9/24/12

Infomercial mania

This weekend while riding home from an early morning trip to the local store for a missing breakfast ingredient, I was sucked into the infomercial hour on a local radio station for the latest product, supplement, miracle drug to improve my health or that of my loved ones.  I have heard it all before, "Listen to find out the benefits of Fish Oil",  "Dr. So and So is here to explain to us why everyone should be taking such and such." But this time the lead was, "Find out how to reverse the effects of stress on your body."  So, I was curious, what would I hear?  "excercise"?, "eat right"?, or "change of lifestyle"?  The thing about the infomercial, it is very similar to a rumor, or a stereotype because it is based, at least some small fragment of it, in truth.  That is how they get us right?  That is the hook, the seed planted that causes me to, occasionally, doubt my own instinct to doubt.

The commercial further sucked me in, because it turns out to be a supplement for calcium and magnesium.  Did you know, "Calcium and magnesium are neccessary for over 300 reactions in the human body.", "Did you know that stress severely depletes the calcium and magnesium in the body?"  Then, the part that I found interesting was the implication that stress could cause a downward spiral in attention and anxiety, among other symptoms, and could effect a long list of conditions like ADHD, Autism, Heart Disease, Diabetes, cancer and More.  That is when I began thinking like a mom who sees a miracle around every corner,hears a miracle in every radio speaker, believes the word from any old infomercial doctor.  "Oh, it just makes so much sense!" I thought for a moment.  It was a stereotypically sunny little moment where hope shines, but is clouded by the knowledge that I am listening to an infomercial.  (Why don't our Doctors ask us if our kids are eating enough calcium rich foods?  Is there a test to find out how much calcium or magnesium is in one's system?)

Even still, my mind wanders. . .What if stress, which I already know has a giant impact on functioning, larger than most people realize is possible, what if that stress really does cause a depletion in calcium and magnesium, which then creates a downhill spiral in attention and anxiety.  Parents everywhere are looking more and more to diet, gluten, sugars, lactose, and other food allergies as a cause of increased anxiety, decreased attention, irritability and a host of other symptoms.  Many have found relief by paying attention to the details of diet.  Is it so far fetched really?  I know from the experience of others that it is not really far fetched, but diet also isn't the answer for everyone.

In the end, the 888 number has long escaped my memory.  I am not one to "Be One of the first One Hundred Callers. . ."  But I also find myself exploring the truthful nuggets for more information.  And I will have to admit, my kids did get a calcium rich shake for breakfast, and sunflower seeds (high in magnesium) in their lunch boxes.  My oldest was "high pointer" of the day today.  That means he earned the most points for appropriate and on task behavior in his class.  Maybe it was just a coincidence.  I have definitely not created a controlled experiment here.  Many, many factors are at play every day.  But still. . .something to think about, if not just about these two specific ingredients in our family diet our diet in general and how food truly does effect our and our children's bodies, minds, and development.

9/17/12

My New Oasis

I am loving my new job so far.  I feel right at home in this school of over 100 staff where I can easily focus on getting to know the people in my own neck of the woods without feeling pressured to get to know everyone.  I even love the kids, all 65 third graders, who are my main focus for the year.  I am learning who the quiet ones are, who the loud ones are, and who will try to get noticed for anything if we don't notice them for something positive right away.  As for teachers, every one I have gotten to know has different experience and knowledge to share, and I feel like I am in a good place to "hear" them, I am enjoying listening.

 In some ways teaching is like riding a bike, just get back on.  I am feeling pretty confident, and frankly more comfortable than when I was a para just out of college, or even as a twenty something teacher.  Back then I had very little experience actually working with children.  Probably funny for a trained teacher to say, but true.  I didn't get myself into the teaching profession because I had a lot of teaching experience or exposure to lots of children.  I chose it because I thought I could do a good job, because I had ideals (for better or worse) about how it should be done.  Now, I still have ideals, but I know enough to try not to let those block my view of real life problems or issues in the classroom or school.  If I have learned anything in the past few years, it is the age old saying "To assume is to make an ass out of you and me."

