A power struggle; the student refuses to complete any of today’s writing work. I worry. This will set him behind on our project. He has options but he’s just refusing these choices. The student is distracted by…books. And I think: It could be worse!
A conflict; A hallway disagreement spills into the room and a tough student says, motioning toward the instigator and myself, “Can the three of us have a talk, like, right now?” He’s flustered, but honest. And I think: How incredible to be trusted to broker this peace?
A power struggle; the student struggles to work with a partner. After discussion, the student and I agree, he will do better work independently. And I think: What independence! What a wise child to see his current limitations! It could be worse.
Frustration; Students are not completing the assignment; they are taking shortcuts. One student is my son. I call from the other room: “Why did you only include 1 math vocabulary word?!” A calm but exasperated voice says, “That’s how it (the directions) sounded.” We discuss my expectations. My son replies, again with kindness, “Well you’re directions were terrible. I’ll fix it. But I’ll be the only one.” He does. He is. And I think about how lucky I am to have this time with him…how three less vocabulary words on one assignment will be fine…how I do need to upgrade my written directions. But, it’s fine.
It’s a work in progress, but I’m trying to shift my paradigm and to put things in perspective.
The year was 1747 and K. Roger Ski had just finished building the world’s first water powered rat. His other ideas hadn’t taken off, on account of no one taking him seriously. No one took him seriously because who would think the foremost clogger in the River District could be a serious inventor.
K. Roger would not be dissuaded and he worked with tremendous focus each day, penning letters to the papers and the neighbors and the King of England to announce and describe each new invention. After toiling over each missive, he’d take a 3 minute 13 second break to clog. This was part practice, part stress relieving joy, because K. Roger Ski found no greater joy than donning a pair of clogs and clogging away.
This was his year though and the world didn’t even know it. It was about to happen. A water powered rat was a nonsense idea. No one even knew what it meant. But that very night, Mr. Ski created something so marvelous that even his nemesis on the dance floor, Virginia Pascal (a beauty not in the classical sense; in the clogging world she did have admirers), would have to admit was, at the very least, useful. He had invented the modern sneaker.
*disclaimer. This is a nonsense narrative. Just trying my hand at silly fiction in a way I used to and haven’t for some time.
Sitting on the footstool clenching a pillow. It’s over. I’m sad….wait. “Laettner catches the pass, turns, shoots….scores!” Duke wins! I cry.
Age 20 – 30 (in 30ish words)
I’m laying on a sofa with a 2 week old baby. Watching the game. Napping (eventually, both of us). Bliss. Losing the office bracket competition to Doris in HR. Later, running the office bracket competition, still losing.
Age 30 – 40 (in 40 words or less)
Watching games with the kids. Running the family bracket competition. Watching on a computer or the phone!? How is this possible?
Age 40 – present day (In…40 words or less)
Games are on in the background, much less invested. But wait. Overtime? Upsets? Text messages from Mom: “Did you see that shot?” Text message from college: “My bracket is busted?!” March magic!
If I didn’t write a memoir piece, I might write an opinion piece and convince my readers that classroom libraries are the heartbeat of a classroom.
If I wrote that piece I’d preach to the choir or change some minds; I do not know.
If I didn’t write a memoir, I might write a fiction piece where characters collide with crushing news or silly dreams or seem so everyday ordinary that it seems like it’s a memoir.
If I wrote that piece, I’d try not to make it too real and I’d worry that people would make unintended connections. I might include a disclaimer, like Law and Order does sometimes, and say “any resemblance of these characters to people in my own life is purely coincidental.” But it wouldn’t be coincidental. Probably.
If I didn’t write a memoir, maybe I would write a nonfiction piece examining a sports figure or historical events of interest to me.
If I wrote that piece, I’d probably get sidetracked by my own experience and turn it into a memoir.
If I didn’t write a memoir, I might write a poem or verse, but it might also be a memoir.
If I didn’t write a memoir piece, I’d probably write something that could be considered reflective commentary.
With 11 days to go in the challenge, perhaps I should break out of my comfort zone a little bit more. Time will tell!
Dad died in 2008 after a 3 month battle with lung cancer. I was 30 years old, Dad was 56. This is not the story of ups and downs of our relationship nor is it any of the stories around his passing.
This story: If I was given the opportunity to send a letter to my dad on the other side, but (due to antiquated data limits?) I must limit my communication to 100 words.
Let’s catch up. We left Syracuse; moved to the farm! Grandma died at 90, gardened til the end. Oh! Another baby! Tucker! He’s 9 (Riding Bikes!), Linc is 12 (Scholastic bowl!), Cole (National Guard) is 17 and Leo is 20! Leo got the band award at 14, same one you got! BTW, I teach 3rd grade now. Long story. Love it! Melissa is great; teaching 4th! We sold the homestead; moved to town.
Jennifer and her family are well. Thriving! Jaxon to Arizona.
[In my head: I’m running out of words. Tearing up. Damn it. 16 left.]
You missed Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Look it up. The president was…nevermind. Love you and
–This post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge – 31 days of writing. Check it out at twowritingteachers.org
Sadly, you can imagine these words in any classroom in America.
It’s a trope and real life all at once; the adult who checks out when things get tough. The absent father, sure. Other times the absent mother. Estranged brothers or awkward aunts and uncles abound. Leaving is easy. Just go.
I am not a psychologist and I don’t play one on TV or even in an advice column. The inability to articulate or name our needs may cause us to push others away. Self-sabotage. “Just…go.” Leaving is easy.
This has happened every year inside my classroom.
I see the wheels turning in the student’s mind. I can almost hear his voice: “This is going to be impossible. Everyone will know I can’t do it. They. Will. Know! My face feels hot.”
Student behavior: “I ain’t doin this stupid work!” Physically the student may move from their seat and act aggressively. The student might distract others with jokes.
“Just let me go!” Because leaving is easy. Easier than being exposed.
Their expression and demeanor says: “Nobody notices me. I had a question that never got answered. No one ever tells me ‘Good Job!”
Student behavior: “I need outta here or I’m gonna blow! I need to go see [other adult in the building]. You’re a [ inappropriate name].” Other physical behaviors may follow.
“JUST GO!” Because it’s easier?
A student finds solace in these interventions only to find the return to the classroom brings more confusion; like starting a book at Chapter 8. “What’s happening?” This induces stress, furthering the cycle.
“Should I go?” [Leaving would be easier]
As a practitioner, I am not nailing it in regards to the above but I know this: The classroom community is the place where independence can happen. It’s the place where trial and error can lead to understanding. It’s the place where helpful classmates can cheer you on. This is where the learning happens. And it doesn’t happen if you are out of class.
Leaving the room is not an option for very many things at all; We have to work through it together. “Can I go?” The student asks. “I’d like you to stay. Let’s figure this out.”
I love short specific lines that are so evocative of a day and time and moment. I listen to a lot of Jason Isbell’s music. He does this all the time.
“Dreamsicle on a summer night in a folding lawn chair…”
Just like that, it’s 1987 and I’m a first grader with a sparkler on the 4th of July. How do writers do that? What makes it work?
I love to think about these things.
I don’t think that I’ve come close to Isbell’s lyrics but it’s fun to try. I know this has come through in my writing. I’m not prepared today with a work sample! I wonder if I might give it a try before the end of the month. Not that I’ll write a song, but perhaps aim for that same short evocative use of language.
What do you notice in the lyrics or prose you are seeing/hearing these days?