Back to School Bonanza #10: The Rocky Mountain Mama

Today is it.  The final installment of my Back to School Bonanza Guest Post Series.  Today’s post is brought to you by the Rocky Mountain Mama.  
I love this post so much.  It is the perfect way to end my series.
She taught in Title I schools.  I teach in a Title I school.  Many of you know that my school is amazing, but does not have near the funding they need for the students we have.  We have classes that are too big, not enough supplies, not enough resources all due to being “at risk”–which means no money for us.
Don’t get me going on how warped that is in this country.  Punish the needy districts by taking away funding.  Grrr.
Anyway, this post touches my heart. 
I believe in Public Schools.
I believe in kids who are considered “at risk”.
I devote a HUGE chunk of my life to both.
And so did the Rocky Mountain Mama.
I hope you enjoy this last post in my guest series.  Please visit her blog (she is doing  PPD awareness week right now that is AWESOME…and I am there!).  Oh, and of course show her some love.
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Hello!  I am the author of Rocky Mountain Mama.  I am so glad to be joining Sluiter Nation’s Back to School Bonanza!  I am blogging as an educator and I will be discussing my school experience, some of my teaching experiences and how they may or may not relate to each other.
I attended parochial school from kindergarten through high school.  I really did enjoy my school experience.  I had many great teachers and I liked the small environment of a parochial school.  My K-8 school had 2 classes in each grade with each class only having about 20 kids in it.  There were about 10 of us who started school together in kindergarten and graduated from high school together.  Attending parochial school definitely kept me sheltered, but I was definitely prepared for my future.  I understood the meaning of hard work.  From an early age (1st grade) I had hours of homework.  Yes, you read that correctly…hourS. 
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I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher, but I did always enjoy working with younger children.  After I graduated college with a useless degree in English, I decided to go back to school to get my license in Elementary Education.  While participating in all my practicums and student teaching I thought I wanted to teach at a charter school – it being very similar to my own background.  The thought of a “regular” public school frightened me…and don’t even get me started on Title I schools.  Scary!  I was so used to the sheltered feeling of a parochial school that working with kids with disabilities or hard backgrounds freaked me out.
I did my student teaching in the fall and subbed from January through November of the following year.  Subbing was hard.  I went from school to school and was scared nearly out of teaching when I found a student who attempted throwing tables at a Title I school.  Then one day, midyear, a friend called and told me about an opening at her school – a Title I school.  I really wasn’t sure, but I decided to interview.  It wouldn’t hurt, right?!
I got the job as a full day kindergarten teacher to many English language learners who came from hard, unstable backgrounds.  I loved it.  Hands down, loved it.  These kids were great and the families were so caring and just wanted the best for their children.  The following year I switched districts and found myself at yet another inner-city Title I school, but this one was different.  This one was rough – in the heart of the inner-city.  These kids had rough lives.  Some were homeless.  Many had parents in jail.  And many didn’t have enough to eat or shared a room with more than one sibling.  This school had 97% free and reduced lunch – that should give you an idea of the area.
This job was tough.  Oh my gosh, it was tough!  I cried daily for almost two weeks when I first started.  I had a student who peed on the floor, wrote curse words all over the room, threw things and a handful of students who refused to work.  Think Dangerous Minds with 2nd graders.  And parent support?!  Forget it!  But once I established relationships and gained control I fell in love with every.single.student.   Even the one who peed on the floor and called me the F word on many occasions. They challenged me daily.  They pushed my limits, but I learned SO much from these kids.  I valued every moment at that school in spite of the tremendous amounts of stress.
There were many days I left crying…not because of stress of the job, but because of the situations many of these children lived in.  I had high expectations of these kids (just like when I was younger) but how do you maintain high expectations when some of these kids don’t have a place to sleep or don’t have enough to eat?!  The answer…you give them a loving, caring and structured environment.  That is what they crave….what they need.  I still think about those kids and wonder how they are doing now.  I still worry for them.
When I was pregnant with Christopher I decided to change districts to be closer to home.  I am now teaching in one of the top districts in Denver in one of the top elementary school as a kindergarten interventionist.  I do love it…I really do, but part of me misses the struggles of Title I.
So how does this all tie together – my parochial schooling with my teaching experience at a Title I school?  Attending a parochial school kept me very sheltered.  My parents made a good choice as the public school system where I grew up was not the best, but I am now a firm believer in the public school system.  Yes, it has its “issues” but everything does.  I digress…   Growing up I kind of had a negative warped perception of public schools ingrained into me.  
I always thought public schools = bad education.  Quite the contrary.  There are many, MANY public schools who are providing an amazing education for today’s youth.  My current school is a good example.  My previous school may not be the best example if you pull their test scores, but I can tell you the teachers there are working their butts off to provide a well rounded education and more importantly, a safe place for those kids.
I couldn’t pull from my life experiences to understand and empathize with my students at the Title I school, but I do understand the value of education.  No matter what setting I am in, I have always strived to provide my students with the best education while maintaining a caring learning environment.  While my schooling experience was completely different from many of my teaching experiences, I have valued both.

Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #9: Sign Language

As an educator, I am always trying to do the best thing with Eddie as far as communication and language. We make books available to him for exploring, we read books to him, we talk to him constantly about what we are doing, and we name EVERYTHING.

One thing we haven’t done a ton of is sign language.


Recently I was contacted by Emily Patterson about guest posting here on the topic of Sign Language at an early age.  I thought it was a wonderful idea.  I know a LOT of you already do this with your children, and I am so excited to learn that it is NOT too late for us to start!  


Here is a little about Emily and what she does…

For over 25 years, Primrose Schools has helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early childhood, education.  Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially.  Emily Patterson is currently working as a communications coordinator for Primrose Schools providing written work to the blogosphere which highlights the importance, and some of the specific aspects, of a quality, early childhood, education.
Here is what she has to say…
Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language
One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.
At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language has led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it’s likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.
Signing Before They Can Speak
A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.
This is not as odd as you may think. As you know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.
In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:
                                “…by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
                                can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
                                can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
                                frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
                                before they know how to talk.” (Glarion, 2003)
The author also cites study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that “using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration…[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music” (Glarion, 2003).
The Best Time To Start
Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Georgia educational child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose educational child care schools.  Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.

Back to School Bonanza Guest Post #8: Emily

We made it through September!  Today is the LAST day of the month, and I saved Emily to wrap up September for a couple reasons.

For one, Emily and I have actual school experiences together.  I have no idea why this goes with wrapping up September, but it just does.

Also, Emily’s post just FEELS like a wrap-up.  Usually you say thank you when something is coming to a close, so this just felt right.

I know I have mentioned Emily in other places on this blog. I adore her blog.  I adore her family. I adore her.  She is such a wonderful friend. She is one of those rare people who you know when you share your good news with her she will be JUST as over the moon as you are.  She is also someone who I can confide in when stuff is just icky.  She is one of the very first people I told about my PPD for instance.  And when you tell her?  You can feel her prayers.  You can feel her concern.  It is palpable even though she is hundreds of miles away.

Enjoy her lovely post.  Emily rocks it.  And as usual, go follow her on twitter and her blog when you are done here!

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Hi All!  I’m Emily, I blog over at DesignHER Momma, and I’m excited to pop over here to Katie’s place for the day.  To talk about school stuff.

Did you know Katie and I went to high school together?  This means I could probably come up with some good dirt on her.  Like an embarrassing picture or something. (Which I know I have, but couldn’t find. Oh yes, I looked). 
Instead, I feel I need to write a thank you note.  You see, my daughter just started school about 2 weeks ago. It’s been a big adjustment sending my firstborn off to school for the first time.  An adjustment fill with anxiety and worry, knowing that my young daughter is now going to influenced by others, 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, Year round, for the next 13 years.
A thank you note to my child’s Kindergarten teacher:
Dear Piper’s Teacher,
I just wanted to write you a quick note that Piper is over the moon excited to go to school everyday.  This past Tuesday, she got me up at 5:30 in the morning ready to start her day.  What does this mean to you?  That you’re doing an awesome job! (But might I make a suggestion, to start teaching her to tell time?)
I have a few things that I need to get off my chest, or should I say “heart”.  I would never tell you these things in person, because that would be awkward.  I might start to cry, then you would have to hug me, and we don’t know each other that well yet.  So, this note feels more appropriate.  Ok, here it goes:
Teacher, thank you for leaving your child every morning so you can spend time with mine.  Thank you for loving on her like I would, and for being there for her when I’m not there.  Thank you for investing so much energy into caring for my child, that you barely have any energy left to give your own family at the end of the long day.  Thank you so much for taking on this job, even though I know the pay isn’t what it should be. 
Dear Teacher, I seriously don’t know what I would do without you.  You are shaping my daughter to be a smart, intelligent, strong woman, and that it me, is priceless.  You really are amazing, even if I can’t say it to your face.
Much Praise,
Piper’s Mom.
And to you, Katie, my dear teacher friend, I say thank you.  I pray that this school year is the best year yet.  You have an important to do, good thing you do it well!

Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #7: Miranda

Today is a SUPER special guest post!

I realize I say this about ALL of my guest posts, but today?  Today you get to read a little something by Miranda of Not Super…Just Mom. Y’all? (as she would say)…She is like my twin.  In fact, we call each other “etwin”.  She is a fellow snark-a-licious English teacher.  She is a momma of a wee little man with curly blond hair.  She is a fellow PPD survivor.  And she is battling the same weight issues I am!  If we weren’t a zillion states apart?  We would be besties in a heartbeat.

