshly sharpened.  After reading the instructions for the simulation for the very first time, the many lectures, blogs, and books that explore the detrimental effect of the standardization in education came rushing through my mind.  I have been lucky to work alongside educators that critically explore the multi-layered and complex issues in education.  As I pass out the tests, I realize that this is in direct conflict with what I believe.

As I pace around the room, the words “try your best,” “find the evidence,” “bubble in the right response,” echoes in my mind.  I am the only Spanish speaking teaching in my grade level.  I see myself in the eager eyes of bilingual students.  I am one of them.  I know that the scores often reflect what research has shown time and time again, what years and years of standardized testing reflect: those students who come from poverty often lag behind their peers.” It is not the rigor of the tests that need to increase, it is the model of our teaching and the ingrained beliefs of the educational institutions that must be altered.  The same biases that existed when I attended elementary school in El Paso, TX against students of poverty are similar to the messages that are overtly and covertly transmitted to the kids that need public education the most: you are not good enough, you are not doing enough, I know how you will end up (jail? Teen mom/dad? Inadequate? Etc.)

Pacing around the room I quickly realize that my kids have reached their limit.  Their bodies are thirsty for movement, they are tired of forcing their bodies of sitting still, of concentrating on solving convoluted math problems.  Some pencils tap the table, some hands fidget with the pencils as they readjust their body on the rock hard chair as if that would magically make them feel more comfortable.  It is torturous.

It is no secret that I, along with many teachers, disagree with the increased standardization of education that expects kids to be marathon sprinters.  Because in order to reach those goals by the end of the year, you have to push as hard and as fast as you can every minute of every day without an opportunity to deviate. It is demanding the highest imaginable output from every student.  It is no surprise that the theory of education and the reality are in conflict.  From meeting our students where they are, we are then expected to ignore, eliminate, work around or “fix” situations that are outside of our control.

I am also awaiting the end of this day…I know what the “expectations” of me are, my first year in a “tested” grade…I know too well that ‘data’ will drive my instruction… there is only one message I want to send my kids:

YOU are good enough.

YOU are doing enough.

YOU keep my passion for teaching alive.

I am here for YOU.

Writing, Writing, Writing

Writing…

Words, meaning, sharing, audience, VOICE

There was a time where I thought of myself as a writer, often a notebook under my arm looking for inspiration to write about life, love, adventures.

This part of me slowly slipped away as life became more complex, grappling with difficult emotions, conundrums, and the weight of what seems as unsurmountable responsibilities often left notebooks filled with blank pages; fancy, colorful pens unused.

Today, I received a last minute invitation to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge for the month of March.  My first reaction is to put the idea away, save it for next year, I mean, when would I find the time, the ideas, the desire to write….

Writing for an audience leaves me with an uneasy feeling since I do not know how others are going to think of my writing, my thoughts, my ruminations, and my life.   Yet here I am with only a few hours to decide to take the plunge and write or skip this, forget about the idea of SOL and decide that I am not ready to feel vulnerable with my endless ruminations in the blogosphere.

I have never seen myself as a writer… in fact my search for voice has often been halted, I have decided to leave many things unsaid.  When I am required to write…I freeze, I doubt, I hesitate, I procrastinate, and leave whatever it is unfinished.

Not this time.

I have decided to write.

I have decided to expose the messy, sometimes overwhelming, beautiful, imperfect wonderful life of a mom, teacher,  and seeker of new educational adventures.  This is the commitment to myself…to find the time, to be inspired, to take notice, to be grateful, to share with others the art of writing.