Van (five-years-old): “You know what is really sad? You can’t shoot seagulls anymore, they made it illegal.”
Me (twenty-eight-years-old): “What’s wrong with that?”
Van: “Well, there are other birds…but you should really be able to shoot seagulls if you want to.”
Tue 28 Feb 2006
Van (five-years-old): “You know what is really sad? You can’t shoot seagulls anymore, they made it illegal.”
Mon 27 Feb 2006
The weekend began with a visit from Sam who was in Redmond on business. We managed to snag him for some food at Daniel’s Broiler, which incidently has the BEST seafood Happy Hour ever. Better than Rock Salt or Ivars, Daniel’s has much higher quality at half the cost. Crab legs in mustard sauce? Bacon wrapped scallops? Seared Ahi Tuna? No problem, they have em’.
Daniel’s also has a spectacular view:
And a mighty nice candle to entertain us while we waited:
Josh and I went snowboarding on Sunday and it was wicked fun. We got up early, danced the “Long Underwear Jig,” and embarked on the two hour trek to Crystal Mountain. I can’t begin to compare the drive to Cystal versus the drive from Fort Collins to Summit County in Colorado. Our trip was at a leisurely pace, no trecherous conditions, no skidding semis, no four lane highway with twists and turns and tail-gating SUVS, just a lovely drive. Here I am ready to go (I know, I know, it would be much more powerful if I actually had an action shot instead of me sitting on the snow):
Josh waiting in the lift line (just say ‘YES’ to wearing a helmet):
The only scary part was watching a small rock slide happen right in front of us. We noticed on the way up to Crystal that there were several large rocks on the road that evidently had slid from the wall next to the two lane highway. We made a mental note to remember this on our way back home. Of course we forgot until we watched a dozen small rocks and boulders fall on the truck in front of us. The rocks narrowly missed the windshield and the truck ended up running over most them dispersing the mess out into the highway. We pulled over just to make sure the guy in the truck was OK. My heart sank when I saw that he had a little boy in the front seat with him. The boy’s grandfather, Josh, and I stuck our head under the truck to make sure there was no damage. The kid was in his pajamas and asked me, “Did you you get hit by a bow-lder?” I said, “No, we just wanted to make sure you two were OK.” The man thanked us for stopping–hey, we would have wanted someone to do the same had our Honda been pelted by rocks. Of course it was all very exciting once we realized everyone was all right…and how much worse it could have been.
Sun 26 Feb 2006
A while back Jeff asked some poignant questions on my blog. After musing about them for a while I decided to take a stab at answering them. I’ve been trying to figure out answers to these questions myself. As a person who does not have children but spends an enormous amount of time with other people’s kids, I feel like I’ve gained a bit of knowledge along the way. Am I an expert? No way…and I’m certain as I grow older and wiser my views on child development will morph and evolve even further. That being said, I have been paying close attention and I have a few ideas:
Jeff:“The statement about the 3-year olds in pull-ups vs. those that are reading and writing. What do you attribute the difference to? Parenting? And if so, what could those parents have done different? Or, is it genetic. A dumb kid is a dumb kid no matter who raises them? I’m very curious! After all, who doesn’t want to have the most well adjusted child on the block?”
