The elusive tree-rabbit

We were on lunch break during day five? six? of curriculum work at the central office, and a few of us had driven to Frank’s for sandwiches and butter tarts. I chatted outside with a friend while the others waited inside for their sandwiches to be ready.

Even on break we were talking pedagogy and learning and teaching when suddenly I paused and said, “Sorry, wait a second,” and she said, “What?” and turned to look where I was looking.

“I think that’s a rabbit in a tree.” I blinked my eyes several times and squinted, as if that would somehow make things more clear.

My companion freely admitted that she could only see a black smudge in the tree because she was not wearing her glasses, but even so, it looked like a rabbit. I stared. She stared. She said, “Oh, the poor rabbit! I wonder how it got up there?”

“It can’t be a rabbit,” I shook my head again. “I mean… it can’t be. Rabbits do not live in trees.” This statement seemed unarguable.

A breeze came and the rabbit’s ear twitched. Its little head moved side to side. The poor rabbit!

In the parking lot, some garbage collectors continued their work. Closer to us, a guy in an orange construction vest leaned against the wall and took a drag on his cigarette. No one but us seemed to see the rabbit.

Surreptitiously, I moved closer to the tree. I stared. And stared.



“It’s a nest!” I crowed. “With a feather sticking up!” The breeze picked up again. The feather/ear swayed. I giggled.

Just then, another teacher arrived with her sandwich. “What are you looking at?” she asked.

“Oh,” I said nonchalantly. “It’s just a rabbit. In a tree.”

The elusive tree-rabbit – a very rare sighting.

Many thanks to the tireless team at Two Writing Teachers who host this Slice of Life weekly on Tuesdays.

So many questions

Today’s post is a small sample of the questions students have asked this week. Online learning is… confusing?

  • What is my overall score 3+, 4-, 4??
    Fear not, I had put the final score on the assignment.

  • Is it possible if you could proof read it before I submit? it would honestly mean a-lot. 
    Turns out that a good spell check & grammar check program works wonders – but I appreciate the vote of confidence for my editing.

  • Hey Mrs P I have  a lot to do like apply for university and work for other courses is it ok if I give you this either between this Friday and Sunday ?Lemme know ASAP

  • Is there any suggestions as to due dates for these assignments ?
    I mean, we actually have due dates. They are on the assignments and posted on the Google classroom.

  • If data is “Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.” and contains “Raw figures and facts”, according to one website, then how can it be biased? Does it depend on WHICH data you collect resulting in the information that is then presented? Is it because of omission and selection of certain data that causes it to be biased? If information can’t exist, as it relies on data, how then is the information never neutral?

  • I was just wondering if you had a chance to fill out the reference sheet that I gave you in an email a while ago? I don’t mean to rush you I just want everything to be finished so I can submit it before the due date before  March. 
    Got it done waaay before that March deadline.

  • I have no clue what is going on.
    Ok, not really a question, but this feels like a question. We chatted; the student now has at least some clue about what is going on.

  • Would you mind just replying to me that you did get this message when you have a chance??
    As you can imagine, this email was somewhat longer.

  • How is the algorithm biased and what makes it biased? It must be us because we all have different lenses, right? So, the data we decide to collect is what makes it biased?

    One of the big ideas we discussed was how language shapes our understanding of information. But how exactly? Is it because language goes hand in hand with culture, therefore changing the way we decode and process the information? Or perhaps it is diction? 
    Look at these amazing questions.

  • I just finished my applications for post-secondary studies and it said I need a minimum of 70 % in ENG4U so can you please let me know where I’m at?
    Pretty sure this question came from the same student who asked to turn their work in between Friday and Sunday.

  • How do you take attendance? I was in class.
    Conveniently, this student had been marked present because, well, they were in class. I even double-checked.

  • I might be slowly going insane, like that woman from The Yellow paper,  and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I connect what I’ve learned to other things.

    How do metaphors influence/determine what and how we think? Yes, metaphors can change the way we think about ourselves, others and the world, but how? These are only physical things to understand abstract concepts, yet how can it change our perception and rationality of things?

    For example, how can your perception change when I say “Jill is like an ugly duckling” compared to “Jill is like a rough diamond”or if I say “love is like a journey” compared to “love is like a fire “. I know we’ve watched a video in class about it, but I can’t grasp the explanation.     
    I feel like this student already deserves an A just for the thinking in the emails they’ve been sending.