She was one of the FIRST people I had on my list to ask to do this since she is just like I am as a teacher.  She LOVES her students, is passionate about her calling, and tells it like it is.  Oh, and? She takes no shiz from anyone.

Puh-LEASE go read this post about how she deals with shananagins in her class.  Girl after my own heart, I tell ya!  And then follow her on twitter.  And then come back and read what she has to say here….

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When Katie asked me to write for her Back to School Bonanza, I was all “WOOHOO! YES!” and then I forgot that I was all “WOOHOO! YES!” until I saw a tweet from her that said something along the lines of “I’m so excited for my Back to School Guest Bloggers” and then I sheepishly asked if I was supposed to write something for her.
Let’s just go ahead and lay it all out there. I’m probably the most disorganized person you’ve ever met in your life. “Organized chaos” has given way to just straight “chaos.” I live by shuffling piles around from spot to spot. It makes me appear productive without actually getting anything done. Unfortunately, after having a child, it appears my brain has started doing the same thing with important information—it all just gets shuffled around. And then my brain can’t find it anymore. So, thanks, Katie, for having me even though I forgot.
Where were we?  Oh yeah…Back to School.
Once I remembered I was supposed to write this post, I started and stopped about 15 times.  I mean, Katie is awesome, so I can’t let her down. 
I thought, and thought, and thought, and thought, and then one day it hit me while I was shampooing my hair.
Allow me to tell you a story—no, not about me in the shower—about my first day of high school.
I cried.  Promise.
Real, crocodile tears.  
I was terrified that high school was going to be more of the same from middle school—me being called “Mooooranda” and kids making farm noises at me as I walked down the halls.  Me, being opinionated despite the bullying, saying what was on my mind because that was the one thing I knew how to do.
(The mooing stopped, I’m happy to report.  Probably because I’d gotten boobs so the boys were too busy looking at those to remember my name.)
I vividly remember walking into Spanish class on the first day of school.  Vividly.  There were piñatas and sombreros and pictures and foreign words hanging up in our tiny, cramped little room where two of the walls were breakaway partitions.  I remember looking around and knowing only two people in that class.  I remember the teacher, Senora, walking in shortly after the bell rang and speaking no English.  
I remember freaking out because I could not understand a word she was saying and I was a straight A student and I had to make an A or my life would be over and I would never get into college and I had to go to college because it would be a really really big deal and I could not understand her and OH MY GOD I MUST MAKE AN A.  
And then she walked to the front of the room and took a seat on her stool and she smiled back at us and we stared at her with the shocked look that only first-timers in a foreign language class can have.  
I don’t remember much of the rest of what she said. I’m sure it was the usual pleasantries that I share with my own students now that I’m a teacher.  The “Hello, my name is…” and the “Here’s what we’ll do in this class…”.
But one thing she said that day has always stuck with me, has become an integral part of my own teaching.
“If you walk out of this classroom at the end of the year and you can’t speak a word of Spanish, I hope I’ve taught you life lessons.”
Wow, right?
In a day and time when we’re stuck on the numbers, the tests, that apparently prove our worth as educators, students, an entire system, her approach seems a novel one to me.  
TEACH LIFE LESSONS.
The lessons I learned in her class were tolerance for others, patience with others, and the real words to the song “La Bamba.” 
(Yes, I’m serious. It’s about a man who is not a marine/sailor but will be one if that’s what his woman wants.)
She taught me how to be a teacher and a friend to my students.  Her example helped me be a trusted adult for my students when they need someone to talk to.  When they don’t have anywhere else to turn. 
If students leave my class at the end of a year and they cannot tell me the difference between a simile and a metaphor but they know that they are capable of success and greatness, I’ve done my job.   If they understand that it’s possible for people to coexist in this world and not agree on everything, if their eyes are opened to the plight of others less fortunate than themselves, if they see that someone out there DOES care about them, I’m good. 
I can’t ask for more than that.
And just so you know, I totally got an A.

Back To School Bonanaza Guest Post #6: Nichole

My guest post today comes from Nichole of In These Small Moments.   Nichole and I met via twitter and quickly bonded over trying to do the Couch to 5k program.  She asked me to submit a post for her Small Moment Mondays that she does on her blog, and I jumped at the chance!  I love Nichole’s fierce protectiveness she has for her children and her genuinely kind and lovely soul.  She is probably one of the sweetest people I have met in the internet world.  She is hilarious too!  So you throw all of that together plus the fact that she is a brilliant writer, and you have one of my favorite bloggers and friends! You should definitely visit her blog, and of course follow her on twitter.

