Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What to do now?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

When it happened, I was totally caught off guard. We were visiting a new playground, with many big, long, fun slides. I called for the preschoolers to line up, we needed to head back to school.
She didn't want to leave the playground.
She doesn't have the verbal skills to tell me.
So, she spoke with her body, throwing herself onto the ground, squirming and moaning, refusing.
Everyone else lined up.
Of course, this challenging behavior appears when we weren't at the school playground. No, we were at the faraway playground, near the community center, back across the football field, with many, many, many steps to get back to school.

What to do?

Response #1

I encouraged her,
"Let's go, hon. Yes, those slides were fun. We are going to come back soon. Right now, we need to go in."
"No! No! No!" That's all she could offer. And the tantrum on the ground continued.

Response #1 - Fail.

What to do?

Response #2:

I beckoned her partner to come over, encouraging him, "Tell her that you need her to hold your hand, you need your partner, to walk safely back to school."
Her line partner said, "Here, okay?" and held out his hand. Preschoolers can get their meaning across with very few words! Alas, Little Miss Refusal was still not going to walk, even with an invite from a friend. She ignored the extended hand of her classmate and continued the tantrum on the ground, with another chorus of "No! No! No!" I realized the line partner was now looking at me, with eyes that were a little vulnerable and uncertain, as if to say "wait, is it better to stay and tantrum like this? Should I skip the line up, too?" I asked him to go back to the line, to hold my co-teacher's hand...I dared not have a domino effect, with other preschoolers refusing to budge.

Response #2 - Fail.

The preschoolers begin the procession back to school.
Except for her.

What to do?

Response #3:

"Let's go, little one, time to go back, we'll be the caboose," and I picked her up and carried her, stopping every now and again when my body tired out, re-inviting her to walk with me. Each pause resulted in more of the same challenging behavior -  shouts of "No! No! No!" and throwing herself full throttle onto the ground. Oh my. Is it my imagination, or is she the biggest child in the class? This was heavy lifting! (Of course, she did absolutely nothing to lighten my load, but everything to increase it's difficulty - writhing and wriggling the whole way.)

Response #3 - Success. Imperfect, but we were all headed back to school. Oh well.

Never go head to head with a preschooler.

There is nothing like the stubbornness and determination of a preschooler.

So frustrating, at times.

As I walked, carrying my heavy load, my mind raced through my options, ways to respond better next time, ways to get the desire I wanted - for her to walk on her own two feet.
What was the logical consequence? What made sense right then?
No, there's no point in yelling or throwing a tantrum myself.
We all have to move together, stay together, our entire class.
We're on a schedule.

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made sense right then?
It's not like I could leave her on the playground.
Should I have signaled her earlier than the others, given her a heads up?
Did she feel that we didn't have enough time to play?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? How could I help her see the error of her ways? What made sense right then?
Should I not let her go to the playground next time?
No. I believe children need their outdoor play almost every bit as much as they need food and sleep. Also, we weren't going back to that playground for several days. Would she even remember? Would she make the connection?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made the most sense right then?
Even after all these years of teaching preschoolers, the answer eludes me. 
Sometimes you just make do. 
And give yourself a five minute break, once you return inside. Deep cleansing breaths.

I remind myself, one time is not a pattern.

Count my blessings that she was the ONLY tantrum on the walk back.

I am going to hesitate the next time we head out on that adventure.

On the plus side, this job is keeping me in shape! I have to be able to lift 30-40 lbs at a moment's notice!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What about home?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

It is no surprise that, at the beginning of the school year, home is ever-present on preschoolers’ minds. As children play and explore in the classroom, I see a great deal of fascination and curiosity about home. In dramatic play, the children play family, with pretend meals, bed times, and doctor visits. In the block area, children create homes for animals and people. We decided to delve into the topic. We wondered,

What is home?
What makes a home?
What do you love about home?