  • Hi Mrs. Potts, when is the review due?
    I swear I give due dates. Really.

  • I had 2 questions to ask you one is that I can’t find the meet so can you please send the link or are we not doing one today? Also, I re-submitted an assignment. Can you re-grade that too? 
    Y’all, that meet link is in the same place it always has been.

  • I’m just not sure where to start. Is there any requirements you’re looking for to get a good grade on it? 
    Yes, there is.

To be honest, I love that kids send me all these questions – and these truly are only a sample. I love how easily they communicate and how willing they are to reach out. That doesn’t keep me from giggling every now and then. I mean, who sends an email to their teacher that just says, “I have no clue what is going on”?

Thank goodness we’re back in person tomorrow. Covid notwithstanding, it’ll be good to see their faces and hear the questions they’ve come up with since last week.

Many thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting this wonderful space for teachers to write.

Post-pandemic classroom chaos

Somewhere in the middle of Week One, I had to confiscate the thumbtacks and hide the Sharpies because some of my grade 9 students were using them “inappropriately”. Yup, they were poking each other and drawing, well, everywhere. During Week Three, someone repurposed a pin as a tiny rapier and surreptitiously attacked their classmates. Someone else found spitballs in their hair. I have had to keep both a basketball and a model rocket (“it really works”) at my desk.

Since then, I’ve reminded people to sit down – and reminded and reminded and reminded – not to swear in class (at least not at other people), not to talk while others are talking, not to throw spitballs (seriously, who does that anymore?) or erasers or anything, really, and finally – and somehow most shockingly – not to tie pencils into their hair and then swing their head around to see what will happen. Sometimes I feel like an ogre, but I promise that I am not: I’m just helping students remember how to interact with a group of people outside of their family, a group of people with a purpose beyond amusement. 

To make school better for them, I’ve surveyed students about their interests, offered them choice in reading and choice of writing topics. I’ve tried to create activities that allow students to move (we’ve only recently been allowed to let students work in small groups – I think – it’s hard to keep up with the rules) and to work with peers (or not, if they prefer). I’ve tried to identify learning barriers in my classroom and begun to work towards influencing the ones I can. I let students leave their backpacks in my room at lunchtime (no lockers), and I chat with them whenever they pop by. I’ve played innumerable games of tic-tac-toe with one student who doesn’t yet believe me that, played properly, it will always be a tie.

We take long breaks outdoors during each 2.5 hour class. We get social breaks during class time and… it’s exhausting. Teachers everywhere – not just in my school or my city or even my province – teachers I know from all over North America are talking about how different the kids are this year, how they are wild or immature or out of practice. We tell each other that they have forgotten how to school. And they have. Some of the stories are wild – a purposely broken finger, destroyed bathrooms, public displays of what should be very private acts. And all around us, non-teachers share their opinions: articles, podcasts, tweets and posts tell us that this chaos is good – let’s get rid of compliance and control! – or bad – learning loss is awful and they will never catch up! – but we’re still left with 26 fourteen year olds in a small space for hours every day.

I want to complain – heck, I do complain – but sometime last week I remembered a story about my friend Michelle. Michelle who teaches elementary school, who’s married to a pastor and has raised two lovely children. Michelle who collects picture books signed by the author and is incredibly thoughtful. Michelle who is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. But that’s not the story. Instead, I remembered that when we were in 8th grade she kicked Ken in the groin – hard. I don’t remember why. I do remember that we girls only vaguely understood that this was profoundly painful. I do remember that a teacher pulled her aside and explained exactly why this was particularly wrong – and that later she told us, astonished, about how much damage this could do. She was terribly chagrined – there were tears – and apologized quite sincerely. Ken recovered and 8th grade continued apace, this action soon overshadowed by someone else’s particularly stupid decision.

Until this year, until last week, in fact, I had never thought about what our 8th grade teachers must have said in the teachers’ lounge afterwards. I suspect that they shook their heads ruefully and maybe chuckled a little at the drama of the situation. I imagine that they took some deep breaths and made comments about 8th graders and immaturity. I’m pretty sure they didn’t write Michelle off or worry that she would turn out to be a bad one. I don’t think they decided that we as a group were a particularly mean or immature. I bet they took it all in stride. I bet that they don’t remember the incident at all. Or maybe – maybe – if someone mentioned it now they would have some recollection of it. Heck, I hadn’t thought about this for 30+ years; I’m not sure if Michelle even really remembers this. I mean, we’ve all done some really stupid things.

