Tag Archives: parenting

March —- !

1 Mar

Happy March!

Are Spring hopes… eternal? I sure hope so because here on the east coast of the United States it has been one very cold and snowy winter. I used to remember having these kinds of winters every winter when I was little, back in the early sixties. We used to skate on the pond in the back yard (well, not me, only those who could skate) and it was frozen all winter long. And we would take our sleds down the street to the golf course and sled down the big snow covered hills until it was dark outside. And whether it was frozen pond skating or golf course hill sledding it was always jam packed with kids!

There were kids outside…everywhere…and not a parent in sight! Back in those days parents never came out of their houses unless they were headed for the car or the lawn needed to be cut…at least that’s the way it seemed to us kids. They never took any interest in the kid’s world, unless of course we broke something…which inevitably we always did…but then we ran!

Anyway, Spring meant seeing the ground again and running around without our boots. What freedom after months of heavy feet and walking around like you were in a diver’s suit on the bottom of the ocean.

Ahhhhh Spring! I hope we have a real one this year (like we just had a real winter) and it doesn’t just shoot straight up to 100 degrees by next Wednesday! (which these days it seems is always possible)

As for the title of this blog. Riddle me this:

Which day of the year is the only day of the year that is also a command? (English teachers should get this one easy)

#10: The Top Ten Rules That Children Learn in School That May Handicap Their Future: #10

25 Nov

If you’re a parent or adult or teacher or perhaps all three. then you have probably already realized what it is that will wear kids out, and their chance for a bright and happy future,  faster than just simply growing older, just like it has most probably worn you out. The rules! And the fact that in adulthood where kids are going and where you’ve been, there are no rules.

The 10th rule that children learn in school that may handicap their future…

10.     Equality is for everyone. In the adult world there is no such word. There is always something that puts you ahead or sets you behind someone else. Equality is like the Unicorn. Have you ever seen it?

What the older adult realizes that children are just not yet aware of is that entering the adult world is like taking a journey into schizophrenia. There is no way that one can, or will ever be prepared for it.

Today, if a child were to draw target symbols over the faces of students in his or her yearbook that he did not like or wanted to see eliminated, that child would be recommended for the child study team and evaluated and possibly suspended from school and at the very least receive anger management training or counseling of one form or another. Once an adult, that same child has a potential career waiting for him or her in politics (Sarah Palin does this on her website). Guns are without a doubt a certain ticket to expulsion in schools but in the adult world at least half of the country will vehemently defend your right to own and even conceal that same weapon while you go about your daily business. And it is usually those same mandatory gun rights enthusiasts who are most likely to be against mandatory healthcare for everyone. In the adult world they are called conservatives but in the child’s world any teacher who would be in favor of letting you fight without sending you to the nurse afterwards would be considered a very liberal teacher indeed. Many adults love to remind children that freedom isn’t free and I would agree with those adults. Freedom is very expensive especially since war costs and defense budgets have grown to astronomical proportions yet many of those same adults who espouse increased defense spending are also the ones who are most likely to despise taxes and other government programs that promote and support and maintain freedom…like our public schools!

Every child in school has learned that freedom’s cost isn’t just in the fighting and in the dieing. It’s in the planning and the building and the maintaining and the schooling and the nurturing too. And it is very expensive. What’s wrong with paying for what you want and need? That’s another rule that children are taught by adults in schools. Be responsible. Take responsibility for your deeds and actions and own up to your mistakes. Pay your debts.

When children become adults they’re going to be expecting rules.  How they deal with their disappointments, and at what age they will have to, when they find a grown-up world without rules will be the measure by which their own happiness will be determined.

If we want to fix the problems that we are facing in our public schools and within our communities we adults are going to have to start (and remain) living by the rules that we teach our children. We need to start listening to our own lectures with the attention and seriousness that we demand from our children when we tell them to sit still and listen to us. We need to plan the lessons that we are teaching to our children in our homes every day and we need to stick to those plans and follow them through to completion with patience and diligence, kindness and love.