Preschoolers are beginning to discern what is the same and what is different, stretching their thinking muscles. I posed the question, “What is the difference between home and school?” and the children truly struggled with this. I loved listening to the preschoolers, as they tried to tease these two concepts - home and school - apart:

“You run at school.” (O)
“But not inside!” (S)
"Dirt is a kind of home." (M)
“I have a bouncy ball at home.” (C)
"I have a grabber at home." (J)
“You not bring your toys to school." (N)
"I like to play with my sister." (L)
"Home – watch cartoons!” (E)
“Yes, watch T.V. at home” (A)
“Home and school are the same because you are warm.” (C)
“At home, Mommy has a bed.” (B)
“Mommy is home.” (Z)
"Mommy picks me up." (I)

We are finally on to something! Our families are at home!

I think it is oh so sweet that the children struggled to figure this out. Perhaps there is a great deal that is the same about the early childhood classroom and children’s own homes? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What does a young parent know?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
- Maya Angelou

I went to see my (elderly) parents this past weekend, who live in a retirement community in Saco, Maine. One bonus of seeing my parents is that I get to see a couple of my brothers and sisters-in-law, who live nearby. My brothers and I went cruising down memory lane, thinking about different experiences we had when we were young. Some of our memories went a little dark.

I'll share just one with you today.

We remembered how sad and difficult life was when my parents argued. My parents believed in giving one another the silent treatment. Yes, this was their approach to conflict - to freeze one another out, to make the other 'figure out' what was wrong. Their silence affected the whole house...it meant no family dinners, no gathering together for television or games, everyone walking on eggshells.

I remember the silence vividly.

All of this was so many, many, many years ago, and I have certainly forgiven my parents. I know that they were finding their way, they were doing the best they could.

Now, I find myself thinking about how darn young my parents were when all this happened. Certainly, I'm much older now then my parents were at the time of all this ugly behavior.

I think, wow - how young all of us are - typically - when we are raising children. Think of how much we learn on the job as parents. Parenting is often done by two young people who are just learning to communicate with one another, just learning to create that team, that precious union. In the midst of this learning, we dare to bring a new life (or two or three or four or, in my parents' case, five). What does a young parent even know? How do you know what you need to know? Goodness!

Time and time again, young parents raise children. It is by no means new. And yet, isn't it a wonder that children grow up, that most of us turn into adults that make a worthwhile life?

I think about this a lot in my work with young children: our childhood lays the blueprint for the rest of our lives...it creates our 'norm', what is ordinary for us. What's happening to my preschoolers right now that they will carry with them always? What is being modeled in their homes? What instincts - right or wrong - will they carry in their bones?

I remember the silence vividly.

This is the power of childhood.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday SOL: How do you make time for what is most important?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

How can it be one month since I've posted?
How to describe this November?

Here's another very full day of teaching,
a few more right behind,
a Tuesday comes and go,
no slice of life this week,
and many very full days follow,
and here's another Tuesday,
let's share a slice of life...
no, I have prepared nothing...
and so it goes.

Here are a couple of students in a makeshift hospital bed,
waiting for a preschool doctor to appear on the scene!
Truly, it could be me under there - overwhelmed by to do's ;-)

It is very important to me to be a teacher-writer. I have an on-going school journal, where daily I take notes, giving me rich ideas and suggestions for this blog. Truly, my writing issues are not for lack of ideas. This blog has been coming out on the losing end of my juggle of time. All the daily must-do's. Unlike my daily journaling, for this blog I need to make time to play with language, to find the right words, to polish and consider.

It is a priority that I have not been meeting - which makes me sad.

I reflected about this over the long weekend - Maureen, how can you not do what you like to do best?

So, here I go again.
Diving in.
Trying to share, at least - once a week.
Today, I am back again!
If something has to give, let it be something that I care less about.

How do you make time for what is most important?

Me, I'm going to put pen to paper and figure it out.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Autumn fun

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Autumn is a fabulous time of year. My preschoolers have been loving the bright sunshine and cooler temperatures. We love collecting nature treasures outside. We have a growing science corner filled with these - pumpkins, pinecones, acorns, leaves, sticks, and more. One day this past week, I documented children's words as they played outside and gathered special finds; these words became a classroom poem that is shared below. When we returned to the classroom, we got out the paints and created works of art - one large classroom mural and individual pictures as well. There is so much to learn and discover in autumn.