Now, as I look at my pandemic kiddos who are causing chaos in our classrooms, I have to shake my head. I’m not saying that this year isn’t a wild one – it is wild. I may not bring the thumbtacks back out before Christmas, and I’m not sure I’ll ever trust this group with Sharpies. And yet, when I’m not in the middle of it, when I’ve blinked back the tears of exhaustion and the vice principal has, again, reassured me that this is happening in all of the classes – after all of that, I realize that I had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing about the pencils tied into the braids. And the kids aren’t the only ones who’ve slipped up on the cursing once or twice; I mean, I’ve been stuck at home during a pandemic, too. I’m pretty sure that the spitballs will dry up over time, and I have a feeling that some of the kids who can’t stay seated for more than about 30 seconds may turn out to be school leaders in a few years. Heck, maybe they’ll even be teachers someday – Michelle is and so am I. After all, pandemic or no pandemic, adolescence is always a little chaotic, right? Deep breaths, a little laughter, and a long-range view are going to help.

Many thanks to http://www.twowritingteachers.org for hosting this space.

Amanda Again #SOL21 24/31

Amanda Potts. All I have to do is say her name and people who know me well start to chuckle. “What’s she up to now?” they ask. Someone will almost inevitably say, “Are you still talking to her?” or maybe, “You’re nicer than I am.”

It’s possible that I am just an extraordinarily nice person, but I know myself well enough to say that, well, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that I keep Amanda Potts around because I appreciate a good story. And, truth be told, I feel a little kinship with her; after all, we share the same name – and nearly the same email address.

BUT NOT THE SAME MIDDLE INITIAL for pity’s sake. And *my* email is mine because I got here first. It’s not my fault she has to use her middle initial in her email. Ahem. See what I mean about probably not extraordinarily nice?

Longtime readers of this blog may remember Amanda from this post wherein I introduced my longest-running mistaken Amanda whose life is, frankly, significantly more exciting than mine. As a teacher and mother in Ottawa – with two kids and a mortgage, to boot – emails intended for me rarely arrive with titles like “Bare Assed Silverado Stay” ( I will forever regret deleting that one) and I had no time to plan a Surf & Yoga retreat in Portugal – or even to go through all the pictures they shared.

You might also recall this post which discussed the alarming number Amanda Potts’s cropping up. My most frequent mistaken identity was settling down a bit – she had moved from LA to NYC – but the others were all sorts of trouble. I finally caved and actually called a doctor’s office in Oklahoma to tell them why one Amanda was missing all her appointments. Meanwhile one of us (newly-married Arizona Amanda) was trying to get pregnant and *someone* gave our email to the Polk County Jail so we could write to an inmate. On behalf of all of us – nah, I’m lying – on behalf of me, I declined.

Recently, my longest-running Amanda doppelganger has moved back to Ontario. This is really good because I wasn’t convinced that NYC was the right place for us – we had a lot of trouble finding an apartment. Still, the return to Toronto hasn’t been without drama. My spidey-senses tingled when we got invited to a party by someone whose signature declared him to be a “Boldologist” and who reminded us several times that the party cost $25 – we could invite other people, but they would have to pay, too. Mmmhmm. He also sent follow-up emails reminding us to send thank you notes. I *almost* wrote back to tell him that I’m old enough to know when thank you’s are warranted, but I hadn’t attended the party, so I kept my mouth shut and forwarded the emails. Let’s just say that I wasn’t shocked, then, to learn that we were interested in an Evolutionary Somatic Practitioner who, though she couldn’t correctly copy an email address, nevertheless promised to help us get our balance back. It’s not often my emails open with “I’d be delighted to support you to process and integrate what’s arising for you….”

Now that I think about it, I may keep in touch simply for the greetings: “Hey Straight Baddy” and “Hey, Amanda. I hope you’re kickin ass and taking names” are about a million times more interesting than “Hi Miss, I’m sorry my essay is late.” Nope… just kidding. I don’t have any choice in the matter: they just. keep. writing.