 I’m hopeful that we can be successful and I am positive that one sure way to start making these necessary and important changes in our lives is by remembering to make contact with our loved ones each and every day, look one another square in the eyes, adult and child alike, then reach out and together support and modernize and improve our public schools…and then continue the lessons into and throughout adulthood!

#8: The Top Ten Rules That Children Learn in School That May Handicap Their Future: #8

23 Nov

If you’re a parent or adult or teacher or perhaps all three. then you have probably already realized what it is that will wear kids out, and their chance for a bright and happy future,  faster than just simply growing older, just like it has most probably worn you out. The rules! And the fact that in adulthood where kids are going and where you’ve been, there are no rules.

The 8th rule that children learn in school that may handicap their future…

8.      Winning isn’t everything. It’s how you play the game. If you have ever watched children play then you know that the idea of cheating in order to win is something that occurs to them almost faster than you can say, “Play ball!” and so children will hear this phrase from adults on an almost non stop basis but in the adult world winning means you are a winner, period. If you are going to worry about how you play the game, then see rules # 5 and #7.

Rule #9?…To be continued…

The Great American…Loan

18 May

 

People in the United States owe a lot of money on credit cards. In fact we owe about 700 billion dollars in credit card debt. The only thing we’ve borrowed more money for is home mortgages… but home mortgages aside, who owes more than adults when it comes to borrowing money?

It’s school kids! And although technically they are school adults, if you have 1 or 2 or more of them in your home they are still kids to you…but still, the number one debtor in the United States today are young adults who have taken out loans from the federal government to finance their college education.

Student loan debt has gone over 1 trillion dollars…as in 1 followed by 9 zeros, and the federal government has just forecast a record 51 billion dollar profit this year from student loan borrowers. That’s more than the earnings of the nation’s most profitable companies.

Who knew? Did you?

But the good news? In July the 3.4% interest rate that students are paying on borrowed money now will jump to 6.8% …unless of course Congress passes the “Student Loan Affordability Act” which is proposed legislation that would keep existing interest rates… on some student loans… for the neediest households, fixed at 3.4 percent. However, The bill does nothing for existing student debtors….and besides who doesn’t smell a filibuster in the air?

The Department of Education…that much maligned government entity that oversees our crumbling school system and that also gave us the “No Child Left Behind Act”, has generated almost 120 billion dollars in profit over the last five years from student loans which ironically enough, is the only kind of consumer debt that has increased since the onset of the financial crisis.

And get this… Apparently officials in Washington are now worried that perhaps overly indebted student borrowers will be unable to save enough to purchase a home, take out loans for new cars, start a business or save enough for their retirement…and become, you know…productive American citizens.

What is it that we expected would be the rewards of plunging our children into massive debt? Talk about not leaving a child behind?! What about leaving adults behind?!…before they even get started!

And for some reason these adult/children/student borrowers are also finding themselves unable to refinance their loans even if they graduate from college and secure well-paying jobs, even though  most other borrowers are able to refinance debt at quite low rates. And why is that?

Because these loans have become so profitable to lenders thanks to the Bankruptcy Reform bill of 2005 when both federal and private student loans became non-dischargeable during bankruptcy. This has turned student loans into credit risk free loans for the lender. (with a debtor who literally has a lifetime to repay it) The loans are just too good for any respectable financial institution to give up…as any gambler could tell you,  they’re a sure thing!

Getting a higher education is a wonderful achievement but once again with the help of our nation’s love affair with capitalism, we’ve turned a good thing into a profitable thing and that profitable thing into a must thing…and with ever escalating college costs happily jumping on the bandwagon, (because if you can’t afford this much it’s just as easy to not afford that much!)…this thing is spiraling out of control.

Our children are literally taking loans out on the American Dream, which is being dangled in front of them like a candied carrot on a stick, with money they do not have and may not ever have… and in what may be the most sinister twist of fate…all of their government loan filing and debt approval makes them perfect candidates for…

credit card approval once they’ve graduated.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

10 Apr

Yesterday I wrote a satirical piece about guns and gun regulation. Some people who read it didn’t get it. No, I wasn’t suggesting that stabbing 14 people was or ever could be a good thing…and I wasn’t trying to suggest that we really outlaw people…that would be like suggesting the eating of babies to solve world hunger…My point was that guns are dangerous because people use them to hurt each other and just because guns are inanimate objects that need people to operate them doesn’t mean that people should have free and easy access to them.