One question I’ve posed too many teachers and faculty is this: “Is empathy innate or learned?” The resounding response has been, “Innate…usually you got it or you don’t…but sometimes it has to be learned.” When I first heard this I was surprised: You might just be screwed. You could have a selfish bastard of a kid who is going to have to work all his/her life on how to be compassionate towards their fellow man. But if you identify it early parents can (and should) model empathetic behavior and hold the kid accountable every time he/she snubs a friend or behaves irresponsibly. Many parents seem to value their child’s academic success much higher then their social skills. If you have a rude child whose parents only care about good grades, I believe they’re going to have to struggle a little harder in life to maintain social connections. The further I take this teaching thing the more I realize: Academic achievement and social maturity should be equal in concern for a parent. As one teacher claimed: “Your first grader may be reading at a fourth grade level but if she doesn’t have any friends what good is it going to do her?” As teachers, I think we have a huge responsibility of balancing the academic work with the social growth we’re promoting in our students. I feel that in my own education, the social stuff was not addressed and I felt alienated by many teachers, (i.e. “Can’t they see me struggling out here?”) I’ve also noticed that parents who have high expectations of their children socially and emotionally tend to get results. I’m assuming they aren’t pushy or over bearing with their children, (I’ve seen that backfire too) they simply have implied since Day One that they expect the absolute best work and behavior from their childâ€”nothing less. The kid grows up knowing exactly where Mom and Dad stand, whether it be an emphasis on school work or importance placed on ‘being a good friend,’ if the kid knows what is expected of them it tends to work well. Therefore, a child who shows up at age three reading and writing have probably had a lot of help and encouragement at home. The three-year-old who shows up in diapers have not had the reading/writing expectation placed on them–or maybe they have but it’s gotten muddled in with the surprising need for potty training. But, OK, let it be known that there are certain genetic factors: Sometimes a kid is just really smart. (Although, I’m sure being born into a comfortable, healthy, environment where a child’s intelligence is nurtured doesn’t hurt either).
Jeff also posted: “I want to know, based on each kidâ€™s personality, how much you can predict their future. There was a documentary movie, I canâ€™t remember the name, where they filmed some kids at age 7. Then they went back and filmed them at age 37 or 47, or something along those lines. And the kids were all pretty much had their same personalities. I wonder if this will hold true for your kids? With that said, I imagine thereâ€™s also quite a lot of change that can go on between 5 and 7.”
Iâ€™ve touched on this idea a little bit before. I found the following excerpts in past blog entries:
July 21, 2004: When you look at a chubby kid complaining of being â€œtiredâ€ after 2 minutes of skips around the room and you know sheâ€™s going to battle a weight problem all her life. Or the cute, blond, angel of a girl who now and forever will get by on her looks and her looks only (until she hits 50 and has to start developing a personality). Iâ€™m telling you, Iâ€™ve gotten that good at reading these kids. And the parentsâ€¦the parents are a whole other bag of apples. Iâ€™ve had parents wanting me to â€œslow it downâ€ for their kidâ€¦SLOW IT DOWN? We spend 15 minutes playing Sleeping Fairy Princess, for crying out loud.
Dec.02, 2004: Personality truly forms at the earliest age possible. Iâ€™ve touched on this before and Iâ€™ll say it again: At three-years-old I can see into these kidsâ€™ futures and predict a great wealth of knowledge that only my own 27 years can predict.
In the past I only worked with the kids once a week for forty-five minutes. Now I am currently working with the same children in the same environment for thirty odd hours a week. My initial impressions of these kids when I met them in August have all changed in some small way.
One of the more interesting cases was with one of our fruity boys, a kid who everyone nudges and whispers, “Is he gay?” This is a kid who is an extremely talented dancer, artistic, creative and enjoys putting on tutus in the dress up corner. But the more I got to know him and work with him, the less his ‘gayness’ stood out. Perhaps it’s because I’ve easily looked past his bright pink boa and seen all the layers of this boy. Now, I don’t even think: IS THIS KID GAY? Because it’s just not very relevant anymore. That first impression I see many other people get: “Whoa, is that kid performing a scene from Chicago? Gay?” I know longer have it; he probably is gay but I’ve moved way beyond it.
There are other factors that go into personality, largely environment, birth order, and of course, the child’s innate spirit. An aggressive boy who is constantly shoving and pushing other kids while playing basketball on the playground is warned again and again that he needs to be more aware of other people. His father’s response: “Boys will be boys…I’m not going to raise a pussy.” Is competiveness part of this kid’s personality or is it encouraged and nurtured at home?
And then there is the rare case: Sometimes a kid is awful but his parents are wonderful…and that’s the truth. Many times the physical health of the child is determined as part of the cause of his social immaturity. With one of our students his doctors are finding that he is processing things very differently due to inadequate neurological function. Theyâ€™re currently trying to determine whether he has a learning disorder or if he is mentally disabled. Either way the child’s schooling will have to be approached differently in order to accommodate his different learning needs.