Things may calm down for a while in the next few months. Amanda’s just found an apartment in downtown Toronto – it looks lovely, but she needs to register for a parking space. Her mother will co-sign the lease. I know who wants to work with her and what some of her projects are. After all, we’ve been at this for YEARS. At this point, when I forward her email – which I did just before I sat down to write – I often include little messages. She’s started writing back.

A few emails ago I said we should write a book. She didn’t say no.

Enjoy more Slices of Life at https://twowritingteachers.org/ – they may never call you a “Straight Baddy” but you might enjoy the stories

Forgotten #SOL21 9/31

It’s 3:34 and I have forgotten something. I know I have forgotten it because I remember that I was going to be late to my weekly online teacher knitting group (we are lots of fun – for real). I’m pretty sure that the thing I’ve forgotten must start around 6 or 6:30. It’s not the gender reveal party for my brother & sister-in-law’s baby: that was Sunday & I remembered it. It’s not the doctor’s appointment I forgot on Friday and re-scheduled for Wednesday. Dang it – tomorrow’s Wednesday – I’d nearly forgotten. Thomas’s hair cut was on Friday and mine is scheduled for Saturday coming up. The next book club isn’t until April. Marks were due last week and Parent-Teacher interviews aren’t until Thursday night…

No idea.

I have an agenda and I use it. I used to even think I used it well, but that was before the pandemic. With all the craziness of Covid, I’ve started writing *everything* in pencil, but still: it’s usually mostly there. My bigger problem is that the days insist on running together right now. I regularly spend three or even four days convinced that it’s Wednesday. Usually I’m right at least once.

And now it’s after 4pm. I’ve updated my CV, answered some emails, talked on the phone… I still don’t know what I’ve forgotten, but whatever it is, I’m getting closer to having missed it. Soon, I’ll be past the feeling of dread and segue right into a feeling of regret about whatever it is. Oh sure, there’s a chance that someone will call me between now and whenever the thing I’ve forgotten is supposed to happen. Maybe they’ll remind me before I miss it. But probably not. Pretty much everyone I know isn’t quite sure if today is Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or Monday. Or maybe Tuesday? Who knows? One way or another, someone will be at whatever event I’m about to miss. I hope they take good notes.

Update: 5:02 and I’ve remembered what I forgot but I have, indeed, already missed it and, as predicted, have moved directly into regret. SIGH. The good news is that I have plenty more opportunities to forget meetings in the coming weeks, and maybe next time I’ll remember what I forgot before I miss it.

With gratitude for https://twowritingteachers.org who facilitate this fabulous community – and keep track of the days!

Myers Briggs personality

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test sometime during college. I’m pretty sure everyone took it around that time. I definitely found it interesting – look! That’s me! I’m like that! – but I quickly forgot the details. And by “forgot the details” what I actually mean is that I forgot the four letters that are the point of the whole test, really – the four letters that tell you and other people what personality type you are.

“I’m definitely an E,” I would respond when someone asked, “and maybe an N?” My voice would rise hopefully, as if perhaps the person who had asked could see inside me and determine who I was. “Is N the one that is the opposite of F? or is that J? I’m pretty sure mine ended with P.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t take it seriously: I was 19, I took *everything* seriously. It was just… well… I couldn’t remember those letters because they didn’t make any sense to me. Was I thinking or feeling? Why yes, I was. Judging or perceiving? Also a yes. The only letter I could really hold on to was “E” for “extroverted” and even that one had become almost “I” for “introverted” when a “sensitive” boyfriend had me take the test again years later. He honestly wanted to know the letters I couldn’t recall for the life of me.

No shock that I didn’t stay with that boyfriend: labels and numbers still escape me more often than I would like to admit. My spouse is able to remember not only the actual date we met but also the year. He knows things like the birth weights of both of our children and the names of characters in books he read long ago. I can remember who sat at which table at the wedding where we met, which student wrote what essay 15 years ago, and the names of all of my teachers since kindergarten. He knows his Myers Brigg personality type and he probably knows mine, too. We make a good team, so I fearlessly forgot my letters.