But now it’s time to get serious because yesterday, in my neighborhood, a 4 year old boy shot his 6 year old next door neighbor with a 22 caliber rifle. Scout’s honor, I kid you not. And Is my neighborhood next door to Fort Apache? No. Do I live in the middle of the Middle East? Nope. It’s just a quiet residential neighborhood 2 blocks from a grammar school in the suburban New Jersey town of Toms River.

Here in Central New Jersey we mostly expect to die from old age or traffic accidents or as you might have recently  read,  the slow and deadly ingestion of toxic waste and chemicals, but certainly not from random shootings… Today that little 6 year old boy died.

So  I ask you, is there anywhere in this country where anyone should ever expect to die from gunshot wounds? If you are a gun enthusiast and opposed to any and all gun regulation and laws then your answer is probably and sadly…yes. And your solution is also probably that only more guns for more people to defend themselves with, is the answer to gun violence.

You would probably also say that the reduction of guns or the strengthening of gun laws will be of no help because people are the ones who kill and not the guns…and many of you will go even so far as to say that the guns don’t make it any easier for people to do harm. Harmful people will do harm anyway, whether they have a gun or a knife or a rock or hammer etc…or whether they are 40, 14 or…even 4! And of course there is your favorite phrase…”If we outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns.”

To which I must finally say, Will you never learn anything?

If you own a gun then you have only three possible outcomes. Either you will be an outlaw and use your weapon to rob, kill or harm others or you will wait… wait… wait…and wait some more for that imagined glorious moment in your lives when you get the drop on the outlaw and kill or harm or scare the crap out of him yourself.

The third possible outcome is that someone who you love or care about will accidently or on purpose shoot someone else who you love or care about (possibly yourself)… or they will shoot a whole bunch of others for no apparent reason other than they have lost their minds and all sense of human decency.

That’s it. 3 possible outcomes and if you don’t think that all of them are bad then really where do you see this ending? Seriously. Don’t preach to me your second amendment rights. Offer some solutions please. And please offer some solutions that don’t make you sound like a moron.

But There is however a fourth outcome and that is that your gun is never used to rob or kill anyone at all… Because here in the 21st century you really don’t need guns…not for hunting for food, not for defending your country from foreign invaders, not for fending off  savages or slaves, or wild animals who roam your domesticated suburbs and cities…and if you don’t need it for those things you certainly don’t need it for practice…unless of course you want that gun to be ready to someday kill another human being…which again is a serious reason for you to think twice about yourself and about your views on humanity.

Guns and weapons of mutual destruction only serve to keep us primitive. Only by regulating our use and need and desire for them can we ever hope to someday become completely civilized.

And if you can’t understand that, then please, please, please… don’t ever have children… Because in the long run…that probably will help us all more than you may ever know.

Why War Is Stupid! Part 33⅓

31 Jan

Image

If you have not read my previous two memos on this subject, Don’t Let You Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, and Why War Is Stupid: Part Deux, I invite you to please do so…but here is just another of so many reasons why you should not participate nor encourage anyone you know to go to war.

Depleted uranium is the waste product of the uranium enrichment process for nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons. It consists of the same components and  it has about 60 percent of the radioactivity of uranium. Since it is a waste product and therefore difficult to find a place to put, store, hide, get rid of…The United States has stockpiled an estimated 450,000 tons of the stuff.

But…Since it has also been discovered to be heavier than lead and harder than steel, DU is used by the US  in both defensive armor and armor-piercing ammunition. These weapons contain a solid rod of DU that increases their ability to penetrate heavily armored vehicles, buildings, tanks and underground bunkers and, unlike other weapons that become blunted upon impact, DU sharpens and self-ignites upon firing and impact. These weapons also however,  create an aerosolized cloud of radioactive uranium oxide  that in effect “cooks” any unfortunates who may be inside said tank, vehicle or bunker. This makes DU weapons incredibly effective, and more and more the weapon of choice in today’s modern war scenarios.