Nichole has a 3 year old daughter named Katie (great name!) who attends speech therapy.  Here is her heartbreaking take on what letting go of your first born to school means.

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 The First Day of School
The first day of school has come far earlier than I ever anticipated it would.
Katie began receiving her weekly speech therapy sessions at the local elementary school today. While she’s technically not a student yet, this sure felt like the first day of school. 

She still likes to snuggle in my lap. 

I was a mess about bringing her and dropping her off.  Though she’s had speech therapy since she was itty bitty, it has always been in our home, where I could see and hear everything.
Today, I had to walk her to her classroom. And leave.

Her tiny hand still fits almost completely in my palm.  She’s just a baby.

Since we found out that she would be transitioning to the school, I have been feeling waves of anxiety.  Huge waves.  Tsunami waves.

What am I afraid of exactly?

She still uses strawberry flavored toothpaste.

Well, this is going to sound crazy, but I haven’t been away from my kids much.  I can count on four fingers the number of people who have cared for them in our absence.  And Katie?  She’s three and a half.

She still calls me “Mommy.”

So, now I was being asked to drop her off at a school and leave her with near strangers.

So, we had the talk.  The talk that no one wants to have with their daughter.

We had the Vagina Talk.

Here’s how it went:

Me: Katie, are you getting excited about going to the school to spend time with Miss N.?

Katie: Yes, and to play with other kids.

Craig: Mommy and Daddy will be dropping you off and then we’ll come back later and pick you up, okay?

Katie: No.

Me: You’ll be just fine and we’ll be right outside (read: at home).

Katie: Okay.

Me (never so great with the transitions):  Katie, who is allowed to touch your vagina?

(This isn’t the first time that we’ve had this conversation with her and every time we do, she looks us like we’ve completely lost our minds. Since no one has ever asked to see her vagina, she clearly can’t figure out why this is such a big deal to us.)

Katie (without even thinking about it):  “Mommy, Daddy, Katie, and Dr. D. when Mommy and Daddy are there.”

If something ever happened to her, I would die inside.

Craig: And if someone did try to touch you, Katie, what would you say?

Katie: I would say, really, really loud, “NO!”

If someone ever touched her, Craig would die inside.

Me: And what else would you do?

Katie: Tell Mommy and Daddy.

But what if she couldn’t stop it?  What if she was too small and scared?

I resisted the urge to continue drilling her, for fear of scaring her.  I’m not sure how much reassurance that she understands would be enough to put my mind at ease.

So, now marks the beginning of a time we have to trust that we’ve taught her the things that she needs to know.  It just seems like there are still so many lessons she has yet to learn.

Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #5: Kris

We are past the halfway mark of guest posters for my Back to School Bonanza!  There is no better blogger to bring us over the halfway hump than Kris from Pretty All True. Kris has a way with words that I have found unparalled in the blogging world.  She can paint any picture in the world using nothing but the black and white of the screen.  just letters and characters.  and all of a sudden you find yourself in her world.  Feeling emotions you didn’t know you had.

Kris does something with words that I have come to call exploding a moment because she can take one small crumb from the back of her memory and make it erupt into color and sparkle all over your computer screen.

Plus also? Kris teams up with Adrienne to kick my butt in gear when I am feeling sorry for myself.  They legitimately build me up when I need it, but they can spot a whiner and they NEVER let me get away with it. 

I highly recommend her blog, Pretty All True, not just for the content, but the commenters are always lively too!  You canNOT be let down by Kris.  Unless swearing and a wee bit of sex turns you off.  She MAY get saucy from time to time regularly.

Anyway, I will stop blabbering about Kris and let you read her lovely post.  Oh, and you can follow her on twitter.  She stops by there from time to time regularly.