Then, a couple of years ago, a colleague stumbled across a funny little article called “The Definition of Hell for Each Myers Briggs Personality Type” and was quizzing us all as we ate lunch. She read hell after hell out loud as various colleagues shared their “type.” I laughed and played along until the inevitable, “What type are you, Amanda?” I sheepishly admitted that I had no idea. “But it starts with an E!” I chirped.

Then she read this hell: “Somebody is wrong, and they’re directing a large group of people! You can’t do anything about it and will have to obey whatever inefficient policies they decide to implement.”

My horror was physical. A shiver ran from my shoulders all the way down my spine. I shifted uncomfortably. There it was – no questions asked – whatever the letters are that go with that one, they define my personality type because that is absolutely my hell.

And that, friends, is also the moment we are currently living in education as politicians make inefficient policies about education based on… well, I honestly don’t know. Just another set of labels and numbers I appear to have forgotten.

But at least now I know my Myers Briggs type. Well, sort of.

Summary of Debate

I am close to finishing my summer writing courses. So, so close, and yet… so far. One long piece of creative non-fiction, one 1500-word research essay (with a proposal – how is that long enough for any real research? Whatever. I’ll take it.) and one 500-word close reading. I can get this done. 

In the meantime, I am amusing myself and, hopefully, the poor “tutors” who have to read these assignments day in and day out. It was with them in mind that I wrote the following slice of life. The assignment calls for a one-paragraph summary of both sides of “a specific, local debate” in under 250 words. I had to present the two sides in an objective, neutral manner. I decided to go extremely specific and local…

Debate: What Is That in the Sky?

The debate in our car is heated: is the giant glowing white orb that we see in the sky above us the moon or is it something else? The person taking the affirmative position states that it is the moon and develops her argument relying almost exclusively on logos. She begins with a concession, acknowledging that the glowing orb does, in fact, look larger than usual, which is part of what attracted the attention of the passengers in the car. She continues to support the affirmative position by pointing out that, despite its size, the orb is in the place where the moon is usually seen, looks like the moon, and appears to be moving along the moon’s expected trajectory. Finally, the person in the affirmative attempts to use ethos, pointing out that years of experience in observing the moon makes her a credible source for determining if the orb is, in fact, the moon. For these reasons, the affirmative asserts that this is the moon. The person defending the negative position contends that what they are seeing is not the moon. This argument, too, relies largely on logos. For one, he argues, what they see in the sky right now is clearly much larger than the moon. The person assuming the negative position points out that he has never seen a moon this large. He then refers to authority, maintaining that “someone” recently read him a book about planets and that planets are, in fact, very large. He concludes his point by reminding his opponent that he, too, has seen the moon many times, which gives him vast experiential knowledge, if not quite as much as the other side. He closes with a clear statement of position: “I know a lot about moons, and that is not the moon.” In summary, the affirmative position is that the large, white, glowing orb in the sky is the moon; the negative position is that it is not the moon but, more likely, a planet.

In case you are wondering, it was the moon.

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Join us at https://twowritingteachers.org every Tuesday.

Homework

My older son just finished a big school project. He had to research and write a biography of his hero – in French. For reasons beyond my comprehension, he chose George Washington Carver, someone he had never heard of before and whose accomplishments he can barely describe in English, much less French. “Crop rotation” anyone? He is also writing a Halloween story in English and reading a book for a Literature Circle. And he’s supposed to read in French for 30 minutes a day AND he has weekly French worksheets which he regularly does the night before they are due.

My younger child’s teacher photocopies sheets and puts them into a red duotang (one of those 3-pronged folders for all you Americans out there) then sends home things to be learned or reviewed every week. Also, he is supposed to read in French every night. And there are other kinds of homework: the other day, for example, the teacher asked the kids to bring in shoeboxes for a diorama. My child told me not to bother sending one in because “there are loads of kids who will bring more than one.” I was not allowed to explain his decision in a note to the teacher. The 8-year-old told me he would “take care of it.”

Now, I don’t know how other teachers fare with this stuff, but I am the WORST about my children’s homework. For the love of all that is holy, I read way too much about pedagogy to be anywhere nearby when the kids pull their assignments out of their backpack. Their teachers are lovely thoughtful people at various stages of their careers. Their expectations are not completely outlandish, and the workload really isn’t over the top. Well, the older one was a *little* overwhelmed this week, but I’ll admit that he rarely does a full half hour of reading in French and it’s not like he began his project early… and, there, I’ve already started.