Leaves, leaves, leaves.
Leaves fall down.
I see the leaves falling down.
Red leaf.
Brown leaf.
And purple.
Look at this leaf! It is orange.
A stick.
Sticks from the tree branches.
Trees are sticks.
I want sticks.
Do you want sticks, too?
We found berries on the bush.
Look what I found.
A rock!
We are collecting them.
It’s cold.
Really cold.
Wind in my hair.
Wind feels good.
Look at your hair! It’s windy!
Wind in my ponies.
Wind blows down the trees.
We are running and falling.
Let’s do again!



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday SOL: How to say goodbye to our family?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

This year, our hello/goodbye window is a particularly magical and happy place in my classroom. Do you know the book, by Norman Juster? In the story, grandparents have a special window in their home where children can watch everyone come and go. It is a very special love ritual. 

How to explain this special place in our classroom? It is the perfect salve for the fragile preschooler who is sad to say goodbye to their family. They no longer have time to dwell on their misery, because one must get to the window and make merry!

One quirk about our window is that it isn't exactly on the way out the door for families...in fact, when they leave our classroom, they have to back up a few steps in the opposite direction to get to the window. It's proof that sometimes going backwards ends up being a step forward. When a preschooler's face begins to sadden at their family member leaving, a classmate or teacher nudges them - "quick! let's go see them at the window!" and off we race to the window. Oh, the scenes that transpire! We blow kisses, we make silly faces, we give hearty waves. The sad preschooler becomes an enthralled preschooler, because there is so much more to see than just their family. Yes, Mom or Dad may have just left, but look! Look at everyone else! It seems like the whole school parades by the window. Older students, who once depended on this window themselves, now stop and wave and make faces at the preschoolers. Teachers and administrators stop and wave, too. If you look very closely, across the way, you can see the preschoolers in the classroom next door. There's nothing more fun than waving to these friends, who we will see on the playground later in the day. Yes, our hello/goodbye window is a place of love and joy. The perfect way to begin a school day!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What if we paint at the easel?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Our painting easel is an oasis of quiet, focused creativity. There's only room for two children here, one on each side, and the painting is unhurried and free. The first day that the easels were opened this school year, I gave children "timed appointments" for painting, rushing them through, so that everyone in the classroom might get a turn during our centers time. Now, settled into our seventh week of school, the easel is organically paced...sometimes empty, sometimes full, often one artist lingering on their masterpiece. Teachers can guide from the side, helping children to label the page with their name, converse about the work, move the artwork to the drying line, or provide refills on paint. Let's look at some of the children's work...

Yellow, red, blue
Blue, red, yellow
Children are curious about the colors in the paint containers. We have begun the year with the three primary colors of yellow, red, and blue. As our school year continues, children will help me pick the colors for the easel, allowing for a more diverse palette. As the children learned in our guided discovery, our easels are set up with one brush for each color and children are encouraged to work with the same brush for the same color (in hopes of leaving a good solid color for the next painter). I love how frequently I find children's work that simply shouts "colors of the day." These two were painted many days apart, by two different artists. The paintings seem to ask, "What do we have today?" as the artists investigate what colors are available, developing one color at a time. 

More paper needed!
But, of course, separate, distinct colors are not the only way to paint. The very first week we painted, one introspective child discovered the thrill of covering every inch of the paper with paint. The preschooler worked quite a long time at this, mixing, swirling, stretching the paint. What was the original goal? To escape the tumult of the classroom and find a quiet spot to work alone? To discover what happens if you mix two colors? Was it simply to use up all the paint in the containers? Or maybe to create a puzzle for the teachers by covering one's name entirely? This early investigation has led to much imitation - daily, someone paints every bit of their paper at the easel. It is as if the preschoolers have an insatiable thirst for painting, it is never enough. Alas, the three colors are no longer distinct...however, the art is magical!

