NINE

I AM LAYING IN BED AND WATCHING ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.  Well, actually right now I am typing this, but that was what I WAS doing.  Today was kind of weird because I got up all full of vim and vigor -- I went to the gym and killed myself on that stupid TRX, again.  When I got home I even made a batch of eggs in a nest (Look it up!  Yummy.  Go to www.pioneerwoman.com)  She always has yummy recipes!  Then my mom called and wanted to know if I wanted to go to the mall, so after a quick conference call - the first of the school year -- we sped away to the land of Things I Don't Really Need but Sure are Shinny.  

By the time we got home in the late afternoon, I was feeling pretty sick.  I don't actually feel great now, so I collapsed on my bed and let the family fend for themselves.  So far everyone is still alive, although The Boy negotiated for a cinnamon roll for dinner -- so things could go downhill pretty fast.

I can't decide if I'm really sick or just got car sick playing PokemonGo in the car while Mom drove.  Either way, it was nice to lay around and watch tv.   That used to be my favorite part of the weekends when I was a kid:  no place to go, no responsibilities -- just some good Saturday afternoon tv.  

It was on such a lovely Saturday that I discovered the Anne of Green Gables series.  It was running non-stop on PBS, and I watched all six hours.  It was ending just as my parents got back from a trip to Costco, and I had to break away from the show to help carry piles of junk inside.  I was really put out.  This was back in the day when you couldn't pause tv.  (Kids, ask your parents) Imagine, Gilbert is declaring his love to Anne, and you've got to stop and schlep in a giant bundle of toilet paper -- talk about grim reality.

Telling you I was watching Antiques Roadshow, is true but I've only been watching it for the last hour.  To be honest, before that I was watching a marathon of Teen Mom, OG.  You are right of course, to judge me for this, but you know, whatever.  I just have such a soft spot for Tyler and Caitlin.  They are so adorable.

I spent the morning messaging back and forth with one of my beloved former students.  Through my habit of saying, "Well, whatever you need."  I've had kind of a strange teaching experience.  I've taught all grades 2nd - 12th.  I spent about seven years in elementary, three teaching middle school and another seven teaching high school English.  As a result, there is one poor group of kids who had me as their teacher in 2nd grade, 7th grade, and 9th grade.  We've got some history.  They are allowed to request my friendship on social media when they hit 18 and then I evaluate whether to include them! Of course, now they are in their mid to late 20s and knowing them still is fantastic.  They are an amazing crew.  They run companies, are lawyers, nurses, soldiers, fire fighters, teachers and police officers.  They basically run the world.  Some of them even read my blog (I'm winking at you guys).  I adore them.  Sometimes we get to meet up IRL, but not enough.  Sometimes they message me, or write on my FB wall or like my Instagram photos.  I always get a big kick out of it when they do; like royalty waved at me.  

I was talking politics with the one who messaged me today.  She was BORN a go-getter and I could've told you day 1 that she'd go places.  My problem is that every time I picture her, I see a nine year old!  

I think sometimes about the teacher I was then, and the teacher I am now.  I wish they could've spent time with me when I was a little better at my craft.  I was kind of uptight back then, and I think that we would have a blast if we could do it over.  The thing I love about still being in contact with them, is that they accept me as I am now.  They recognize I've grown and changed just as they have.  They forgive me my past mistakes, and I really appreciate that.

I met up with one of them in Florida this summer.  I was at a conference with school in Orlando and much to The Boy and The Girl's sorrows, I ran on over to Magic Kingdom and Epcot while I was there.  ("Without us?  How could you?").  This former student of mine works for Disney -- she's a Big Deal with the company and we ate together in China at Epcot.  It was pretty awesome, and then later, we ran over to Mexico and I had THE STRONGEST margarita I've ever had!  I could only drink a 1/4 of it before I was like, "I am OUT!"  We talked and talked and talked, and it was pretty great.  I am so proud of her.  Of course one of the things she told me was that back when she was in the 2nd grade, she thought I didn't like her, but later realized that I was just trying to get her on task, and keep her from talking so much.  It sort of bummed me out though.  Back in the day, if I had known she thought I didn't like her, I probably would've had the attitude of  - "Well, I'm not here to be your best pal."  Now, that stuff really bothers me.  It doesn't matter if I like a student or not -- if they don't feel liked.  People's feelings and perceptions really, really matter.  If a student is convinced I don't like them, then it is my obligation to do everything in my power to prove they matter.  How can you learn from someone who you think dislikes you?  Which isn't to say I'm a pushover.  I'm not.  I run a pretty tight ship, but how my students feel about me and my classroom matters.  Kids are pretty tender, and they need to know I'm in it because I believe in them and in their power to change the world.

Which brings me back to Teen Mom, OG. In one of the scenes one of the moms was taking her daughter back to her Dad's house.  The little girl was sad because she wanted more time with her mommy.  "Come on now,"  The Mom told her six year old.  "Stop being sad.  Smile now.  You need to smile."  I understand it.  It is painful to see your kid sad, and Lord, knows I've said the same thing to my dramatic daughter more than once, but a part of me recognized that in a way it is denying a kid their right to their feelings.  Sadness is a real emotion, and the kid was in a legitimately sad situation, and yet, the message she got was "No.  Wrong feelings. Don't have them."  It is the same thing when I respond to a student and say, "I do like you.  You are wrong to feel that way!"  How people feel is how people feel.  I'm trying to learn to slow down and let people feel their feelings.  

Of course, it doesn't feel good when a kid says "You don't like me at all."  My natural instinct is to get super defensive, and make excuses, but that doesn't change how they feel.  I want to be as tender as a small child.  Back when I taught Sunday school one of my favorite kids in class was this tiny little girl.  She came into my class the summer before she started Kindergarten, so she was just five.  The class was K-4th, so the little guys sometimes felt overwhelmed with the big kids, and making the transition from the nursery to Sunday school was pretty tricky.  I would try to direct her to play games, or sing along with our videos, but many times she would stand close to me, one hand on the side of my skirt.  "I just need to stand here close to you."  I loved that.  She was just barely five but knew to ask for what she needed.  Sometimes she would say, "I need to sit on your lap first and watch you color."  For someone so small and quiet, she was very sophisticated in her ability to communicate her emotional needs.  I learned not to push her, but to listen to what she needed and comply.  Wouldn't you love it if all of us were that honest?  I try to imagine a staff meeting like that.  "Look,"  One of the teachers would say, "I'm feeling really threatened by all these changes.  You young teachers are all excited about all this new stuff, but I don't know about it, and it freaks me out.  I don't want to become obsolete."  Or another one might say, "So, yesterday, I was in college, and now I'm in charge of teacher 30 six year olds to read.  I'm really starting to panic, but I'm afraid if I tell anyone that I'm terrified, they will think I'm not qualified for the job."  

I try to listen for that little five year old voice when I'm dealing with Other Humans.  I guess it is just an extension of my believe the best and lead with love project that I'm working on -- when I feel attacked, or feel my defensive spirit kicking in -- I try to look past whatever the problem is to what is buried underneath, and it gives me a second to calm myself, and to view others with grace.  I haven't perfected it yet, so I'll keep you posted.  

By the way, I have perfected teaching, or being a Mom or being a wife, or even being a human yet, either.  It's a work in progress.

--Jenn

P.S.  With much love, to Alex and Trenise and all of you lovelies who let me lurk around you on social media.  I adore you all, and you'll never not be one of my kids.