I’m an American who speaks French for Heaven’s sake. Worse, I’m an American who is qualified to teach English and French in Canada – and my children are doing immersion French. Oh, and I’m a card-carrying member of the helicopter parenting generation – right down to my attempts not to be a helicopter parent. Homework gets complicated.

This year, we decided that it was time for the kids to make their own lunches and do their own homework. Lunches = no problem. Homework = well… the grade 3 teacher wants us to sign off on a chart that says that our son has done his work at least four nights a week. And I know that it’s good pedagogy to get parents involved in what’s going on in the classroom. And it’s not like my kids prattle on about school (I literally relied on the girls down the street to tell me everything until, tragically, this year they are not in my children’s classes), so homework can be a good window into the classroom. Right?

But then we lost the damn duotang. Actually, to be fair to me, I don’t think it’s in our house, so “we” didn’t lose anything. Sadly, the red duotang is also not in the classroom. Nor is the “personal dictionary” or some mysterious orange duotang, and I’m pretty sure those suckers never came home. I’ve read the teacher’s notes home and, sure, the message is in the subtext, but it’s clear that he thinks we lost these things. I don’t dare tell him that I’ve never seen the orange duotang, but I kind of want to send him a picture of our organized after-school system. Then again, maybe I don’t… I mean, I’m doing the best I can, but things around here can get a little hairy between 5 and 7:30. We’re, um, mostly organized. And I have torn the house apart; that red duotang is not here. I’ll tell you what: I know my third-grader, and I will not be at all surprised if these items reappear magically at the end of the school year. In the meantime, until his busy teacher gets around to replacing it, we have no sheet to sign. My child is delighted.

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And the fifth-grader, oh the poor child. It’s gotten to the point where he sometimes bursts into tears upon merely hearing the word “homework.” This would be distressing if he ever ever ever actually did any homework without significant “prompting”. And by “prompting” I mean “threats.” And, as I threaten him, I remember that this is the year he’s responsible for his own homework, so my brain starts up…

“Just let him not do it and see what happens,” hisses 1970s-Amanda-mom.

“What will his teacher think of you if he comes with yet another half-done, crumpled, food-stained worksheet?” fusses the 2010 version of me as a mother.

“Those worksheets are completely inappropriate and in no way promote learning anyway,” counters teacher-Amanda.

“Google translate is the devil,” sneaks in French-teacher Amanda. “Also, check that he didn’t forget any of the accents.”

“You were just like that, and you turned out fine,” the voice of my very own mother echoes in my head, thus confirming that things have really gotten out of control.

Meanwhile, my 10-year-old has snuck in another 20 minutes of screen time and calmed down enough to be able to summon up a fresh round of tears when I remind him that he really does have to do his homework.

So tonight, it was a real victory when he finished a project in French about a man he had never heard of three weeks ago who did something important that he can’t really understand but whom he claims, for the purposes of this project, is his hero. I tried to help him choose a hero (without commenting on how the project was presented), and I didn’t say anything negative as he hand wrote his first draft (because the teacher didn’t want them to type the first draft but required a typed final copy). I didn’t point out that there was no feedback on the draft. I will admit that I typed some of it from his rough draft because he’s 10 and watching him plink keys one finger at a time makes me crazy, but I didn’t make any corrections for him, and I only sort of helped with the French spell check. Also, I let him cry more than once. When he finished, I congratulated him on all the work he did and asked if he felt proud. He did.

I felt proud, too. Because I didn’t email the teacher one single time to tell her what I thought about the assignment. That’s got to count for something, right?

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Night light

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

It’s bedtime, but he is just home from his friend’s house and full of energy. He’s not ready to stop bouncing. As I hurry him towards bed, he dances about. In the bathroom he hops on one foot and tosses a balled up sock towards the laundry basket. It misses. No matter. He switches feet and does it again. It misses again.

“You need to pick those up,” I scold.

He wiggles towards the corner to fetch the wayward sock balls, bumping things with his boogie-ing butt. One something falls, kerplop, into the toilet.

He stops.

“Uh-oh.”

An old night light. No longer necessary but it can’t stay there. He looks into the toilet to confirm what he already knows, then he looks at me. Quickly, he glances around the bathroom: he can take care of this himself. He grabs the toilet brush, gives it a disgusted look, and goes fishing in the toilet. Turns out a toilet brush doesn’t make a good fishing rod. The night light is wedged.