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Fighting for Place

In the years before I entered 3rd grade, I attended many schools.  Seven, maybe?  Eight?
We moved a lot.
And so, on the first day of the school year?  As I walked down the aisles of my new elementary school for the very first time?  I had no real sense of this being a permanent place for me.  It was just where I would spend my days until the next time for packing and moving arrived.
Always sooner rather than later, and always unexpectedly, that moment seemed to arrive.
It was better not to forge connections, as the inevitable breaking?  Would be painful.
And so I tried to step lightly in my new temporary place.  To leave no footprints.  None to mark where I had been and none for anyone to follow.  I was here, as I always was . . . alone.  Better that way.  Safer.
And so . . . when we were released for recess, I made myself as small and invisible as possible and moved silently through the colorful noisy crowds.  Past the children, past the play equipment, past the four-square markings on the concrete.  Through the grass . . . to a tree.
An enormous elm tree.
All alone.
Like me.
At the base of this enormous elm?  A huge gnarled system of roots surrounded and encircled the trunk, reaching out and into the air before plunging down into the earth.  There were spaces and gaps through which hands could be reached, where earth should have been but was missing.
My impression was of some giant force, some huge clenching unseen hands, reaching down from the sky to pluck this tree from the earth.  But the tree?  Had fought back.  Had clutched and stretched for a better grip, had clawed its way deeper into the earth below.  Had resisted the pull from above.  Had triumphed.
This tree had fought to be here, in my imagination.
And so the roots were not quite where they were supposed to be.  Not buried, but exposed.  Evidence of the battle that had been waged for a place in this world.
A permanent place.
I walked the rooted circle around the tree, delighted to find that my feet needed never to touch the ground.  My thin-soled shoes curved around the roots as I felt for steady purchase, one step at a time.  No one paid any attention to me, and I felt?  Magical and other-worldly.
And yet rooted.
I walked around and around and around . . . a whole imagined history of frenzied struggling grasping for stability below me.
And then the bell rang.
That first day of 3rd grade.
At my new school.
And I went in and took my seat in my brand new class.  Sat in a room of strangers.  Sat quietly and tried to gauge my place.  My temporary place in this world.
Marveled at and was caught up in the unimaginable blue eyes of the teacher, who smiled kindly in my direction.
Fell in love and then squeezed my eyes shut against that love.
Remembered the pain of other connections broken.
Severed.
Took out my pencil and set to work.  Preparing myself here for whatever was to come next.  In the next place.
Looked up again into sparkling friendly blue eyes.  Thought back to the Elm that had fought and triumphed for permanence, for place.
Gave of myself just a little.  Opened a bit.  Maybe this would be the place.
The permanent place.
Sigh.
I ended up staying for eight years.
And for eight years?
I struggled to put down roots.  Like that tree, that lovely Elm around which I would dance alone for countless recesses over the years.  I struggled to force my roots down into the ground, to grab and hold and triumph.
But it was not to be.
I was at that school for eight years, but unseen hands?
Just outside the breadth of this story?
Reached down repeatedly to rip me from my place.
And I proved?
To be vulnerable and unable to maintain my grip.
On my place in this world.
So many years of my life spent rootless.
But on that first day of 3rd grade?
At my new school?
As I navigated my way round that magic tree?
For a moment?
In that new beginning?
All seemed possible.

Back to School Bonanza Guest Post #4: Adrienne

How do I even find the words to tell you how much today’s guest poster means to me?  Of course each of the eight total guest posters (or Blog Babysitters, as I like to think of them) is important to me because otherwise I wouldn’t have asked them to be here.  Some are PPD mommas who have commiserated with me.  We’ve helped pull each other through hard times.  I have a fellow teacher coming up.  I have a friend who I know in real life. 

All of the blog-sitters are inspiring to me in some way, but Adrienne?  She is my inspiration ass-kicker (sorry, mom.).  Adrienne is one of those rare people in my life who sees me for who I am, still loves me, AND still calls BS on me when she senses excuses and, well BS.  She is the mom of Carter a beautiful boy who happens to have developmental issues in all areas: physical, emotional, intellectual etc.  She writes about this and everything else Adrienne over at No Points for Style. It was one of the very first blogs to make me weep from sorrow, heart-ache, joy, and laughing…all in one post.

Clearly I could go on and on.  Instead, go to her blog, follow her on twitter, and read her post.  You will love her.

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Nest of Vipers

When I was pregnant with my eldest son, my (now ex) husband and I spent lots of time walking around the neighborhood, and since we still liked each other back then, we talked while we walked. Mostly? We talked about our baby, and how we would raise him, and what he might be like, and how nervous I was.

I wasn’t nervous about mothering a baby or a little kid; I was scared of the school years. In my mental picture of my baby’s first 25 years, things got hard at kindergarten, reached a crisis at the beginning of middle school, and briefly improved during high school before the onset of a tumultuous early adulthood.

Strangely, that exactly matches my life.

And in spite of his parents’ divorce when he was only 3 1/2 years old, Jacob was always an easy-going, delightful kid. I’m sure he must have thrown a tantrum sometime, but I don’t remember any. He was happy, eager to please, and (with his sister, born exactly 2 years after he was), the joy of my life.

There were hiccups, but overall? Jacob was socially successful at school, church, drama, basketball, and everywhere else. He has an easy, engaging personality and he never tripped the wires that I tripped when I was a child.

All those tripped wires? They were why I was so nervous. I was everybody’s favorite target at school, the one they taunted and teased and mocked until any concept I might have had of myself as a strong/smart/capable/interesting/likable person was shredded. I was shredded.