If you get a kid whose wiring is screwy, well, what else can you do but try to provide the best possible environment for them? This always scares the crap out of me when I think of my future children: What if you love them but they still turn out to be serial killers?
I know Iâ€™ve gone off on a tangent while answering Jeffâ€™s questions, but here are some other interesting social observations:
1) The child who get’s a long splendidly with adults but can’t relate to children. Typically I’ve seen this with Home Schooled children, but occasionally I’ll see it around the school too. These kids tend to be trained at an early age to respect and interact with other adults but they’ve had limited exposure to same age peers. I think early socialization of kids is super important; it doesn’t mean putting a kid in preschool at age two but it does mean they need to have some time outside the home with other kids. The longer you wait, the harder it is for a kid to approach school at three, four, or five years of age if they’ve only hung around adults. (Again, it should be said that some of this is contingent to personality).
2) “Parallel Play,” The instance where a kid will play along side another kid but never interact with them. In this kid’s mind they’re totally playing even though he never speaks or connects with the other child. Usually a socially immature kid will try this out for a while until he’s comfortable diving in and talking to someone else.
3) The boy who is drawn to sports versus the boy who is swinging on the monkey bars or engaged in ‘creative play.’ I don’t know what to make of this, perhaps this is largely environmental?
4) The girl who is drawn to sports instead of creative play. I hate to say this but typically the Sporty Girl is the bully of the classroom. A real handful, Sporty Girl tends to be too aggressive for girl play and enjoys running back and forth on the football field with the kindergarten boys. It would be interesting to see where this girl goes in a few years, perhaps this is just a phase…I doubt she’ll be able to ditch the girls on the playground permanently.
5) The Leader versus The Follower. Where does the self-confidence of The Leader come from? I think personality plays such a large part with this. You have a loud mouth kid who struts and brags all over the place and they’re heralded as a kindergarten equivalent to Colin Ferral out on the playground. Sometimes this kid is the youngest child and has gained a lot of confidence simply by being in an ‘older’ environment. Other times this kid (dare I say it) is naturally a loud mouth. They are social and seek out other kids and really care about what other’s think of them.
5) Dynamics of the Bathroom. It starts early: Girls go to the bathroom in packs. Sometimes I’ll find four girls in the single bathroom of our classroom. Their need for private conniving is so strong, they’re willing to sneak around, using the bathroom as bait, (“If you do this I’ll let you go to the bathroom with me!”) I’m trying to nip it in the bud, but I’m thinking I might be going up against nature on this one. (The only time I’ve ever seen a group of boys go to the bathroom in a group has been when one kid wanted to demonstrate the power of his glow-in-the-dark t-shirt).
OK, I could sum up this entire entry in one word: Parenting. Yup, it really makes all the difference. The type of environment you present to your child from babyhood until they enter school is usually what sets them up socially and academically for the rest of their life. I really believe this– hence my trepidation in having children. Those early years are so crucial; you have to rely on getting to know your child really well and providing him/her with the right guidelines and boundaries from the beginning.