The surprise of working together
This next picture is one I call "The surprise of working together" - here, one child was drawing with pastels and wandered away from the easel. Pretty soon thereafter, another preschooler came over and began painting on the same paper. In these early days, children are developing their agency - just beginning to realize how to ask a teacher for a new piece of paper, how to move one child's artwork off the easel, how to ask a friend if they can work with them on art. I loved the combined effort! However, both children seemed surprised at the idea that their art was shared. As the year continues, children will begin to purposefully create art together, but this magical piece was happenstance.

The art of avoidance
This beautiful artwork celebrating the color red was created during our classroom clean up. Yes, this clever preschooler slipped to the easel corner of the classroom while our clean up song played and classmates were busy tidying up the room. The preschooler successfully evaded teachers' eyes, as we focused on putting away blocks, dolls, and other toys. I call it "The Art of Avoidance" and it makes me smile - it does show good focus and persistence.
Saying goodbye to Dad 
I happened upon this masterpiece early one morning, as children were just arriving for school. It had clear lines and a distinct silhouette - not at all typical for my preschoolers. I asked the artist, "What are you painting?" and he answered emphatically "An elephant!" Well, yes, it was! I hurried over to my Teaching Resident and whispered, "Did you see the painting at the easel?," realizing we were working with a budding Picasso...and she said, "Oh yes! His father painted the contour of an elephant for him when he dropped him off." I had a good laugh! A fabulous artwork of family love and connection.

Preschoolers love to paint! Each day, our art corner is simply bursting with their creativity and imagination.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What is death?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

"One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin

We buried Flash the betta fish this week. I noticed he was slowing down one day. The next day when I came in, I didn't even see him in the tank. I looked more closely at the tank and there he was, in long, narrow leaves of the fake seagrass. Imagine, this tiny little life still having the desire and power to die in solitude...living life in a glass bowl, everyone looking at you, and then when it is time to die, finding the one available place of solitude to die.

I shared the news of Flash's death with the preschoolers. I let them see him in the reeds. They asked,
"Is he stuck?"
"Is he tired?"
"Why is he hiding?"
"Why did he die?"
"Is he sick?"

I removed him from the tank and into a paper cup with water, so that we could transport him to the garden for burial. I let the children look into the cup one by one, so that they could each be assured he was no longer alive. They asked,
"Why is he not swimming?"
"Is he sleeping?"
 "Can we make him move?"
"Is the cup too small?" asked one.
When the cup jostled, one declared,
"Flash is moving!"
I asked the children to put a hand over their heart. "Do you feel it beating? You are alive! Flash is no longer alive. He lived a good, long life."

We had a solemn procession down the hall and out the door to bury Flash in the garden. We dug a deep hole, placed Flash within, and then covered him over with dirt. I explained, "Flash the fish will help enrich our garden soil. We will be able to visit him in the garden, should the need arise." The children shared a few words,
"I like Flash."
"I miss Flash."
"Flash is in the dirt."

My colleague took several photos and I was truly surprised and moved by this one; I had not even realized this was happening, in the moment:

Do you see how one preschooler is supporting me, as I prepare to place Flash in the burial spot? It is so beautiful, the empathy and concern of preschoolers. It makes me so hopeful for our world!


Alongside everyone in our nation, I woke up to the news about the carnage in Las Vegas yesterday morning. Another horrific mass shooting.

Our nation will throw heart-wrenching memorials, so many flowers and candles, surrounded by breath-taking photographs of our deceased loved ones. We will weep, sob, cry out in grief. We will head right back out to the gun shop when we are done. What is life? What is the value of life? 

We are teaching our children to take it all in stride.  
Our Mommies, Daddies, sisters, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, colleagues, friends, lovers, fish,
all come and go.

We go through the pantomime of caring. Against all odds.

"One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin

What can we tell about a culture by the way it treats life?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Just how?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

I am a teacher of teachers and it is tongue-twisting,
metacognitive work.

This is a poetic attempt to describe this work at the beginning of the school year.

