Tag Archives: teaching

And then she asked about September 11th

8 Sep

I don’t like to talk about it. People share their stories about where they were – what they were doing – how they reacted – how it made them feel – and I think that’s fine. I just would rather not share. If asked, I will. But, if people are in a group and talking about it – I choose to listen. I think, what does it really matter? Where I was? Recently though, I’ve talked about it more than I have in the past 10 years.

The television station I used to work for asked if they could interview me (along with others who were working on that day) to talk about what it was like for us. Because I want to help my old station, I said sure. (Here is that interview.) My memory of my events on that day is blurry but I remember enough to talk a bit about it. It wasn’t until Nia asked me about it that I realized – I’m going to have to talk about this. But not about where I was and what I was doing – actually about it. The heartbreaking tragedies.

It began all because her school called and reminded us to wear red, white and blue for their Patriot Day recognition. She told me, “That’s because planes crashed into the obelisks in Washington D.C.” I asked her where she learned that and she said her teacher told the class about it. Say what you want about Georgia public education but I am sure her teacher did not have that wrong and said New York City. That was the way an 8-year-old heard what her teacher taught. Her teacher taught about the memorials along with the events – Nia heard what she heard.

I proceeded to tell Nia what happened, to make sure she understood. Four planes with many people on them crashed into two very tall buildings in New York City called the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. So many people died, Bean. So many. Here’s what happened during/after my explanation:

Five-year-old Nate was just getting out of the bath – he was chewing gum and was naked. He started blowing a whistle. Nia asked, “Didn’t the pilots see the buildings?”

I had to pause to think about how to tell her. “Well, you see, people who don’t like the United States, people call them terrorists, made the planes crash.”

Nate returns to blow the whistle, naked, after I just shooed him away. “Why didn’t the pilots tell them to go away?”

“Because the other people had things to hurt the pilots and took over.” In that same breath, I tell Nate to get dressed for the third time.

“Did everyone from the U.S. on the plane die?”
“Yes, baby, but there were more than just people from the U.S. on those planes and in those buildings.”

Nate, now getting dressed, chimes in with concern for the first time, “Did daddy die?”
“No, buddy, daddy’s not dead. But many families lost their daddies and mommies and even children in this.”

Nia adds a new thought, “Did the buildings break in half?”
“Kind of, yes. They collapsed.”
“Did they fall on other buildings near them and kill those people too?” Nia asks with more worry in her voice.
“Um, well, I’m not sure about that. There were so many people in those two big buildings, Bean. I don’t know about the nearby buildings.”
“How many?
“Thousands. How many are in your school?”
“Like, 800 or something.”
“Well, it would be almost four of your schools. That’s how many people died in those buildings.”
“Oh. My.”
Nate brings us back to kid speak, “What state were the buildings?”
“New York.”
“Spiderman lives in New York. Did he die too?”

No. You don’t get to read my response to that. Sigh.

I went from not wanting to talk about it, to really talking about it. Where were you when you told a child about it? I can’t even imagine the children who lost loved ones – or the ones who watched it happen. It’s so very difficult – and it hurts. I will never forget. Because of the loss and sadness – of course – but also because I think I’m going to be clarifying quite a few things with them over the years. I’m so – deeply – sorry.

Ten years on Sunday for many of us. Time has stopped for those who were just going about their daily lives at those places or had to say goodbye. I will remember.

Just Say No to Silly Bandz but Enjoy a Coke

17 Aug

I’m not in school anymore yet I feel like I’m being tested. I’m sure my answers will be wrong – especially from an educator’s point of view – but as the always-being-educated I have to try to comprehend the logic.

I understand and sympathize with the need for teachers to maintain acceptable behavior and keep their classrooms free of distraction to provide an optimal learning environment for children. However, I’m concerned what some tactics may be teaching students.

Schools ban things all the time because of the hoopla the outlawed items cause. I never questioned it until getting a letter about what the teachers call “overpriced, colorful, plastic rubber band bracelets” or Silly Bandz. Apparently, the bracelets cause quite a raucous. The teachers say kids with them trade and fight over them. The kids without them covet them. To settle the situation, the Silly Bandz have been banned. (Other schools have also banned them.)

I understand this may be the most efficient way to solve the issue, but what about the teachable moments? I don’t believe that teachers should parent the children but I do believe children learn how to behave appropriately in society while they are in school – learning how to work through differences, jealousy and maybe even a criminal act (a student swiping another Bandz). Instead, the teachable moment is removed. Don’t like something? Ban it.

One thing that’s not being banned – despite the feelings of envy other students may feel – is the weekly reward of a bottle of Coke.

Nia’s teacher uses the refreshing beverage as a reward for the students with the most green strips at the end of the week. Now, I’m not a super health nut or anything. We let our kids eat junk. It just had my mind going because it’s not a secret about the health concern of sodas in schools. Also, this now means my child, who rarely gets caffeine (and when she does it’s like 5 ounces) now consumes 12 ounces of sugary, caffeinated yum in the middle of the day. Because I’m thinking the sodas are an inexpensive and desirable treat for the teacher and students, I’m not bothered enough to express my questions to the teacher. But I suppose I could always request Nia get a non-caffeinated beverage instead. After all, she’ll be getting one every week.  (Said like a super snobby mommy.)

The funny thing? Nia gets the Cokes but she never did wear her Silly Bandz to school when she was allowed. Maybe those teachers are on to something – no Bandz must mean better behavior. Lesson learned.

I used to write a sex column…

17 Jul

so why am I such a prude and conservative when it comes to certain things? Those things all involve the upbringing of children in the areas of sex and violence.

Let’s start with what sells – sex. It’s fantastic, right? Talking about it, thinking about it, watching it, having it. Great stuff, that sex. I just am finding it difficult to deal with how even the most common children’s cartoons demonstrate sexual attraction. What Nate is learning by watching these cartoons is that when he sees a pretty lady he’s supposed to call her hot, whistle, pop his eyes out of his head, make that arooga noise and pant. I know male cartoon characters have been portrayed like that since before our parents were kids but I find it, well, STUPID. I can tell Nate, it’s not the best idea to act that way when you see a beautiful girl but if popular culture says it’s ok, does my small voice matter?

The same is true for violence or how anger is handled on tv, movies, music or even during a skit at a baseball game. Someone make you mad? Give ’em a knuckle sandwich, push them down, kick ’em where it counts, play a nasty trick on them and call them names the whole time. I counter with a, “That’s not nice, is it? Here’s what you should do instead…” But again, how long will my voice win over what they continually see as acceptable behavior? Heck, sometimes the fighting is cheered. Yay! Go get ’em!

I find myself even having to correct commercials now. For example, it’s not nice to stick your tongue out at people. Right? This mom says so and it took some time for us to get that through to Nate. When we finally did, what do we see? A mini-van commercial where a little boy outsmarts some other kids then sticks his tongue out at them. That little tongue-sticker-outer is the “good” kid. Great.

It is my responsibility to raise my children to the best of my ability. I take that on wholeheartedly. I do not expect movies, cartoons, commercials or songs to teach my children proper behavior and I don’t want to shelter my children from them. I just wish they didn’t contradict me all the time. I guess my cartoon would be pretty boring.

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