Posts Tagged ‘college’

Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux

August 10, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s no secret that school supplies give me joy. For me, and for many folks I know, it’s why I got into teaching. Yeah, yeah, there’s all that noise about making a difference and touching the future, but have you seen a perfectly pink eraser?

I’m not a shopper, but I could spend all the time in the world browsing notebooks, pencils and art materials. If, for any reason, you need to keep me occupied for an hour, just drop me off in the middle of the school supply area of any store.

So way back when my children started school, I had visions of us shopping for school supplies together (please tell me you see where this is going). I dreamed of sharing – of reveling! – in the sheer delight that can only come from a new pack of colored pencils. We’d go through the school supply list, using our time in the aisles to bond and get excited about the school year to come.

My expectations for school shopping and the reality couldn’t have been any different. The kids whined, fought with each other, and were completely uncooperative. Any joy I had about markers, glue sticks, or pristine journals was promptly stomped to bits by constant squabbling and complaints.

It took me a few years of torture, but I eventually figured out that the best thing for all involved was to grab the list and do the darn shopping myself. My kids didn’t really care what I bought them, so long as they had what they needed that first day. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. My older son developed a preference for matching folders, binders and notebook color for each of his subjects, even choosing colors that he felt were suitable to the class at hand. Hope springs eternal…) Once I figured that out, it freed me once again to enjoy that time – alone! – with the school supply list.

So.

Why on earth did I think that college preparation would be much different?

This time, I pictured my younger son and me cruising through the stores with our shopping list, chatting and dreaming about college life, how the dorm room was going to come together, (now please tell me you see where THIS is going!) what sorts of things he’d need to survive the transition, literally and figuratively. Or perhaps we’d be huddled together around my computer, comparison shopping the best blankets and power strips.

Yep. That…wasn’t a thing.

By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.

So now, I’m clicking and shopping. By myself. I’ve got my chai tea, a trusty dog for company, and the satisfaction of knowing I can do this, pain and conflict free. Lap desk? Check. Ethernet cords. Check. Ironically-chosen pink blanket for the dorm bed? Checkitty check.

And really. Isn’t that what most of parenthood – most of life – is about? Releasing ourselves from expectations so that our current reality becomes easier to focus on?

While we’re on the subject of releasing expectations, I’ll leave you with this thought. Right now in our house, things are messy. Not in the figurative sense, I mean truly. Literally. Messy.

As long as it’s out of my living room by next Tuesday, I think I can live with this!

That little mama dream I had of piles of clothing, sorted out by what goes, what stays? C’mon. Who am I fooling? That’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. It may boil down to my son scrambling for a half hour with a bunch of garbage bags, but as long as the clothes are gone from the living room by the time my son is, I will be just fine.

Gratuitous doggo pic. I think she might miss the mounds of clothes. And maybe her brother. But mostly the clothes.

Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Two Weeks

August 3, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Two weeks.

In two weeks, both of my guys will be away at school.

In two weeks, my husband and I will have the house to ourselves.

In two weeks, I won’t have to listen to complaints about how empty the pantry is.

Poor guys. How will they ever cope?

In two weeks, I won’t have to nag anyone to take out the recycling and trash, or be up to my eyeballs in dishes that nobody’s putting away.

The answer is YES. I have a PHYSICAL response to looking at this…
(but I’m also not doing the job for them!)

In two weeks, I don’t have to close the door to the glory that is a teenager’s room.

now is probably NOT the time you wish you had Smell-O-Vision…

In two weeks, I’ll be able to enter the hall bathroom without a hazmat suit.

The bathtub. I just. Want. The bathtub.

In two weeks, I can worry so much less about grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. I’ll be without the compounding of clutter that causes that tangled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

But…I’ll also be without THESE guys.

(Yes, this is how it goes when I ask my guys to take a photo together.)

They won’t be around for random conversations, for occasional date days, for the get-a-load-of-this-video! nudges, for the can-you-guess-this-song game, for kitchen dance parties, for constant bickering and ribbing and poking, for eye rolling at the latest dumb thing…

…and I might miss them, just a little bit.

Sunday Sit-Down #12: The Floodgates Open

April 4, 2021

Each Sunday, I’m working my way through my experiences with race. I’ll share stories and memories from throughout my life. I know I’ll encounter moments of growth that I wish I could relive. I’ll also have to think back on choices that I wish I could remake. Given that April is also poetry month, I’m also stacking that challenge right on top. As I often say when beginning anything tricky or ambitious, “We’ll see what happens.”

Pump primed, slate cleaned
My education could begin:

My first introduction was
CHIEF
That proud symbol of school pride
And heritage
That everyone has to have
On the sweatshirts we buy
And maybe this is weird while I’m asking
But if he’s so dignified
What’s with the war paint
And whooping and hollering

And the Boy Scout Manual dance
And tomahawk chops
And the clapping along to
“This is the Indian’s song?”

Eh. I could take him or leave him.