Then? Sixth grade at Madison Middle School. The whole story is here , but for now I’ll just tell you that it was brutal, quite possibly the worst year of my life, easily the worst year of my childhood (and my childhood included this). The bullying I endured was relentless. It tore me to pieces and left me staggering.

So when the time came to enroll my firstborn child, my artistic, sensitive, unusual little boy, in middle school? I might have lost my mind just a little bit.

Or maybe I lost my mind a lot.

The middle school to which we were assigned is one of the worst in the city so I went down to central office to apply for a transfer. I listed the three best middle schools that were a reasonable distance from our house. My third choice?

Madison Middle School. Of course.

And which transfer did we get?

Madison Middle School. Of course.

Sometimes? I’m pretty sure the universe is sticking its tongue at me.

I was shocked by my own physical reactions over the months following that letter. Even when I read the letter itself, my heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I felt on the brink of a panic attack. How would I do this? How would I send my son to that place?

I didn’t think I could do it; I considered handing over the whole thing to Jacob’s dad, but on registration day I sucked it up, got together all the necessary paperwork, and drove with Jacob over to Madison.

I packed a paper bag in my purse, just in case I hyperventilated or needed a place to yack.

We walked onto the Madison campus and I was chanting to myself, “It was 25 years ago. It was 25 years ago. It was 25 years ago.”

In spite of the chanting, my heart was trip-hammering in my chest. Everything looked the same, felt the same, smelled the same. And wouldn’t you know it? Registration was in the gym.

The gym.

The gym, for crying out loud. The place where I wore a target on my back every moment I was there. The place where the kids laughed at my shoes and called me names and pulled my ponytail. The place where the teacher thought it was OK to join in the fun.

I was still chanting 25 years ago 25 years ago 25 years ago and Jacob was looking at me like I’d started growing an arm out of the top of my head when I heard someone call my name, “Adrienne! Hey, Adrienne!”

I couldn’t decide what I should do. Throw up? Pass out? Pee my pants?

Not my proudest moment.

Jacob saved me when he tugged my arm and said, “Hey Mom, that lady over there is waving at you.” He pointed at a woman I recognized immediately, and I dashed over to the table she was standing behind, told her how relieved I was to see someone I knew.

Kelly and I were classmates at Madison, both of us misfits, both of us struggling to find our place. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “It’s different now, Adrienne. It’s really different.” I tried to breathe, tried to slow my heart. I barely managed not to burst into tears.

Honestly? If I’d known I would have had such a terrible time at registration, I never would have gone. I’d have sent Jacob with his dad.

Kelly helped me register Jacob. She got him his planner, showed him a campus map, and found his class schedule.

Which revealed that Jacob’s homeroom teacher? Was my old friend Kelly.

Every now and again the stupid universe throws me a bone.

When I dropped him off on the first day of school, I was almost as panicked as I had been at registration, but not quite. I had to resist the urge to sit in the parking lot all day and wait for him to come back out.

Alright, if I’m being completely honest? I’m pretty sure that, had I not had other children who also needed me that day, I would have stayed in the parking lot. Driving away was hard. I felt a little like I had just thrown my baby into a vipers’ nest.

I was on pins and needles all day, and by pins and needles I mean I was a nauseous, weeping, trembling puddle of maternal angst.

And then, at 3:00, there he was. I asked, “How was it Jacob? How was your day?”

He chirped, “Awesome! I loved it! I met some really cool kids and we’re going to play basketball after lunch everyday. Oh, and my art teacher is so cool! Wait till I show you what I drew today!”

My heart quieted a little bit. The second day, I was a little less nauseous and trembly and angsty, and the third day was a little better, but I didn’t really start to calm down until after Halloween.

And the whole year? Almost every single day of the sixth grade?

He was fine.

Happy, even.

The problems he did run into were very ordinary, very manageable. He forgot to turn in his homework; he had a tiff with a friend; he wouldn’t stop drumming on the table in science class.

But no trauma.

We survived.

It’s a good thing, too. If someone had bullied Jacob (or my daughter, when she went to sixth grade the next year), I doubt I could have handled that like an adult.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure that if my kids had been bullied, I would have done to those bullies what I fantasized about doing to my own bullies for so many years.

See? Sometimes the universe throws other people a bone, too.

Back to School Bonanza Guest Post #3: Lori

Today is another guest post day!  Hooray!  Today’s post comes complements of Lori at In Pursuit of Martha Points. Lori is one of the funniest, most authentic bloggers out there.  She is honest about how great of a domestic goddess she can be (earning herself some Martha Points) and when she falls short (deducting Martha Points).  She is also heading up a HUGE year-long fundraising project called Project: Purse and Boots to raise money for the American Stroke Association. I am honored to be a part of this fundraising extravaganza coming up next month (stay tune for details about that)!  You will want to follow Lori on twitter the minute you get done reading this.  She is just that awesome.

