Why I teach

photo 1 (5)

I don’t do it for the money. So many students tell me, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to make a lot of money.” Well, the money won’t mean much if there’s no meaning in what you do.

I don’t do it for the recognition. A lot of days, I only get recognized for being a taskmaster. My students have straight-out asked me, “If you have a master’s degree from a great school, what are you doing teaching?”

Well, I’m happy to tell them (and you): I do it for the kids, and for myself.  I have been given the precious gift of spending my days with teenagers.  Yes, I said “the gift.”  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “I could never do what you do,” but I think that’s only because people don’t know what they are missing out on. You might see teenagers as sullen and defiant, skulking around the mall in clothes and piercings you don’t approve of, but I look at them as bundles of potential just waiting to be released into the world.

There is no more significant time of growth and change and wonder than when you’re a teenager. Think of all the firsts you discover in that time. Now imagine getting to partake of those firsts again and again, albeit vicariously. The thrilling highs and devastating lows of your first love, the victory of getting your driver’s license, the satisfaction of earning your first paycheck, the drive toward independence and wanting to go it alone. I would never want to return to those years, but it renews me in a way to see them firsthand up close again and again. I get to go the prom and graduation every year. I get nervous on the first day of school, wondering what my classes will be like and excited for a fresh start.

The American historian Frederick Jackson Turner developed a “frontier thesis” that moving westward continually replenished democracy for the fledgling United States. I believe the same can be said for teaching: watching kids grow up renews my hope and optimism and belief that I can be whatever I want. Being with kids inspired me to write my first novel in my late 30s. When I told them I was going to be published, they clapped for me and told me they want to write books too. It inspires me to try harder every day with my own children to connect with them and understand them. It makes me feel gratitude for all of the teachers who spend more time with my children than I get to some days.

I am so thankful for the young people I work with; they are the toughest audience. Teenagers don’t try to be polite about giving you their attention when they’re really bored. They don’t hesitate to tell you that what you say makes no sense to them. They are keeping it real for me.  And for that, I thank them, because they make me try harder and not be content to be stagnant and set in my ways.  I will always be on the edge of new technology and slang. Some of the best books I ever read were dog-eared copies handed around among students and then passed to me.  Students challenge my beliefs every day on things I thought I was sure of.

People see teachers as selfless, but I am drinking from the fountain of youth. How could I not love my profession?

[Photo: At the prom with two of my fabulous students.]

If you enjoy my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom starting fresh.

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Tips for family game night

family game night

“Mom, can we play Monopoly?”

This is one of the most dreaded questions ever, because I know that “playing” Monopoly is likely to end with money and property cards on the floor, accusations of cheating, and at least one child in tears. However, family game nights are getting better with a little pre-planning, some growing maturity on the part of the kids, and reduced expectations from me.

I’m determined to make this work because my kids are at the golden age where they can read and write, they have an attention span of at least a half hour, and they don’t have much social life to get in the way of our evenings together.

Here are a few of my suggestions for making family game night go more smoothly.  I’d love to hear yours as well!

1. Make a list of games that all of the family members can play (appropriate age level, length of game play, interest level).  Some of our favorites are Sorry, Uno, and Clue.  Sometimes we enjoy easier games that don’t require a lot of strategy, while other times we like more cerebral games (Pandemic is a new favorite and you have to work together to win this game rather than compete against each other).

2. Take turns getting to choose the game of the night.  Because you’re choosing from the “approved games” list, no one is allowed to whine “I don’t feel like playing that one today!” (myself included).

3. Set a time limit for how long your gameplay will last, even if the game hasn’t ended yet.  If everyone agrees at the stop time that they want to continue, go for it, but if anyone wants to quit then, game night is over.  No one is allowed to quit early either.

4. Make sure you hold family game night on an evening where no one is exhausted or overwhelmed with homework or household chores. Sunday evenings work best for us.

5. Build excitement for game night by planning ahead with a special meal or other pre-game ritual to get the kids enthused.

 

How do you deal with sibling rivalry?

sibling rivalry

This picture is captioned “I used to be the little one.”  If you have more than one child or you have siblings, I’m guessing you can relate to at least one of the girls in this picture.  I’ve noticed my older son sometimes gets jealous when I give attention to other adults, while my younger son only gets jealous of my attention toward other kids (especially his big brother!).  Sometimes he’ll actually push his brother out of the way and say, “She’s my mom, not yours.”

I was one of four children, and what that meant is that you had to do something REALLY good or REALLY bad to get any parental attention focused solely on you.  Sometimes that was a blessing.  I liked not having to be the only one to take the heat when household objects disappeared or got broken.  Even though my brothers annoyed me, spied on me, and took things from my room, I liked the feeling of being in a “pack.”  Anywhere we went, there was always a pile of us.  I rarely spent time alone.  An important part of my identity is being a sister.

On the other hand, it may have been good to learn early on that I wasn’t the center of the world, but sometimes I wanted to be, and that wasn’t going to happen with three younger siblings.  I rarely knew what it was like for the house to be quiet.  Sometimes we all got in trouble when my parents didn’t feel like parsing out who did what to whom.  At the time, it seemed so unfair, but I find myself doing the same thing when my kids argue now.

I try to spend some time with both of my kids separately.  I try not to compare them to each other.  They may look alike, but they have very different personalities.  I even motivate and discipline them differently, based on what works for them.  What do you do to handle sibling rivalry in your household?

[photo source: http://failblog.cheezburger.com/parenting]

If you’re interested in reading more about family, please check out my novel, Giving Myself Away.

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