Coming into a new school, in a new era, also requires some learning.  Because as much as I have read about issues in education and new innovations and understandings about best teaching practices, the fact is the problems schools are facing right now preclude all that.  For instance even though the common core has been developed and really is full of innovative ideas, the schools in our state are still strapped down by MCAS tests and requirements that may or may not be aligned with Common Core curriculum.  Many schools are really diving into curriculum for math, reading, and writing to ensure a logical progression in instruction.  I can see the benefits, yet wonder and worry a little, what is the point in having a degree in how to develop an integrated curriculum with a focus on upper level thinking skills if we will be handed curriculum to follow?  I look forward to seeing what our classrooms this year look like once we get into the year, because I hear (and believe) it will look different and the procedural piece of the curriculum will give way to more integration.

After all that, I am not sure I have accurately conveyed why I am really enjoying myself so much, despite a crazy schedule for getting the family up and off to schools, and work.  What it really comes down to is the kids.  I just love getting to know them and how they learn.  I love hearing the stories of their lives, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I am fortunate to be working in three classrooms that are using the same curriculum and do planning together.  It is interesting to see how each group of children handles the weeks lessons, and almost more interesting to observe how three teachers make all the same stuff, look and sound just a little different.  I am like the fly on the wall watching to see what works and what doesn't for which kids.  And like the fly on the wall I will never tell :)  because I am not in this position to judge or criticize.  I am here to help, to teach, to watch, to learn, to enjoy. . .

9/10/12

Two hardest things about going back to work. . .

Week one down, week two ready.  We survived!!

Honestly, the absolute easiest thing about going back to work for me so far is being at work.  The hard part is all the rest of it.  First hardest thing. . .  When on earth do people find time to cook and clean and do laundry?  Or should I say, When do people have time to hang out with their kiddos.  It seems like bedtime comes in a blink of an eye and I spend half our time together cooking supper.  I try to save any cleanup for after they are in bed.

So, Sunday I spent about three hours in the kitchen preparing french bread, eggplant parm from the garden, a gigantic shepherd's pie to eat during the week, and two apple pies.  Did anyone else notice it finally felt like fall?  ahhhhhhh.. ..baking weather.   Just trying to lessen the load during the week.

Ok, the second hardest part about being back at work is dressing up.  I've got to be honest people.  I love cotton!!!  I love jeans!!!  (especially the well worn kind)  I triple love cotton t-shirts.  I love bare feet.  I love comfy and often ugly shoes.

I don't like foo foo fashionista clothing made of rayon polyester blend or even silk, they make my skin crawl. I feel overheated, sticky, and yuck (especially in this summer that I thought till Sunday, would never end)  Shoes that are cute and comfy till I actually wear them all day, on my feet through recess, lunch duty, and umpty billion trips to various places in the school, can stay in the closet thanks.  I especially don't like last minute plans that result in me wearing a flowered skirt and silk blouse with a water stain (there since my shower that am) to the county fair, chili dogs and roller coasters while the sun burns down on me in it's final days of summer and swarms of people clad in cotton mill about in every direction.  

I am going to slide back in to my old cotton habits soon, maybe one cotton item, with one dressy item. . .
Hmmm. . . 

9/3/12

New Girl at School

It is tricky to be the new girl at school, especially as a teacher in a new school, in a new position, and with a new team of teachers using some new curriculum.  I am now faced with getting to know 65 children and three classroom teachers, as well as a dozen other teachers and support staff, just in my corner of the school.      I am excited about it, and I want to make sure and do this well.

I am in this new, and not clearly outlined position, because this group of children represents a diverse mix of needs and abilities that is bound to confound us weekly, daily or hourly.  I hear keep the principal's words in mind, "lots of executive function difficulties".  I can offer an added perspective to help share understanding of how some of these kids operate.  When I make suggestions, my intention will be to help the children feel good about themselves, and about school, and to ensure their brains are in a learning place, rather than a place of stress/ lockdown.  I know that children who learn differently, particularly those who struggle with the executive functioning skills (skills others learn seemingly with no effort), quickly get the message that there is something 'wrong' with them, even from good teachers.  I can see already that each of the three teachers and classes is probably going to need something different from me because they are all different, and that is ok.  I am going to do my best not to step on any toes along this new road.