On campus I learned the other-ness of being a Jew:
I quickly developed a sixth sense for detecting
evangelical swagger.
The “I-care-about-you’s”
and the “Jesus-will-save-you’s”
and the “Do-you-do-any-reading-of-the-Word’s”
all had a certain look to them
(just as they recognized
the curly hair,
the Semitic complexion,
the tell-tale nose).
It’s why Hillel became my place,
where Yiddish was a form of currency,
Jewish geography threading a familiar, comfortable cloth.
I was among people who GOT me
without introduction or explanation or apology.

But just as I needed the like-me,
I needed the not-like-me
Anyone who would allow me to join:

The Zeta house, where my sisters
Were Christian
And Jewish
And Muslim
And Buddhist
And every color
And our national organization called us
“The United Nations Chapter”
except, I think, they didn’t mean it so kindly,
which is partly why I don’t donate to them now,
but I digress

The Asian-American Association
At the house on campus
And their meetings,
Vibrant and inspired and contentious
And wow are there layers
Upon layers

Salongo
At the res hall,
Spades tourneys and movie nights and step shows
And t-shirts emblazoned
“It’s a Black thing, you wouldn’t understand”
but I saw a shirt that read you MUST understand – shouldn’t we say that?
There are things you must understand. And…there are things you can’t.
Let it not stop you from learning or doing.

On College Education

October 6, 2020

Well. Looks like I’m stepping back up on to my soapbox. What’s got me so fired up this time?

My college son called me to chat about one of his professors. Things have gotten so bad that students banded together and complained to university higher-ups, so much so that the department issued its course evaluation survey halfway through the semester.

After hearing my son read his responses listing the numerous ways in which this class and its instructors have fallen short, I found myself really,

really,

REALLY wanting to call up this department and give them a piece of my mind.

But I’m not that kind of gal. Besides, it sounds like the students are already advocating quite well for themselves.

Still, as someone who dedicates her entire life and livelihood to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, I can’t just let this go.

So here’s what I WOULD say, if I were one who would say it.

Dear Professor,

Let me start by saying this. Your job is HARD. You’ve been asked to step in for the very first time to teach this undergraduate course. What’s more, you’re being asked to do it in the middle of a pandemic, and while the university is doing everything it can to protect your life and the life of the students, we are in a scary time. And you are being asked to teach in ways that your predecessors never had to consider.

What I’m imagining you think and believe right now? First of all, that you really know your stuff. You know that the class you’re teaching is HARD, and it requires you to teach an encyclopedic amount of information. I’d also like to believe that you truly want what’s best for your students. And I’m also wondering if you’re starting to realize that KNOWING material, and being able to teach it MEANINGFULLY are two separate animals.

I’m also going to guess that you were thrown into teaching this course without any training or support in pedagogy, or the foundations of teaching. I’m going to guess that the preparation and mentorship you were given as an instructor may have been limited to a copy of the syllabus as it had been previously, as well as your own experiences when you were a student.

I can’t fault you for that. You are a part of a bigger system that values the quantity of content over its instructional delivery. You are a part of a bigger system that values publishing credentials over the craft of teaching.

I also imagine you think I may be speaking out of turn, that as an elementary teacher I don’t have enough understanding of college students to know what good instruction looks like at the collegiate level.

I’m going to be straight with you. Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching. Let me repeat that. Good teaching. Is good teaching. Is good teaching.

The same foundational principles that apply to teaching first grade will resonate with fifth grade. With eighth grade. With high schoolers. With college students. With anyone. Why? Because at the heart of things, we are all human beings. We are curious. We learn when we are motivated. We crave connection, feedback and growth.

I’m guessing the complaints you’re getting right now feel pretty terrible. Critical feedback, especially in this volume, can really sting. But it’s also a wake-up call. You can be better. You can improve the experience for all. How? Here are a few places to start:

1. Respond to your students’ communications promptly and sincerely.
2. Give your students meaningful, prompt feedback on their work.
3. If you can’t give meaningful and prompt feedback, it’s a sign. You are assigning too many things. Pull back.
4. During classes, use presentations as a starting point rather than a script. Your students will engage more, and retain more, if there is context and explanation of the material.
5. Be a person to your students. If they connect with you, they’ll connect with the material.

Maybe this way of teaching is different from how you learned this content. Maybe this way of teaching isn’t valued in a system like the one you are in. Maybe you haven’t gotten the guidance and mentorship you needed as an instructor. But from one educator to another, we both know this is how we best learn, and we know it is what our learners deserve – no matter the level.

You can do it. I have perfect faith in you.

#SOL20 Day 11: Comin’ Home

March 11, 2020

Maybe I jinxed it by missing my boy.

But he’s coming home this week for Spring Break.

Aaannd for the forseeable future.

Yes, my son’s college has made the decision to move to online learning starting after Spring Break.

And that boy, the one I’ve been missing, the one I enjoy spending time with, the one it was harder to say goodbye to after Winter Break than at move-in, the one I’ve started to enjoy more texts and phone calls and conversations with, the one I was looking forward to visiting over my own Spring Break, and again on Mom’s Weekend, that one? He’s coming home.

Under my roof.

Indefinitely.

I’m….mostly sure that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing.

Right?

Right?