What We Put Up With

When I was in fifth grade a boy I’d been sitting next to all year suddenly turned on me. He wore heavy boots to school and he began to make a sport of kicking me vigorously in the legs while I sat in my desk. His penis looked like a football helmet, he told me. He was going to ram me with it. The third time I stood to wait in line at the teacher’s desk to tell on the boy for hurting me, the teacher told me to please sit down. I needed to handle my own problems. Eventually the boy lost interest…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Call Me Helicopter Parent One More Time

My husband and I make our daughters’ education a high priority, and we have always insisted they do their best. We get to know the parents of our daughters’ friends and drive them to their play dates. (Do you hear the whirring of the blades yet?) When my kids have been right, I’ve taken their sides, even against adults. When one elementary school wasn’t working for my youngest, we found another that was a better fit. I prepare separate meals according to my children’s taste preferences and cut off the crusts of the sandwiches I make for lunches. (I know you want to call me Helicopter…

We Weren’t That Resilient

In response to the bell ringing that kids these days aren’t resilient the way their parents were growing up in the Wild West of the seventies and eighties suburban American neighborhoods and schools: I call bullshit. We weren’t that resilient. Those of us growing up in the seventies and eighties were not tilling Victory gardens and whittling useful things out of sticks that we found on the ground. I know. I was there. I can only speak to my own experience, and trigger warning, I’m not prone to nostalgia. Yes, we played outside with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on….

I Am Not Proud of You

Eighteen years ago, I had a colleague named Bertha at a pretty rough public elementary school where I taught fourth grade. This woman taught first grade with the masterful calm of a Jedi. Her room was an oasis of peace and productivity. I tried to learn as much as I could about teaching from Bertha. She was a goddess of a human being, which she would laugh at me for saying but it’s still true. One day Bertha was telling me about her grown son who had just started his dream job as a forest ranger. I said, “You must be…

Change the Story

We tell ourselves limiting stories that contain no truth. What follows is a pictorial example of exactly what I am talking about. Inner story at the time: “I’m fat. I mean, really, really fat. I have to stop eating for a year or no one will ever love me. The reason why I am alone and a loser is because I am fat and ugly.” Dang, this was Halloween 1988 (hence the glorious fake tattoo). I was eighteen years old, and so careful about my diet and exercise. I was a swimmer and a dancer. I was a sophomore at UC Santa…

Santa Cruz Is the Jerusalem of My Life

My oldest daughter goes to the same college I did, UC Santa Cruz. We dropped her off today for her second year of school. We helped her move her stuff into her new rental before walking to lunch downtown. She is very pragmatic and well-adjusted and surrounded by nice friends. This post has nothing to do with her and all to do with the effect visiting Santa Cruz has on me every time I go there. Santa Cruz is a place out of space and time. It was a beautiful, strange, horrible, wonderful place to decide what kind of person…