bipolar mom shares her insights on everyday life

Posts tagged ‘teaching’

Teaching a Teenager New Tricks

Seriously.  I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

My son is now 13 and an excellent student.  Normally, he does his homework without any problems or help.  Sometimes, he will ask us to check his answers, or ask for clarification of a question, normal stuff like that. 

Aside from Pre-Algebra, that is.  Math not being his strong suit, he struggles to understand the concepts, formulas, etc.  Fortunately, he has Tom and me to help him out.  I’m a freak of nature that actually loves to do Algebraic equations.  He brings his work home, and I’m all over it.  Freak.  I’m aware of it.  Let it go.  Oh, and the teaching abilities of his teacher are in question.  Mark is not alone in coming home and not having a clue what is going on.  Then, when I try to explain it to him (in the way I was taught), I get the comment I dread, “That’s not the way Mr. Educator does it.”  Even though, he doesn’t have a clue what Mr. Educator does do, it sure ain’t what I’m doing.  (And, no, his name is not “Mr. Educator.”  Duh.)  Oh, and apparently, there is a THIRD method, which is what the book teaches.  So, as I explained to Mark yesterday, “You can either do it my way or Mr. Educator’s way.  But, you don’t know how to do it Mr. Educator’s way, and he’s not here.  Your choice.”  Surprise, Surprise.  He went with my way.

But, that is not what this blog is really about.  It’s about thinking for himself.  Last night he came and asked me what Puerto Rico’s relationship is with the US.  Uh, well, you see…(Look, I know Puerto Rico is a commonwealth.  That’s it.  And, I got that from some teaching game Mark had when he was little.  I took Geography on Pass/Fail in college.  You get the drift.  Not my strong suit.)  So, I tell him so.  (Not about the college thing.  I don’t want him to know there is such a thing as Pass/Fail.  Not yet.)  I said, “Yeah, well, you know, geography and government are not my strong suit.  I really don’t know anything about it.  Sorry.”  He then sat there outside my room and just looked at me.  I said, “What are you doing?” 


“For what?” 

 “For help.” 

Now, Tom was at a meeting, and he most likely knew enough to help Mark out, but he wasn’t there.  So, I said, “Well, I told you I don’t know anything about this.  I can’t help you if I don’t know anything.” 

Still sitting there.  “Mark, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Okay.  I’m about to blow a gasket.  But, instead I turn my attention to my daughter, who has been practically ignored since she got home from school because of the Pre-Algebra help session going on in our kitchen.  He finally left.

Now, when I was in school, (geez, I sound like an old geezer.  “In my day…”) if we didn’t know something we looked it up in the encyclopedia.  (I didn’t even have a full set of encyclopedias.  I had to go to the neighbor’s house to borrow hers.  And, it was uphill.  Both ways!)  Kids have it so easy now.  They can look it up on the internet.  But, what killed me was that he didn’t even think to do that.  He was stuck after he heard the words, “I can’t help you.” 

I know I’m a near genius, and he should expect me to know all things, but once in awhile concepts slip past me, and I miss something.  Seriously, this just blew my mind.  Was I honestly supposed to say aloud “LOOK IT UP!”?  I don’t think so.  This kid is so internet-friendly, I’m surprised he bothered to even ask me. 

After I took Karen to dance, I came home and asked him if he had found the answer to the question.  He said, “Yeah.  I looked it up in the book.”  Genius.

There’s a Reason for Limits

Don’t worry.  The tote board is still moving along.  Day 5.  Woo hoo!

However, (and as one of my favorite comedians says, “Nothing good comes after ‘however.'”) this weekend I pushed it to the limit.  And, now I know why I have put these limits on myself. 

I was Sunday School Superintendent before the Loony Bin.  I, obviously, had to give that up afterward.  I spent the first five months of the year attending the adult classes and having no responsibility.  I enjoyed that quite a bit, but I missed the kids.  I missed teaching.  Before motherhood, I was a 2nd grade teacher, and I just loved it.  I’m glad I quit to stay home and raise my own kids, but I love interacting with other children and teaching them.  So, Sunday School filled that need/desire in my life.  Then, this summer, I told the current superintendent that I would be glad to help plan VBS, and take a turn teaching Sunday School this summer.  That worked out great.  I really enjoyed it.  I then helped plan the fall classes and have been able to teach with one of my best friends.  Even more fun than the summer! 

Then, this Sunday, the superintendent was going to be gone, and asked me if I thought I could handle being in charge.  I thought, “Sure.  Why not?  We already know what we are going to do, and even though we will have all the classes together, it surely isn’t a big deal.”  BUZZZZZZZ.  Unfortunately, one of the games we were going to play was a much bigger deal than I expected.  My mindcould NOT figure out how to make it work.  (It was kind of like a cross between Pictionary and Telephone.)  My parents tried to help me, and we came up with a plan.  Then, last night I worked until midnight cutting paper, trying to come up with ideas for drawing, etc. 

My daughter and I got to church in plenty of time for me to explain to the assistants what we would be doing and how they could help.  I started the class by conducting a review of the past lessons.  That went pretty well.  Then, I passed off the class to another teacher who summarized her lessons as well.  So far so good.  Next, came “THE GAME.”  It became a MUCH bigger deal than I even expected.  Kids not listening.  Adults becoming confused, even though I thought I had explained it to them.  Wow.  The part that my parents and I had figured out, totally went haywire.  Completely failed.  Mayhem ensued.  My brain was going nuts!  We had ten minutes left of class and absolute chaos. 