Thu 23 Feb 2006
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Midwest without a stop over at Cabela’s. I had no idea what this place was about, I only knew that they had a large selection of wool socks. Josh and I are avid Smartwool fans, in fact if you haven’t been enlightened by these amazing socks go out and buy a pair. They’re expensive but well worth every penny. Anyway, the idea of being able to buy Smartwools at a decent price (or even knock offs for that matter), was extremely appealing. We drove to the outskirts of Kansas City, KS (not the Missouri side, mind you), and were faced with this gigantic store. The first thing that greeted us was several stuffed deer posed on top of a fake hill, looking out over the racks of hunting clothing as if to say, “Come on in! We’re only a mere sample of what you could hunt, kill, and stuff…” The walls were covered with mounted animal heads and in the center of the store was a gigantic faux mountain side covered with tons of taxidermied animals in various ‘nature poses.’ Everything from jack rabbits posed mid-jump to foxes strolling around the hillside next to stuffed squirrels. I’ve never been in the presence of more dead animals mounted to look real. My first thought was: Wow, my sister would totally hate this. (Gina once stood outside in the rain instead of going into a second hand store with my college friends because they had a gigantic bear head hung on the wall and old fur coats in the store window). OK, so I was vaguely intrigued, after all, how else would I be able to look at a wolf so closely? Sure, he was a stuffed remnant of what he once was, but it oddly felt like I was visiting a huge still-life zoo. Surrounding the fake mountain was a pond with real live fish and a few ducks swimming about. I couldn’t tell if this was a great, easy-going, life for the ducks living inside a big store, or whether it was just as inhumane as killing animals and mounting them on display. I bypassed the large stuffed African exhibit where they had zebras and lions mounted to look like they were right in the middle of a big National Geographic moment: two zebras getting attacked from behind by two lions. It was gruesome. And don’t even get me started about the gigantic elephant, (how the HELL did that get there? Aren’t elephants endangered? Isn’t it illegal to poach and stuff them? Maybe it was just really old…)
To avoid getting stared down by glass eyes mounted inside taxidermied elk, I sought refuge in the shoe department. It was there that I found a huge bin of slightly irregular wool socks! Hurray! Josh and I enthusiastically dug around and found several pairs in our sizes. I also tried on some crazy cowboys boots, including this stunning purple pair by Fatbaby: (Come on, how awesome are these? If you’re going to do it, go all the way!)
I marveled at how terrible the fashion was inside this store, even the sometimes decent Columbia sportswear looked dowdy. I was really tempted to buy a camo print bra, just in case I ever need to hide in the bushes half naked, but I resisted. The whole experience was like an anthropological study of a culture I’ve just never related to. Now, I’m not going to take the easy way out and say (with broad sweeping gestures), “Hunting SUCKS, down with hunting!” When we lived in Colorado I actually met a few (very few) easy going guys who hunted–specifically elk–and felt it was very important to use the entire animal. Most of the meat was stored away in a giant freezer so they could nibble on it year round. We had long conversations about the benefits of hunting, most of it I’ve forgotten, but I appreciated being able to have a frank dialogue with someone I normally would judge. Obviously Cabelas is not meant for a peace flag waving, organic food eating, liberal like me, and that’s fine. However, I have to be honest, the store was a little disturbing. Beside the stuffed animals they had an enormous aquarium filled with gigantic, tremendously obese fish that floated aimlessly around in tight quarters. It was like, “Oh, there’s a catfish…times ten.” Seriously, these fish were huge.
We did find some really nice thermal shirts to wear under our snowboard clothes…both were on sale. Josh flirted with the idea of buying this enormous puffy coat:
I kept asking him, “Is it really worth the deal? Would you WEAR it?” Needless to say, we went home without a puffy coat stuffed into our suitcase. Seriously, he looked like the Michelin man:
Thu 23 Feb 2006
Wow, it’s so great to be back! I know, I know, that sounds cheesy. Our cat greeted us with open meows looking a little fatter and a whole lot happier. Bags are still unpacked, our purchases and wrinkled clothing laying in a heap inside our suitcase. Some quick pictures:
They were having a food drive inside Kansas City’s Grand Central Station. I suppose making the food look like a castle is suppose to make it look more appetizing (or most likely to motivate people to bring donations).
Here I am in the Grand Central gift shop sporting an authentic engineer’s hat and plush dinosaur (not sure what the dino has to do with trains but it was cute).
Josh and I had fun snapping artistic pics inside the Crayola Store.
They had this huge crayon spiral set up inside the store. I truly wouldn’t mind having something like that on display in my own home. Who knew crayons themselves could make such nice art?
Question: Is my jacket ‘burnt orange’ or just plain ‘orange?’