It is now estimated that over 1,000 tons of DU have been used by US and British forces throughout the 1991 war in Iraq, in the Balkans in the late 1990′s in the 2003 Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. This of course has been very bad news for our enemies and very good news for those who have been trying to get rid of this nuclear waste product…but why should it be of any concern to you and I and our soldiers?

Well,…scientists estimate that anywhere from 50-96 percent of the dust created by these weapons is made up of respirable particles which, if inhaled, can remain in the lungs for years. As a result not only our enemies but also our soldiers breath this “depleted” uranium on a daily basis not to mention the millions of innocent Bosnian, Iraqi and Afghani citizens many of whom now live in cities under conditions akin to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the A-bomb droppings of 1945.

And consider these figures which are now being reported…Just 467 US personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991. Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. This astounding number of disabled vets means that within one decade, 56 percent of those soldiers who served in the first Gulf War now have medical problems.

We’ve all heard that “war is hell” and that it is an unfortunate  “necessary evil” but now when you consider that we as a country are fighting wars against such overmatched militaries like Iraq and Afghanistan much if not most of the damage that is done to our own soldiers is either from what is known as “friendly fire” or the newly added dangers of exposure to our own deadly weapons caused by the fallout from DU, and then if you add in the concussive effects of these incredibly powerful weapons and the head trauma that is experienced by troops who are simply on the battlefield when these weapons are fired,  then include the ever growing anti-social and anxietal problems of simply being in the modern military and the high incidences of  rape and suicide they produce, we truly have become our own worst enemies.

We have finally met our most formidable foe…and it is us!

So Mamas… and Papas…do not let, encourage or even suggest to your babies that they  grow up to be cowboys and fight in wars.

I fear,  and perhaps even more frighteningly so, that we must now and forever only let our robots do it…and that, sadly and ironically enough, may just prove to be the best and most imperative reason to no longer do it at all…

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When will we ever learn?

19 Dec

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
      -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When will we ever learn that this is the only lesson that matters and that everything else in this world will fall into place once we finally get this lesson into our heads.

Violence and hate are not only the wrong answers they are not answers at all. They are reactions and instincts from our distant past and primitive brains. To declare ourselves to be truly enlightened, emotionally evolved and intelligent people we must learn to answer all questions with love and light, compassion and kindness. That is why we bring children into this world: To live and learn and do better than we did…and that is what we must teach them first and foremost and above all other things.

  “Think you can. Work hard. Get smart. Be kind. And have fun!”                                           – Sandy Hook Elementary school motto

Isn’t that what we all want?

Violence and hate will never secure that for us or our children or our families or our communities or our countries or our cultures or our religions, not in any place, nor at any date nor in any time.

Teach it now. Teach it everywhere. Teach it always.

 

Where your Treasure Is There Is Your Heart Also

14 Dec

In school, Students are always falling in and out of love, always grappling with and agonizing over the question, “Does he/she love me?” or the age old exclamations:

I thought she loved me

Why did he say that?

How could she treat me that way?

It’s just not fair!

This is my advice for those who want to know what love is.

And I believe it to be the truest of tests.

And if you ask yourself and answer this question honestly,

HONESTLY,

It will never fail.

And ask this question both of yourself and your lover, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, significant other, life partner, parent, child or whomever…and ask it just as it is stated and in the proper order.

“Where is your treasure? What do you treasure? What does your partner treasure?” Now answer it honestly for that is where your/her/his heart is and what you/they love.

Then you must accept the answers.

Does your boyfriend, lover, etc. treasure you? Are you what’s important to them? Then they love you. Their heart is with YOU.

If they treasure something else (i.e.: that something else comes first in their lives) like work, money, car, sport, hobby, mother, father, whatever, then their heart is there and that is who or what they love the most, above all else.

It’s nothing to get angry about. It’s the truth and must be accepted. You can’t change it and it won’t be changed through wishing or begging or imagining or promising or by people saying it is or isn’t so. If you can honestly say that you are the one treasured, the one who comes first, then you are truly loved. And consequently if you can say that about someone else then you are in love. And if two people can say that about each other then they are in love and they have found true love, and it will last. But you must ask and answer the question honestly within yourself. Do not let others answer for you and do not rely on others to answer honestly to you for they will always respond with an answer that they will think you want to hear.

You must discern the answers through your own honest and heartfelt observations. If you do, then the answer cannot be disputed. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t compromise it and don’t rationalize it, if it is not the answer that you were hoping for.

Life is truth and truth is neither good nor bad. It is simply truth… and it is only confusing when we endeavor to confuse it.

A Teacher’s Guide to Marriage and Love

10 Dec

 

           We all know that public school isn’t just about learning. Mostly it’s about love isn’t it? It’s mostly learning until about the 5th grade and then middle school and puberty strikes in all its glory with its boobs and behinds and tight jeans, and your brain has little room any more for concentration on the moot and mundane, and your quest for sex, romance and the finding of that one person who will always love you (and who is not your mother) begins.

            For the middle and high school teacher this is a sickening process to watch. Boy meets girl. Boy meets another girl. Cat fight! Did you know that the word catfight actually means a fight between two girls and not a fight between two cats? But I digress…

Once a boy came running into my class completely out of breath and with a big grin on his face. “I just saw two girls fighting in the hall! He said. Man, they were really going at it! They fought so hard they actually fought right out of their clothes!” and he summed it all up with, “Today was the greatest day of my life!” We all looked at him in disbelief and just sighed, wishing we’d all been there to see it too…but I digress again…

            Ahhh love…but ask any student and they’ll always say, “Yes, someday I do plan on getting married. And predictably, most do. And then just as predictably they mostly always undo.

            So here, after 33 years of observation in the wild, is my foolproof guide to choosing the correct mate…or at least one who, for you, will last.

            When you think that you have found the right girl or boy, woman or man, don’t just date them, date their parents! Yes, that’s right. Go out with their parents. Visit their home and stay there, with them, for a while. If, after a few days you find yourself saying, “Hey, I like these folks. They’re nice. I could live here.” Then you’ve found the right man/woman for you. But if you find yourself saying, “Holy mother of god! These people are crazy! They fight all the time. I’m nervous here. I’m anxious here. I have no idea why they put their cat in the dishwasher! I want to go home…and then if you turn to your BF/GF and he/she looks at you and says, “Don’t worry; those are just my parents, not me!” THEN RUN! RUN INTO THE NIGHT AND DON’T LOOK BACK BECAUSE, that’s the kind of home you’re gonna get. You have just seen the future and you WILL be that family someday, so RUN! (By the way, the same can be said about you. You will try your best to re-create your family experience too)

            Of course no life advice is fool proof, but just in case you ignore the warning signs and stay in your relationship anyway and your new family life turns out just as I have predicted… Always remember: Protect the head! Put your helmets on!

Follow Your Bliss

8 Dec

Follow Your Bliss

After 33 years of experience as a teacher, this is the best advice that I have to give to any student, or person, for that matter…          

Follow your bliss!

What makes you happy? What are you drawn to? What do you see yourself doing in your dreams? (And for you movie lovers out there) What completes you? (But it should not be another person. We’re talking about YOU remember?)

The late author and mythologist, Joseph Campbell, wrote, “Follow your bliss and doors will open for you” and I believe this is true.

We should direct our students and children to what their aptitudes are not for what WE want for them or for them to be, to complete US.

Happiness is the thing! Happiness is the key. All of us who are older and who have been around for a while all now want the same thing. We want to be happy. We want to pursue and be around those people and things and activities that make us smile and feel joy. We would trade everything we have and everything that we’ve accumulated for happiness.

So we should direct our children towards that which brings them joy; that which fills their heart with a love of life, whatever it may be. There can be no substitutes. When we make substitutes and sacrifices, when we say that this “isn’t what I want but it will do”, when we make decisions based on compromises we close that door little by little until it seems as though there is no turning back.

But I will say this to anyone at any age. It’s never too late to turn around and open that door and follow the path that is right for you. The door is always there and it’s always open, even if just a crack. It never locks.

How would you follow your bliss? Take a moment, put your feet up, sit back, relax and think about it.

 Do it now! Happiness awaits!

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