Finally, the adults helped and we got it all figured out.  The game ended as it was supposed to.  (Thank you, Lord Jesus!)  The kids thought it was fantastic, and one boy even understood why we played it in the first place.  HALLELUJAH!!!!  Anyone who doesn’t believe God exists, wasn’t in this class to see the miracle take place. 

That kind of thing could have happened to anyone, and I realize that.  The way I could tell I had taken it too far was at church, following Sunday School.  I play the drums for our service.  It is truly one of the highlights of my week.  I feel uplifted and that lasts well into the middle of the week.  Today, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I played just fine.  My heart and body just weren’t into it.    A couple of songs lifted me up, but then, I felt my insides just droop.  I started singing along (which I don’t normally do.  I am not miked, so it really doesn’t matter whether I do or not) and that helped a little.  I tried to focus, but I just couldn’t.  I was completely exhausted.  Inside and out.

Karen and I were driving home, and she, of course, asked about eating out, and suggested McDonald’s drive-thru.  I told her I was hungrier than that and would prefer a place that served breakfast.  She’s not a big fan of breakfasts (gets that from her dad), so she was out of ideas.  I just didn’t feel like trying to come up with a place, so I told her we’d just drive through McDonald’s andI didn’t get anything.  Just too tired.  (Don’t worry.  I ate when I got home.  I know that eating is only second to sleeping as far as triggers go.)

I’m not down or anything now.  And, I was never down today.  Just tired.  Very tired.  I am really looking forward to tomorrow when I get my day off.  And, actually, I don’t have any real responsibilities this week, so I am looking forward to that as well.

I think it is time to go and order a pizza.  Delivered.

Wearing a Raincoat When There’s Not a Cloud in the Sky

A good friend of mine’s son is going off to college for the first time.  She’s been counting down the days and blogging about it.  Sometimes it is an update on how they are getting prepared, and sometimes it is words of wisdom.  (Her blog is on the right of my page.  She’s stlworkingmom.  She used to write a column for the Post-Dispatch and is a gifted writer, in my opinion.  AND, the reason I started a blog.)

Well, in a recent post, she gave her son The Freshman Ten, which included 10 items of advice.  I was reading through them and laughing, and crying a bit too.  It just doesn’t seem like I’ve been out of college that long.  (I graduated 20 years ago.  HELLO!?!?!)

One of her pieces of advice was to wear a raincoat.  The next one was “Don’t roll your eyes at me, young man.”  I thought that was really strange.  So, I commented and said, “Piece of advice to The Boy:  Don’t wear a raincoat you’ll look like a dork.  Take an umbrella.  You are so tall that you will protect many a young lass that has forgotten hers.  (wink wink nudge nudge)” or something along that line.

My friend quickly emailed me and said she was laughing so hard!  “Raincoat” was a euphemism for condom.  Whoops.  I had no idea.  Well, I guess I’d heard it before, but had completely forgotten it.  Now my comment looked just slightly naive.  Now, let me explain that my friend got pregnant her freshman year, so she knows of what she speaks.  (I am happy to say, that she and her husband got married, had this wonderful young man, and are still happily married.)

So, yeah.  I’m a tad naive.  It did make me remember another condom story, which I am sure you will enjoy.  Trust me, Mom.  You won’t be embarrassed.

My first year of teaching (20 years ago!), I was teaching second grade.  As I was taking my class out to recess, I saw a used condom on the Kindergarten playground.  (It was separate from the regular playground and kind of in a secluded, dug out area.)  I was concerned that one of those little 5-year-olds would come out to play and think it was a fun balloon.  (eww.)  So when we returned from recess, I decided I’d better let the principal know.  Now back in those days, we didn’t have no fancy phones in our rooms.  Our only communication with the office was by the intercom which was broadcast across the room and you had to speak VERY LOUDLY for them to hear you.  Plus, in my school, we didn’t have real rooms.  We had move-able walls, so everyone around us could hear what we were doing, plus hear any communication through the intercom.

Needless to say, the intercom method was not an option.

So, I decide to send a note down to the office with a student.  Obviously, I can’t send a 7-yr-old down with a note that says “There’s a condom on the Kindergarten playground.”  Seven-year-olds can read, and I could already imagine the call I would get from an irate parent berating me for introducing his/her child to this new word.

I worded the note very carefully, and I thought it was quite clever, actually.  I’m sure you’ll agree.  “There is a Trojan on the Kdg playground.”  (Pretty good, huh?)

I went back to teaching the Pythagorean Theory, and then the Assistant Principal shows up at my door.  He has the note in his hand and says, “I don’t get it.” 


“I don’t get the note.” 


“What does this mean?”

So, completely red in the face, I whisper, “There is a Trojan on the playground!”

He shook his head. No idea.

Finally, I had to whisper with my eyes wide and face even redder, “There’s a condom on the playground!!!”

Then, it was his turn to turn red.  (And, he was a redhead, so he was redder than I)  “Well, I don’t know about those things!  I’m Catholic!”

“Well, I certainly don’t know about them either!  I’m not married!”  We both laughed nervously and then awkwardly turned and walked away from each other, never to speak of it again. 

Well, at least not to each other.  I tell the story quite often.  And now I’ve blogged about it.  But, I kept his name out of it.  (Oh, and a little epilogue…He’s got six kids.)

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