Sat 18 Feb 2006
I’m heading out to Kansas City for a visit with Josh’s parents during my long anticipated mid-winter break.
Fri 17 Feb 2006
Today I experienced my first “Visit Day.” This school has one of the most in-depth, detailed, and meticulous application processes I’ve ever been privy too. They are unusual for the great lengths they take to choose their students. Typically, private schools require testing scores, a parent/child interview, and for some, an IQ test (which may determine acceptability for some private schools but not for all). The applicant pool boils down to this: one in six children will be accepted. If you want your child to be considered you must go on a tour of the school, fill out a multi-page questionnaire, turn in any and all test scores, submit a recommendation from another teacher, daycare provider, etc, sit down with the admission director for a parent interview, and lastly, subject your child to a Visit Day. The experience is structured, the child is watched by one teacher while they explore the classroom and the parents are not allowed to attend with their kid. The kid does an activity, then moves on to a Movement class, and then they have Story Time in the library. We track all their moves on a clipboard using a rating system. The child is given a 1 for great, 2 for Ok, and 3 for Not so good…and here’s the catch: The parents are being rated too. Even though we only see them at drop off and pick up time, their reaction to Visit Day is also documented.
It’s an amazing process and it allows the admission office to really tailor make this school to whatever they want or need. Let’s say one year they recognize the need for more science-minded, four-year-old, girls…well, they can look at the applicants specifically for science-y females and bring em’ in that year. And let’s be clear here, every year it changes, sometimes there are five spaces for three-year-old boys but only one space for a three-year-old girl…the following year it could be entirely different, there could be no positions for three-year-olds but they need five four-year-old boys instead. There are many families that re-apply over and over again, going through the same process every year and sometimes they get in but often they do not. The stress is high for these families, and most of these kids are great…but to truly be considered first both the child and the parents need to be rated as a 1. We had a lot of 2’s in my classroom with a few 1’s and a couple of 3’s. The 3’s are not necessarily the criers, but the children that are lost, unable to cope with other kids, or can’t follow directions. It’s pretty fascinating to watch a room filled with sixteen kids and twelve adults all trying to navigate their way through this process. Probably, one of the most interesting cases was the mother that set her daughter up for failure: She never revealed to her kid that she would be leaving her for Visit Day. The girl was shocked when her mother left, and then enraged. With an animal yell we had to carry her outside the classroom while she wept mercifully. The child never fully recovered, and was scored lower then perhaps was fair, considering she was suffering from separation anxiety.
Most of the kids were a little nervous, this being the first time they’ve been separated from their parents and put into a rather overwhelming situation. A few had several permanent tears right under their bottom eyelids that glistened during the entire hour and a half. The moment the tears dried, they were replenished by a sudden reminder of the child’s separation from Mom. One little boy cried silently the entire time, only stopping for brief intervals with lot’s of one on one attention by his observer. For this boy we simply wrote down: Too young, try again next year, was unable to fully evaluate. Which brings up a few interesting points, I used to believe that three was just too little for school. But now I realize that it really depends on the kid…sure, the chances of finding a stable, independent, three-year-old is less typical, but they are out there and some are ready and capable for something like a full day pre-kindergarten. Most of my original thoughts on education, age, and behavior have been drastically altered due to this resident teaching experience. It becomes hard to lump ALL three-year-olds as ‘young’ when you have one who is still in pull-ups and another who is reading and writing.
Thu 16 Feb 2006
I have this student, you know, The Screamer. She has good and bad days but it’s pretty much guaranteed right before any major holiday or school break she’ll lose it. This kid is just not able to function under long term excitement, stress, or after field trips. This is the same kid who wolfed down an entire gingerbread house she made and then (surprise!) spent the afternoon in the bathroom. She is also an unbelievable crybaby, I’m sorry; I know that sounds harsh for a five-year-old but this kid is just ridiculous. Highly emotive, this child crumbles at the slightest unrest; I understand this reaction a little bit, I myself have been known to be extremely emotional. But to give you an example I’ve compiled a list of reasons for this girl to cry:
1) Tiny triangle shaped piece of paper just won’t glue to the paper.
