Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sometimes Bigger is Better

A few years ago I took one of those alphabet personality tests, a real one read and interpreted by a real person, not one of those FB fun tests that tell you what color you are. It showed what I knew (but was finally put into writing). I am an extreme introvert. Not only am I an introvert, the expert told me I was the MOST introverted non-agorophobic person he had ever recorded.

Somewhere over the past 20 years, while I was getting bigger and bigger in my body, I was getting smaller and smaller in my soul. I was literally disappearing behind a wall of fat and fear. I went from being a person who went out every night with friends and rappelled down cliffs and lived my life onstage to being a person who only truly existed online, through my blog. On my blog I was fierce and loud and fearless when it came to sharing my life, but in reality, I was the director of a theater company who couldn't go out after a show to meet the crowd. Fear stole in to every aspect of my life.

Last August my daughter tried on my wedding dress. My daughter at the time was 5 foot 5 and weighed 122 pounds. When I got married I weighed 133 pounds and was 5 foot 5. Long story short, the dress almost fit her. Right in front of me was a very close example of the size of woman my husband married. I cried. Hard.

But after I was done crying I picked my ass up and went to the gym. I started a diet plan and I stopped shrinking. I was still introvert to the nth degree, but I dug in my cleats and refused to allow myself to disappear. Somehow, some way, in the past few months I have opened my eyes and realized just how afraid I had become of living.

Several weeks ago I decided I wanted to start letting go of my uber-controlling personality and break some rules. I was going to start small. I was going to ride my grocery cart from the store to my car. I see adults do it all the time and nothing bad happens. I love the look people get on their face. I can see their inner "whee" monologue as the cart goes flying along. I wanted to experience a "whee" moment.

Friday I bought a cart full of groceries, packed with milk and orange juice and other heavy things. This was it. If ever I had a heavy enough cart to ride on, this was the cart. I checked for traffic, stepped up onto that low shelf and pushed off....for all of 3 seconds. But in those three seconds I imagined all sorts of disaster. My foot would get stuck and I wouldn't be able to get off or stop and I would run into a car. OR, more realistically, my weight would tip me backwards and I would crack my head open on the pavement. I immediately put my feet down and pushed the cart like a grown-up. No whee was to be had. I just couldn't do it. I didn't know how.

I love the show Californication. I don't love it because of the sex or trendiness of it. I love it because David Duchovny's character is balls to the walls and no excuses. Every time he says "Mother Fucker" I think to myself, I want to say that. I want to control my fear enough that I am not afraid to say that to the world. I want to have one moment where I don't censor myself or hide. But I can't. My brain won't let me. I am a mom, a pastor's wife and a teacher. All I think is that I could lose my job or get my husband in trouble or, God forbid, disappoint my daughter. I have convinced myself there really is no safe space for me to say that, at least, so I have taught myself.

So when I talked to Hubby about this, he agreed to teach me how to ride the cart, because he does it all the time. He is a huge rule bender and fairly fearless when it comes to breaking rules. Somehow punishment and shame have never been deterrents for him. As silly as he thinks it is that I don't know how to ride the cart, he knows that it is important to my healing, to my letting go of the protective padding I surrounded myself with.

And you better believe,

when I am riding that cart,

I am going to be nodding my head

and saying....OUT LOUD,

"Yea right, Mother Fucker."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The State of the Schools

I am an assistant in a Montessori classroom. For the first time in 15 years of teaching, I am working in a public school. As the school year comes to a close, I have to say, I am exhausted.

I know that I am not the best technical writer in the world. I use too many commas and don't always know which punctuation to use when being dramatic. But I do know how to teach. I know how to research what I teach so the kids get the facts and not an "I don't know" kind of answer. I never accept crappy work from students and I refuse to let them give up on themselves. I am always, ALWAYS, consistent.

Most of my students started this year with illegible handwriting and no knowledge of cursive. I would say 75% of them refuse to pick up a book and of that 75%, 50% do not have a passing ability to read. Many of them did not know how to format their papers when doing math and had no ability to infer anything from reading comprehension. They needed me to walk them through every single step to get to an answer when it came to a question that asked them to think for themselves. To say I was stunned is an understatement.

The thing is, who do we blame for this? Do we blame parents who refuse to parent? I have children who are falling asleep in class because they stay up until midnight texting and playing on the computer. Parents know their kids need to sleep, but they don't want to take their electronics away because they are afraid of their children's reaction. Some of my children are from other schools, and some of their records show that they perform at a much higher level then they actually do. Teachers out and out falsified information either to save their jobs or to keep the child moving forward in grade level. Most of my kids do not know their times tables or how to do dynamic addition or subtraction. Do I blame the government for implementing all the common core standards that seem to fail to allow children time to internalize these facts?