Just How

just how

do I know what to say in the moment?

just how

do I hold a mirror to the effect of her actions?

just how

do I help him to see from the student's perspective?

just how

do I discern what is the most essential thing to notice, to give feedback on?

just how

do I encourage her to see the power of her innate tools of voice, emotion, timing, and even physical presence?

just how

do I decide if this is important enough to mention?

just how

do I see the right and the possible in the midst of missteps?

just how

do I move him from simply being alongside a child to fostering the child's ability to play with peers, learn new routines, explore new things?

just how

do I help her see that she can be with more than one child?

just how

do I help him to react with a developmental lens rather than moral authority?

just how

do I give feedback in the moment, while keeping the classroom moving right along?

just how

do I encourage them not to give up, but to see the process and growth of their own learning?

just how

do I say just the right thing?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What did you just call me?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

In these first few weeks of the school year, one of my ESL students has added so many new English words to his repertoire. He sits very quietly, observing and listening, not visibly participating in our songs, fingerplays, and stories. Later, as he falls asleep at nap, I hear him whisper and repeat, quietly to himself, playing with the English words, the unfamiliar tongue. He is very dear. I'm amazed at how quickly language can be acquired when you are three years old. 

I knew I would hook him with Audrey Woods' The Napping House. I've shared this book with children for so many years that it is a well-worn act for me...a book I can recite from memory. He stared intently at every page, as I recounted the granny, the child, the dog, the cat, the mouse, the flea. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Such a funny tale, really! I watched him watch me with the book, and I wondered - is he following this story? His classmates would spontaneously call out, as if on cue, "where everyone was sleeping!," at the end of every page, but he stayed mute, staring. He stayed quiet as the rest of us laughed together at the conclusion - the broken bed, and everyone playing outside in the sunshine. Then I closed the book and dismissed the children to their lunches.

He sidled over to me and said, "Ok, Granny!"


He thinks the word for an old, gray-haired lady is granny! He learned this from The Napping House.  

This makes me smile. 

You tell me, are we really the same?

Monday, September 11, 2017

What opportunities for language are we missing?

Preschooler A pushes Preschooler B off of the playground balance beam and jumps on it in his place. Preschooler B is on the ground crying and I rush over to help these two problem-solve. Thankfully, I observed the incident, because neither child can explain. Preschooler B gesticulates at Preschooler A, with one word "push!" and Preschooler A just frowns at me with furrowed brow, crossing his arms defiantly, when I insist he talk with us.

I persevere - "Let's check in with Preschooler B. Are you okay? Where do you hurt?"

Preschooler B is standing sullenly at my side, holding his elbow.

Me, to Preschooler A, "You want to use the balance beam, but Preschooler B is on it. Let's do this again, this time, you say 'May I use it now?' and Preschooler B will say, "I am on it. You can be next."

Preschooler A, assessing that this isn't going precisely his way, says, "NO!" and throws himself down on the ground, and begins muttering. He is clearly very frustrated. I do not understand what he is saying.

Turn-taking is the cornerstone of all preschool learning. It feels as if I spend my entire year on this concept, helping children to understand that
you are not always first,
others get to play with something and you will be next,
you ask for what you want and listen to (and heed) what your classmates say;
you work things out together.

It is hard to do this when language skills are delayed.

It seems to me that I am increasingly seeing (hearing!) language delays in preschoolers.

Snapshots -

Dad's important job requires him to have his phone on 24 hours a day, and thus he takes a work call while having breakfast with his baby and preschooler, basically doing a charade about what and how to eat while fielding questions from a client - he shakes his head "no" when the preschooler tries to put more cereal in her bowl, he opens a yogurt container, he shakes the baby's bottle, he takes off their bibs, wipes their faces, gets the baby out of the high chair, helps the preschooler down from her chair, all the while saying "Yes, I can check that out. That's on the agenda for ..."

A city sidewalk. Mom is in the lead, with a preschooler and an elementary child walking behind her. The children have on backpacks and are walking slowly, without purpose, trudging really. Mom is talking with someone near and dear, she is very worked up, "Oh, yeah! That's what she said, but that's not what she does!" Her pace is hurried, and she turns to look at the children behind her and glares, while beckoning them to pick up their pace. They are clearly late for wherever they are headed.

Mom walks in to the classroom with her preschooler right behind her, and goes through the morning drop off ritual mechanically, automatically - Mom puts the child's lunch box in the lunch bin, hangs her back pack on the hook, puts the child's water bottle at the water bottle station. All the while, the child is transfixed by a game on Mom's phone. Mom bends down and gives her a kiss on the cheek and, saying, "time for me to have my phone back!" and the child bursts into tears. Mom takes the phone and hands the crying child to the teacher, with a cheery "Have a great day!," and Mom is out the door.

Playground, after school, adults on their phones, many children running around and playing, some adults chatting with one another, and a few solitary preschoolers sitting on benches with parents' phones in hands.

Riding on metro trains, grocery shopping, sitting at restaurants, everywhere I go, when I see adults and children together, one of the two is focused on the phone, not their companion.

I am now watching vigilantly for interactions that contradict this.

I don't know if I am on a rant or a mission, but I am truly sadden by the missed opportunities for language. I see - hear - the effects in the classroom - children who do not meet your eyes, give monosyllabic answers or even grunts, who do not have any idea how to converse with others.

Let's talk, talk, talk with children!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Shall we begin again?

We begin again.
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
She will observe.
He needs a hug.
He has an allergy.
Good luck with her naps!
Be on alert - he will elope.
Let's learn how to line up.
How to clean up.
What are the quiet signals?
When should we listen?
Shall we build with blocks?
What about paint?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
He doesn't eat well, very picky.
She has so much to say!
She is somewhat shy.
Do you remember his older brother?
She's my oldest,
He's my youngest,
So good to know their birthdays.
Watch him run!
What a great laugh.
Oh, she's getting ready to cry.
Mommy coming soon?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
Oops, I think he's had an accident.
Listen to their play!
"Bugs for dinner"
"They're scared."
"We can pretend it's a beach."
"A dog and a firefighter and some food."
"There's a monster coming."
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The heartbreak of dementia

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

On a recent visit, Mom was in a sour, cranky mood at our arrival, and Dad warned me to stay away from her.  "She's in an impossible mood," he declared. I smiled, remained pleasant, and set about making a fun little lunch for us -  getting out the placemats and the napkins, preparing sub sandwiches, some potato chips, and even a splash of "Fresca" for drink. Nothing fancy, but, welcomed favorites. I tried to entice Mom to the table, but she simply stared at me blankly or responded angrily ("NO!") to any question I asked. Finally, I asked cheerily, "What about Fresca? Would you enjoy a glass of cold Fresca? I remember how much you love this!" and she sneered at me and said bluntly, with vigor, "Run along!"

I had to turn my back to her so that she wouldn't see me laughing. Both the caregiver and I got a chuckle out of that. My father, however, did not. "Why does she speak like that!?" he demanded, "That is so rude!"

I suggested that we simply ignore her for the time being and enjoy the lunch. The caregiver took her to the bathroom to wash her hands (before the lunch which she declared she didn't want!), and I suspected that once she came out of the bathroom, she would emerge a new woman with the whole incident forgotten. Sure enough, when she came out, a much more pleasant person was inhabiting her skin. "Oh my! Turkey sandwiches! That sounds delicious!," she declared when she saw us seated at the  table. She sat down with us and began to settle in happily to the meal.

It's important to act as if the tantrum never happened.

Then the phone rang. The caregiver read the caller ID and called out to my father, "It's Time Warner calling, must be about your cable account, do you want to answer?" Dad stumbled to get out of his chair, saying, "I need to take that call," but he couldn't move quickly enough and he missed it; the call went to voice mail, and he was now the sour, cranky one. He was so frustrated.

Mom and Dad were playing tag team with their moods.

Dad could not settle back into the company of his daughter and son-in-law without resolving the issue first. Lunch for Dad was abruptly over. He wondered what they called about...did he forget to pay the bill? He didn't know how to retrieve the message plus he is hard of hearing and probably couldn't have heard it if he had. His vision is poor, too, so the caregiver read the number back to him, and he dialed it, only to receive the automated message - "our network circuits are busy at this time, please call back." Then began a fruitless series of call backs by Dad, with increasing anger at every repetition of the automated message. I suggested, "Dad, they were probably just calling to sell you a fancier package...just an ad, really, " but he is convinced his account is in arrears. He barks at me - "I bet I forgot to pay the bill! Your mother cannot live without the TV!" (This is funny to me, because it is he who cannot live without the TV, but I do not show any amusement on my face, only patience and understanding.)

Honestly, he tries to call the company for another 30 minutes. It is very painful to watch.

His lunch was forgotten.

What is so sad is that he can no longer discern that this phone call is really not a problem at all. Annoying, yes...but put it aside and chat with your daughter, enjoy their company. Take care of the issue at some other point in time; better yet, let them call back.

My mother, age 88, has full dementia - no knowledge of who I am, no memory of times we shared, no ability to converse anymore. My father, also 88, has Parkinson's - and, sadly, this disease is coupled with the possibility of dementia...he is slowly growing into the same type of mental hell. Honestly, I think it is worse for him, because he is at that place where dementia is beckoning - he is painfully aware of his memory slipping, becoming very anxious at times, beginning to repeat questions over and over, less sure of his short-term memory.

They are in the very best of living arrangements, under these circumstances - living in their own independent home ("cottage") within a retirement community, with a full time caregiver.

On this visit, I see how challenging life is for Dad now. He is no longer able to keep facts and dates straight, no longer sure what needs doing. He was not going to accept any intervention from me and yet he is no longer sure what he has done or not done. He was going to resolve this himself, he was in charge, and yet the solution is just beyond his grasp. There's the catch-22 - he won't hand it over, nor will he solve it himself.

This is the raw pain of aging, the raw pain of short term memory loss, the raw pain of losing control and independence.

It's difficult for all of us.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A new school year begins!

A new school year begins!

Here's a photo of my empty classroom, just after the floors were shined and before all the furniture was dragged back in. It exemplifies


I know this is going to be a fabulous new year!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

She's here

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Sweet girl, so fragile, so impulsive. She's here. One small plastic bag of clothes, a laptop, and a phone. What are the five things you would grab if you were fleeing? She just took off. Hurt, frustrated, spitting angry, driving eight hours and mentally chewing through every slight, every unkind word, every thing her parents ever did or said. Of course, they love her dearly. Her Dad, so strong, always certain, always steady - he must be off balance now...thinking, what the hell? Where did this attitude come from? What was she thinking? How dangerous! To simply take off like that. Her Mom, like me, having had a troubled relationship with her own mother - now having to live out this dear child's rejection. Oh, I feel certain it is not a forever rejection. It's a heartfelt, 24 year old, nobody understands me period of rejection.

I'm in the midst of this mess. The thick of it. I feel strangely serene, sure. We need to shelter her for now. She needs to be here for a bit. The little girl in the spare room. Nothing fancy here. A bit of a retreat, I hope. A few days to look at things differently. Or longer? She spent less than an hour with us last night and went upstairs. I woke up thinking, she's going to need to wash those clothes soon and she doesn't know where our washer is. She knows not this house, she knows not the cereal, the downstairs shower, the toothpaste supplies, the dailyness. I'll be gone to work very early, without seeing her. What to leave a note about? We love you. Be well. It's going to be okay.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Why write today?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Why write today?
Because it's Tuesday,
and Tuesday means slicing.
Because when I walked,
the ideas and reflections flowed, and 
I know there's stuff to share.
Because I shouldn't let yet another week go by,
without a slice.
Because I have a bit of time before heading to the airport,
for a week of summer vacation in Bryce Canyon,
with my three sons, 
and my husband,
how fun is that?

Because this year's end,
and perhaps every year's end,
was frustrating and exhilarating,
magical and exhausting.
Because of all of those end of year traditions-
water play,
field days,
music concerts,
Learning Showcase,
finalized data,
report cards,
packed boxes, and
closed up classroom.
Because this year's end added one new tradition -
saying farewell to our first class of eighth graders,
our first promotion ceremony. 
although we began our school
with preschool through third grade, 
six years flew by, and 
third graders become eighth graders, and, 
these young adults walk across the stage,
(look closely, you can still see children)
these young adults walk across the stage,
and out the door,
to high school and beyond.
we have built a school.
Because every school year needs closure.
This one,
most of all.

Happy summer!