2) Gluestick becomes infuriating…switch to tape.
3) Tape proves to be equally frustrating, making life totally and utterly unbearable.
4) Discover that Mom has packed string cheese for snack. Sob uncontrollably over this, doesn’t Mom know how much string cheese is loathed and despised? How could Mom do this? HOW?
5) Refuse to relinquish seat next to close friend, even if it means punching another girl out…despite the fact that the other girl was wounded, there are immediate tears from the punchee.
6) Return to class and realize that the same triangle is still not glued onto paper; this proves to be so horrible that the entire class is rewarded to a high pitch scream of despair followed by hysterical sobbing.
As I type this I am shamelessly chowing down on a box of chalky candy hearts from Valentine’s Day. They taste terrible…well the white ones are a little bit better but the rest of them are despicably bad–I finally gave in and threw out the yellow hearts. I expected too much on Valentineâ€™s Day. Sure, we made mailboxes and had a little party. I kept all the handmade Valentines (including one of me doing yoga, the â€œMountain Poseâ€ to be specific) and tossed the crappy commercial ones. One kid gave me socks.
Iâ€™m also in an odd position of realizing that this job is temporaryâ€¦so why have I been neglecting my sick days? Stressing about parents I may never see again? Oh, sure, perhaps thereâ€™s a small possibilityâ€¦maybe. I can feel myself divorcing this job just a little bit each day. It could be that Iâ€™ve finally got the hang of it, and what used to be really hard (i.e. the early mornings, the endless staff meetings, the kids crying, sneezing, and coughing on me), are now accepted with a certain ease of mind.
Sun 12 Feb 2006
This weekend my parents visited and it was lot’s of fun. Similiar to their last visit in June, they brought the sun with them. We walked miles, ate cupcakes, and I convinced my sci-fi loving pop that we just had to visit the Science Fiction Museum.
Dad signaling to the earthlings that he is friendly.
Mom and Dad.
Dad and I.
I requested that Kris use his photographic skills to capture the delicious apple tart I made in honor of my mother’s 59th birthday.
I usually feel responsible for updating my parents on the latest trends and pop culture. Naturally I dragged them upstairs for a little Dance Dance Revolution at Kris’ house. Here is Mom giving it her best.
My Dad did significantly better and actually impressed me with his manuevering ability. Instead of constantly returning to the center of the dance pad, he bounced all over the place and did very well for his first few tries.
Fri 10 Feb 2006
About once a month I grow “money weary.” With a budget of well over four million dollars and tuition being $15,000 a year, it’s no surprise that the private school I work at attracts the wealthy. Oh, sure, there’s the financial aid and the mention of wanting to ‘diversify’ the community (something you just can’t do if you don’t offer big discounts), but the reality is this: You have to be fairly financially well off to afford this school. Sure, there are parents who are living in smaller homes and on modest budgets to afford the best education for their children. But then, let’s face it, the majority of them live in mansions. As a former public school attendee, I am peeking into a world I have never been privy too. Where else would I see so many BMW’s and Lexus’ convened in one small parking lot? Where else would I have a conversation about summer homes and vacations in Italy? None of my friends are rolling around in high priced vehicles and million dollar mansions facing the water. Initially, when I first started, I was sure it wouldn’t affect me. In fact, I’d always prided myself on how little I could live on and still get by. But as the year progresses all that money has started to wear on me. I can’t quite pin-point it. Is it because I long to own a home? Is it because I wish I could work so little and inherit so much? Could it be I just want the fancy clothes? Is it because I still have never been out of the country? Or perhaps it’s because there is all this evidence of a certain ease of life, a comfort that can only be bought, be it nannies catering to your children or a private plane taking you wherever you want to go. As more and more of their wealthy lives are made known to me I find myself feeling suffocated. I don’t like this, I have no reason to feel angst, and I have a great life. Despite this, I still feel weary of how much wealth is revealed to me every day. It’s catching up with me…