“Um, Mom?” His face has fallen. He is chagrined. But then, curiosity fires in him, “What are we going to do?”

My sleeve is already rolled up. Wordlessly, I plunge my hand into the toilet, fetch the offending night light, and deposit it in the trash. He sucks in his breath.

“Have you done that before?” He is impressed.

“Yes,” I say simply, as I soap my hands again and again.

“Thanks.”

Then, casually confident of his mother’s competence, he dances on out of the bathroom, pausing long enough to say, “Good thing I don’t need that night light anymore.”

My personal IEP

Image result for iep memeIEP FOR AMANDA POTTS
Age: not as relevant as it used to be. Let’s just say that she no longer tells people she is anything “and a half”; also, she is old enough to have forgotten her age on more than one occasion
Address: Really? This is a blog. I don’t think so.

Assessments:
Educational Assessment: 18 years of formal schooling, mostly tests at the beginning, but strong performance on tests led to the increased use of essays and presentations
Assessor: teachers, professors
Notes: achieved well, though she sometimes demonstrated signs of stress during peak testing periods; possibly overly conscious of teachers’ and professors’ opinions and not focused enough on her own learning; well, maybe not in grad school. In grad school she kind of figured it out.
Diagnosis: Clever Enough, but kind of a Slow Learner

Social Assessment: observational and anecdotal
Assessor: family, friends, husband; recently her children have provided keen and unrelenting observation – although they are clearly biased, they are also painfully honest
Notes: appears friendly and outgoing but needs quiet time to recover her full energy; often over-commits and then struggles with time management; subject to bouts of righteous anger when things aren’t working the way she thinks they should
Diagnosis: Executive Processing Disorder brought on by adult responsibilities; possible movement towards introversion, but this may have been influenced by Susan Cain’s book Quiet; sometimes prone to Expecting Too Much of Self and Others

Exceptionality: yes
She’s exceptional according to her mother *and* her mother-in-law, so that has to count for something. Label: “Generally Pleasant”
Her children have recently told her she is grumpy but acknowledge that this may not be a permanent diagnosis. Label: “Occasionally Grumpy”
Her students have not yet shared their label this semester, but previous students admit they appreciate her more as they age. Label: “Fine wine”

Strengths: avid reader, bakes well, willing to have friends over even when her house is a mess, can change lesson plans in the middle of class if necessary, really likes most people, generally enthusiastic, pretty creative

Needs: reminders to look on the bright side, lots of sleep, more exercise, snuggles with her children, laughter encouraged by her husband’s cockamamie ideas

Accommodations:
Instructional: turn off the background music so she can hear what you’re saying, for Pete’s sake; make sure she has eaten recently before imparting new or potentially emotional information; repeat information, especially if she is doing other things – like cooking, talking on the phone, packing lunches, talking to another student/child or reading – while you try to talk to her; allow for texting of friends when she is feeling snarky and needs to vent

Environmental: benefits from fresh air and sunshine; may become bad-tempered after extended winters or exposure to excessive complaining; needs at least one hour per week for yoga; is calmed by hot baths

Assessment: performs best when given a non-negotiable deadline. She may insist that she can complete the project without the deadline, but she is fooling herself. Ignore signs of stress and leave her alone until the task is complete. Produces best blogs when involved in a supportive writing community.

GOALS:

  1. Make sure she continues blogging after the end of March – it makes her happy. Aim for a minimum of one blog/week. Timeline: begin in one week, continue weekly or more often, indefinitely.
  2. Now that spring is nearly here, add at least two or three walks per week in order to maximize life satisfaction. Timeline: as soon as all this dang snow melts.
  3. Create a reading challenge (a la Elisabeth Ellington) and read loads of books of all kinds. Timeline: at least once per year, repeat regularly forever.
  4. Learn Patience. This appears to be her life challenge. See diagnosis of “slow learner” and “occasionally grumpy” above. Timeline: every single day until she dies.

Special thanks to Romeolitcoach whose slice about her dog Bella yesterday inspired me to write my own IEP.

slice-of-life_individual

 

Slice of Life Day 28, March 2018

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful month of inspiration.