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The School Day Monologues

When you have children, you offer advice and direction. Instruction, lovingly given, spills forth to ensure health, safety, and optimal learning. It is your duty and your honor to have such responsibility. Your sage words are the essential ingredient to a lifetime of academic success.
Would that your children paid any attention. At all. Ever.
All the directions, all the wisdom, all the energy expended in giving them guidance that runs that gamut from considering a career to not eating paste.
It goes…nowhere.
It bounces off the impenetrable surface of a school-aged child the way good taste bounces off reality TV.
As the degree of imperviousness becomes more and more apparent, the instructions become more fervent, more desperate and more brief in a last-ditch attempt to instill anything at all that might allow your kids to walk the path that stays in school and out of hairnets.
“It’s been a long summer and it takes a little while to get back into the idea of school so I want you to pay attention to your teacher and makes some new friends today.”
“Make sure you’ve got everything in your backpack because it’s frustrating to not have something when you really need it.”
“Why don’t you bring an extra juice box so you don’t get dehydrated from running around all day.”
“I don’t think threatening to blackmail your teacher in order to minimize homework is a good idea.”
“It is really not necessary to bring mace to the orientation session this morning.”
“Don’t try to smuggle the cat to school in your lunchbag!”
“Put that power saw away!!”
“PANTS!!!”
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that the most important pearls of wisdom really do break through their barriers and help them along their way.
My children never actually made it to school without pants.

Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #2: Grace

This guest post is by a lovely, beautiful blogger friend named Grace.  Grace lives in Mexico with her little family of three.  She and I found each other through the online PPD connections:  She is a fellow “warrior momma.”  She writes so eloquently about her battles and shares her joys through words and gorgeous pictures on her blog, Arms Wide Open.  I am always in awe of how she can put what she is feeling (and what I feel too) into words.  I am so honored that she agreed to write about her battle with going to public school. Enjoy her post! Oh, and don’t forget to follow her on twitter!

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I thought about writing a chipper post about fall in Oregon, where I grew up, and the crunchy leaves and the crisp air and the sunshine in September.

I could reminisce picking blackberries on the side of the road, waking up early for soccer tryouts, and going shopping in Portland for school clothes.  Fall is beautiful in Oregon. Everyone is outside enjoying the last bursts of sunshine before settling in for winter hibernation (slash seasonal depression).
Oh, but you know what would be so much more fun to talk about?
SCHOOL.
Because we all know that fall=school. At least for about 13 – 18 years. And school is awkward, which makes for great stories.
I am a product of 100% public school. I feel like I turned out ok. I went on to college, graduated, and finished a Master’s degree. I married a smart human being and I believe we produced a decently brilliant offspring. Public school educated me satisfactorily. But, on the emotional side of things, public school was a bit traumatizing.
Let me explain.
The first traumatic moment occurred in kindergarten. I can remember it vividly. We were all sitting on the carpet. I got up from the front row when it was my turn for Show & Tell. And … no you didn’t.
We’ll just call him Billy. HE FLIPPED UP MY SKIRT. In front of the entire class. I was mortified. I think to this day it has affected my ability to wear a mini skirt.
Now I’m in 1st grade. I am seated next to … let’s call him Carl … He becomes my stalker. In my little first grade mind, I am being harassed. I am being violated by this devilish boy.  And as a result I am crying at home and begging my mom not to send me to school and subject me to this dangerous mini-human. As my (very flawed) memory recalls, this went on and on and was terribly traumatic, and I finally was moved to a different seat next to a lovely girl named Karen.
In 2nd grade I went through a brief identity crisis. I so desperately wanted more attention from my beautiful teacher, who happened to also be named Mrs. Hershey (No joke). So desperate in fact that I took up thumb sucking. In second grade. I remember it was revolting, but it did indeed work.
3rd grade was filled with girl drama. There were at least three of us fighting over Ronnie T (name changed to protect his privacy. ha. as if he reads this blog) – the new boy at school. Following the girl fights, our teacher would require us to participate in “Monkey hugs.” I mean, really, a monkey hug does make all things better.
After the romance, or lack thereof, that was third grade, I did finally get my first real-life boyfriend in 4th grade. To whom I never spoke. Or touched. Or was in the same room with. (besides recess)
Ah, 5th grade. This was the year the trauma really hit hard. I was told I have a mustache. Who knew? To this day I am paranoid. Wax is a (Italian) girl’s best friend.
In order to cope with my newly discovered mustache, in 6th grade I decide I wanted to be a gangster. So my friends, (scratch that), friend and I started our own gang – SBD. You guessed it, Silent But Deadly. Because we were really deadly and dangerous and stuff.
Ok, not really. But, we did wear our clothes five times too big and we did egg a few houses. And maybe a church. (the SHAME.)
These are the kinds of things that one endures in public school in the 1980s.  I lived to tell about it.

Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #1: Kimberly

Today is the first day of school.  This is the week where all the jobs I do are officially in full swing and operating all at the same time.

People?  I am busy.  And to help me with this out of control busyness that is my world, I have recruited some of my most favorite bloggers in the whole wide world to come in and babysit Sluiter Nation twice a week this month.

First up is my great friend, Kimberly.  I don’t even know how to describe Kim to you except that she is the funniest Canadian ever (I know, I know…there are LOTS of funny Canadians…she still wins)!  She also has some sweet gold pants and loves everything Chuck Norris.  And?  She is a PPD/A survivor too!  She makes me laugh every single day on her blog, All Work and No Play Make Momma Go Something Something... She has written hilarious and extremely poignant posts about her life as a PPD Momma and as the Momma of a sweet little boy.  She is also a wonderful friend.  You can follower her on twitter, but before you do that, please read this hilarious post about how she?  Was a total trendsetter way back in kindergarten.

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I was so excited when I got an email from my dear friend Katie asking me to do a guest post on her blog, that my socks literally flew off my feet. I know, you’re thinking “Kim, did that really happen?” and my answer is yes. Yes it did. Here’s the proof:
Katie had asked if I could share one of my favourite childhood memories of school and the first one that came to mind was the day I, the 5 year old kindergarten Kimberly, became a trend setter.
The first few weeks of kindergarten were a bit of a culture shock for me. I went from being a very boisterous outgoing star of my little world to being one terribly shy 5 year old. Like so terribly shy that I was too afraid to ask if I could use the potty. There were many days that I left school walking in tightly calculated steps praying that my bladder wouldn’t explode down my leg and ruin my Rainbow Brite running shoes and dear God. Save. the Rainbow Brite shoes. They were awesome.

 I digress…
Every morning, we started our routine with singing the national anthem. On this particular morning, my tiny 5 year old will power to contain almost torturous levels of urine dissipated as I stood up. Immediately, I knew that I was in serious trouble.  

I contemplated raising my hand and asking to use the potty but there was no time for that.  My bladder was ready to bust at the seams and I couldn’t wait long enough for the teacher to notice my desperate waving hand. 
In a panic, I came up with a plan…if I just peed a little bit, like just enough to ease the pain, I could hold off using the bathroom until the big hand was touching the 8 and the little hand was touching the 12…group potty break time.  

So there I was, standing proudly at attention, singing my heart and soul out while trying to inconspicuously release just a teenie bit of urine. As I looked down in slight relief as the urine trickled down my pants, I noticed that my trickle had made my pants appear that they were magically springing a very obvious and large leak that I couldn’t stop. I frantically began un-tucking my shirt to hide the evidence when I heard Nathan shout aloud:
“She’s pee peeing in her pants!”
I like to think that at that exact moment the record playing the outdated version of “Oh Canada” screeched to a halt as 20 something curious 5 year old necks snapped in my direction.  In case peeing my pants wasn’t embarrassing enough, they kicked up the “I wanna just dig a hole, crawl in it and die” factor to a whole other level when they started chanting in unison…through giggles…
“Kim is peeing. Kim is peeing.”

Chanted. In. Perfect. Unison. It was like they knew that this was going to happen all along so they had strategically rehearsed it in someones tree house with the aide of a real singing coach to help them precisely master the embarrassment level.

The timing, the pitch, everything was that perfect.
What transpired next was a whirlwind of finger pointing, slipping and sloshing, screaming, and tears, lots and lots of tears while the teacher tried her best to drag me to the safety of the bathroom. By then, it was too late. My tiny 5 year old bladder was already emptied onto the kindergarten floor. I was sent home that day in soggy pants and my dignity jammed into my Popples backpack.

The next morning, against my wishes to stay at home, I walked in to the classroom with my head bowed down in defeat and a bladder that was thankfully emptied. As the anthem chimed in the background, I stood up and started to choke through “Oh Canada” when I heard  Nathan shout out loud
“Adrian’s peeing! Adrian’s peeing”
I looked over and sure enough, not only was he peeing, but so was Sarah T and Julie and Darcy. Before I knew it almost all the kids had unloaded their bladders on the classroom floor while our poor dear teacher was yelling in hysterics begging us all to stop and go to the bathroom.
That day my friends, is when I, Kimberly Pee Pee Pants went down in infamy as a trend setter. Dear Sacred Heart Kindergarten Teachers, You are welcome. 
Thanks again Katie for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I had lots of fun rekindling old school memories! I wish you much luck starting this school year!!

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