Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kleenex in My Back Pocket

The first full week of school ended the same day that my eldest daughter celebrated her very own "tween" birthday. Of all the presents she received, I think her favorite was a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino. She drank it in "chug, chug, chug!" fashion, at which point it started squirting out of her nose. Very enjoyable to watch, but simultaneously painful for everyone present.

I've been thinking a lot about the next five or six years (I've also been thinking a lot about how alot is not a word, but a lot of people think it is...but I digress). Right now, I have two Jr. High children, and I would be telling a lie if I didn't admit that DRAMA is an overwhelming constant at our house these days.

But like any great stage, it's the DRAMA that keeps it interesting. Sure, we have our "Jerry Springer Moments," but there is also a lot of "Jerry Lewis Laughter," and there is certainly no lack of love. I know that the "teen" years are precarious, but I also know one thing for certain.

I know that my coffee-snorting ballerina is just the kind of screwball actress that makes me smile. And the best part? I've got the best seat in the house, and a box of kleenex in my back pocket. Bring on the show.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"It Must Be Hard Being Married to a Nerd"

I overheard a student make this remark after I told the following story (I have super-sonic hearing; it's my superpower.)--

My husband and I are training for a fall California marathon. It's going to be lovely. Beautiful beaches, cool morning air, and a bit of time away as a couple. With a race, there is of course training, and many hours of running and talking.

During a particularly difficult run, we were silent and steadfast. We stopped to walk for a minute or two, and I asked my gentle, sweet husband, "What do you think about when you run?"

With a glare in his eye and a fist violently shaking in my direction, he vented, "I was thinking about that teenager that is racing throughout the neighborhood. He's going to hit someone!!! If he comes by here again, I'm going to stop the vehicle and explain to him what's going to happen if he keeps driving like that!"

After an awkward silence, I replied, "That's funny, because I was thinking about introductory participial phrases."

It must be hard being married to a nerd.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Very Own Jackson Pollack

Yesterday. When my eldest son graduates from high-school, I will look back upon yesterday. I was wondering what it would be like to be his teacher.

Well, now I know.

We're together for two classes: Literature (from the fall of Rome to the Reformation), and Logic. He's a reader. He likes abstract ideas. He enjoys a good discussion. And... well... apparently... he has no organizational skills, he wiggles, he doesn't listen, and he disconnects from the "general flow" of the class. I've never been so befuddled by a student in my life. Confusion reigneth.

Yesterday. Facebook privileges were banned. The cell phone was removed. The television was off. His bedtime came at the same hour as his baby brother. There were fingers in his face, lectures in his ear, and pleading glances cast his direction. Color me crazy.

Today. Today was different. The Logic teacher (me) asked the students to give the Latin word for the term "girl." The teenage boy had the answer, "puella" (obviously). I asked the students to give an alternative meaning to the term "belief." They all knew that "belief" means "accepting something as true," but could't quite take the next step. He raised his hand. "Well, belief originally meant 'to put faith or trust in.' " Ummm....yes. That is true (but how did he know that?). I'm quite confident that we can thank our resident PhD Bible teacher for that.

Tonight. Tonight I sleep better knowing that he's going to be fine. He may be a wiggly, crazy mess, but he's my personal Jackson Pollack. (And I love abstract art.)

Oh, and by the way, here's the history of the word "Belief"from the online etymology dictionary:

...[B]elief used to mean "trust in God," while faith meant "loyalty to a person based on promise or duty" (a sense preserved in keep one's faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of L. fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to "mental acceptance of something as true," from the religious use in the sense of "things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine" (c.1225). "

I guess it's time I quit believing (accepting as true) that my abstract thinking, creative out-of-the-box kid is a befuddling mess, and start believing (trusting ) in the beauty of his unique character. Move over Mr. Pollack.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eeyore or Theoden?

It's that time of year. I'll be spending a lot of time over the next few months watching the red table and all of the young minds and hearts who gather here to sup at the table of knowledge.

Frankly, that intimidates me. In the past, I've gone forward with confidence, sure that my enthusiasm and passion would be contagious. But that's just it. I fear my poor students might be immune to Mrs. Fisherstine.

Socrates says that being a teacher is a bit like being a midwife. Teachers are simply there to gently draw forth the knowledge that is waiting to be born in the student. Ah, Socrates. Nice plan, but where do you believe they got the knowledge in the first place? (Don't answer that. I know what you think and it is positively silly, but I like you anyway.)

***Sigh*** I think I sound a bit like Eeyore. What do melancholy Eeyoresque types do? Well, they plan. I might be able to cook something up that will spark a hearty appetite for learning. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)

Logic, Ancient Literature, American Literature, British Literature, and the Moderns....breathe... Progymnasmata, Thesis Papers, Poetry, Grammar, Worldview, etc...etc...etc....

It's a good thing that I'm very comfortable with the war analogies. Perhaps it's time for me to read the Iliad once again. (Nah, teaching feels a bit more like Middle Earth.) Teaching is not like serving dinner, midwifery, or "catching" a disease. To me, it's about doing battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation. I'll answer that call. Today, I feel a bit like Theoden of Rohan running into battle: "TO DEATH!!!!"