The thing that bothered me the most is the children who just absolutely refused to work or participate in a lesson. I have never had so many children just say no. They don't want to do anything hard. That is what they say, "It's too hard!" So they quit. If I had refused to participate in something at school I would have been punished at both school and home. Now, however, kids are allowed to opt out of their education and legally I can do nothing about it. Heck, we even have a parent who rewards this behavior by bringing her child a treat whenever the teacher tries to contact the parent over her child refusing to do the work!

I have spent this year teaching nothing but the basics. Hitting is not okay. The holes in the paper go on the left side. Simple addition and subtraction needs to be done in your head (or with Montessori materials), not on your fingers. Getting an answer wrong is okay as long as you tried. No, I won't just tell you the answer because it is easier than teaching you how to find the answer. I do not mind helping you over and over until it clicks. I will not yell at you for not getting it. No, I would never make you walk laps because you don't understand (Yes, I did have several students who had this happen.) Hard never hurt anyone. Reading IS important. YES, manners matter. No, you may not throw sticks at people. Because it hurts them, that's why! This assignment is not an option. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. Yes, I do use very big words around you. Why? Because language is important. No, I do not think you are stupid even if you don't understand. That's what I am here for, to help you understand.

I love my job and I love my kids. I think an education system that expects every single child to be college ready is a farce. I think that man who stars in "Dirty Jobs" is right. When did so called blue collar jobs become demeaning? When did it become realistic that every person had to perform at the the same level and be proficient in all the same skills? One of the smartest men I know never graduated high school but can build you anything you want, electrical, gas powered, what have you. So what if I can discuss philosophy with the best of them, I can't fix my toilet when something goes wrong.

Instead of creating well-rounded people, we are creating a bunch of kids who don't want to learn because they have been called failures because of test results. I know the importance of benchmark testing, but don't tell me the child who is creative and kind and socially well-rounded is dumb because they struggle with math. Give me TIME to teach them and they will get it, just don't expect it to be without giving them the basics first.

I think it is time to take back our children.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hypocritical Me

It's not common knowledge, but there is an underground movement happening in our denomination. The subject of gay Christians and the right to marry is coming to a head and pastors are starting to take sides. There is a slight chance that the denomination will break into two new denominations; one being for gay marriage and the other against.

Hubby and I have always been on the "for" side. I truly believe with all my heart that people are born being gay, or bi, or transgender. I don't believe it is a choice. I have also made sure to teach E that people are people, period. You either believe we are ALL created in God's image (gay people included) or you think he makes mistakes. Okay, I am not the most religious person in the world, but I get that much.

Our most active church members are this lovely lesbian couple. Between the 2 of them, they have created more opportunities for ministry than anyone else in our congregation. Being gay is not an agenda for them, but they hide nothing about their life. They sit in church with their arms casually placed behind the other on the pew, they put their hands on the small of their partner's back as one walks through a doorway, they are very open about their relationship. But they are also very solid Christians and that is the first label they give themselves, before woman or gay or partners....Christians.

The church we are at now is possibly the best match Hubby has had yet. This congregation really puts their money where their mouth is. If the church sees a need in the community, it immediately rises to help. There is a great sense of taking the church out into the world instead of just keeping it contained in a building. But....and this is a big but, some of the older (richer) members are struggling with allowing gay people in church. They welcome them and talk to them, but they express disdain with how visual this couple has become.

No one wants to talk about it, but the church is a business and it needs to be run like a business. If funds don't come in, bills don't get paid and churches close. My generation is attending church less and less and we certainly don't donate as much money to the church as the older members. The older members keep the church afloat. And yet, the older members are dying off and if a pastor isn't looking to the future and trying to replace those members now, the church is doomed.

Hubby has decided that now is the time to make a move and show his true colors. He has spent a lot of time talking to the couple and one of them is interested in starting a ministry through our church for LGBT people in the community. Hubby supports it 100%. He is also going one step more and had invited one of the woman to take over his pulpit this weekend. For the first time in the history of this little church, an openly gay woman will be preaching. Some people are excited and highly supportive, some people will refuse to show up and some people, well, they are the ones I call "monkeys." The monkeys are going to start throwing shit.

The sad thing is, for all my walk the walk and talk the talk attitude, I am afraid. I am afraid of the fallout. I am afraid of going though all the crap like we had in CountryTime because of bigoted people. And yet...and yet...I know that being complacent is worse. I love the Island. I love my life. I feel safe here. This potentially could rip our world apart and get us moved again. But I am lucky. I don't have anyone telling me that I can't make end of life decisions for Hubby. If something happened to Hubby, no one could take E away from me because I wasn't her "real" mom. No says I don't have a right to kiss Hubby in public or that what I have to say about religion is tainted because of whom I love. So my fear is my problem and I will deal with it, because in the end, if someone doesn't start the change and stand up in the Christian world, nothing will ever change.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer