Category Archives: Edge-ucators

Snapshot

My current temp job literally gives me snapshots of school aged kids in every stage of their academic careers. In the two minutes I spend with a kid, on an average, I constantly compare them to my son and even sometimes to my daughter. Mostly though, it’s to Doodicus since he’s already a veteran when it comes to schooling.

I didn’t get to take his school picture. I told my boss I would prefer not to. Either I would be a distraction to him or I would be too critical of how he looked or acted. But now I wonder what he’s like when he sits down at a camera station. Does he require several verbal cues and tons of encouragement to get those two poses or is he a natural, easily reflecting the verbal cues of the person behind the camera and sitting tall, shoulders relaxed and smiling naturally?

Today was the first time I had been on my own shooting every age group between headstart and seniors. In the past, while I’ve been solo before, it’s always been *just* elementary, or *just* middle school, or *just* high school. Today? Was a bitch.

I took pictures of identical triplets, all dressed the same, in their gingham dresses with ladybug pockets, red mary jane shoes and hair in ponytails. They were only two years old (almost three! the teacher happily informed me). They each wore a necklace personalized with their names. Adorable and petite things with arms like a bird’s wing, thin and delicate. I knelt in front of each one as I put them into seating position and cupped their tiny heads in my hand as I adjusted their faces. As I peered into their dark eyes and asked them to smile for me, they each responded with a shy smile. Each with baby teeth ravaged by caries. I wondered how their futures would look when they were eight years old.

I easily bantered with hormonal 17 year old boys who through sheer will power, tempered with peer pressure, were able to switch off their disarming and dimpled grins to remain stoic as the shutter clicked and the lights popped. It doesn’t bother me to take a picture of a young man trying to look tough as long as I can see a spark, unknowingly channeling Tyra Banks and smiling with their eyes.

Most children are innately happy. They don’t – and shouldn’t – know anything else. But doing what I do, I see too many children who don’t know how to smile. I can take a dozen pictures and joke and make faces and tease and the teacher can do the same, but some remain somber. Detached. Usually the session comes to an end when I discreetly ask the para or teacher if the child is normally so serious. Yes, they always answer, and I know there’s nothing more I can do but give the school the picture they need for an identification badge and the parents get photographic proof of their child’s loss of naiveté and joy for reasons only they know.

This year both of my son’s pictures were very good. He looked relaxed and happy. He knows how to smile and in a small yet inexplicable way, it gives me peace of mind.

Teacher FAIL

Taking pictures of kids for several hours of day is incredibly monotonous. Don’t EVEN ask me how many times I said the following today:

  • Sit up straight!
  • Feet flat on the floor!
  • Hands flat on your lap!
  • Shoulder’s down!
  • Chin down!
  • Chin up!
  • Tip your head *this* way!
  • Smile!
  • Smile!
  • SMILEGODDAMMIT!!!!

ahem

Oh, by the way, I said at least something from that list 219 times today, however most of the time it was in some kind of combination of at least three if not all…and repeated twice.

At one of the schools they had a class that was made up of two kids that were autistic. There was a teacher and a para who escorted them to the cameras. One young man, about 12 was sat down in front of me. I asked him his name and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to understand him. The teacher piped up, “Ben Riesling” (obviously not his real name, but you’ll see why I used it here in just a bit). His name didn’t come up in the system.

ME: Riesling? As in R-I-E?”

TEACHER: “No. R-E-I”

Hmmmm. That’s not the way riesling is spelled…I type it in again and search. Nothing. So I type in just the R-E. Still nothing. So I try the first name. Several Bens come up, but not Ben Riesling.

ME: “R-E-I isn’t coming up with his name…”

TEACHER: “Oh, I don’t know! It could be R-I-E-S. Ben, how do you spell your name?” Ben’s blank stare is the only answer. The para just shrugs and says, “I don’t know. I’m just the para.”

ME: “I’ll have to add him manually, but I’ll definitely need to have the correct spelling of his name.”

TEACHER: *exasperated sigh* “I think it’s R-I-E-S-E -L-I-N-G”

ME: “Ooooohkayyyyy…Are you sure there that extra E in the middle?”

TEACHER: “I don’t know!”

ME: “Alright. Is it Ben or Benjamin?”

TEACHER: “Just put it in as Benjamin!”

Take a moment here and imagine this scene.

If YOU were the parent of the child and his ID card and his yearbook had his name spelled wrong, wouldn’t you be pissed? Ben is not Benjamin or vice versa. She showed absolutely no interest in the TWO students she had (and don’t try to defend this with “oh, school JUST started. she’s getting to know the kids yet” because school here has been in session for almost a month now). To me it was inexcusable and pathetic.

We’ll be meeting with that school’s psychologist again this fall. I’ll be sure to mention this to him then. Maybe by then I will have cooled down a bit.

I Don’t Give A Damn About A Bad Reputation

One of the hardest things we deal with when it comes to ADHD is the stigma. I don’t share Doodicus’s diagnosis with just anyone. His pediatrician knows, and obviously the school psychologist and the family counselor we saw know as they were the ones who determined he was ADHD, but aside from that only three other people know that he has ADHD and takes medication for it. Those three are his teachers.

We don’t talk about it with family or friends because we know what will go through their heads once our backs are turned: “Yeah, yeah, sure. ADHD…that’s just a way to excuse a kid who didn’t get the right kind of discipline,” or “That’s just approval for him to act out of control…”  Why would they think that? Because quite frankly, that’s what we thought when we heard someone else’s kid “supposedly” had ADD/ADHD: over-diagnosed by doctors wanting to push drugs or parents who wanted to dope their rambunctious kid. Basically, we considered ADHD an excuse for shit parenting.

Yep. That’s what we honestly thought.

ADHD is not a behavioural problem. Let’s just put that out there right now. Doodicus is not bullying other kids, stealing lunch money. He’s not shoving them from the monkey bars. He’s not punching holes into the walls of his room just because. He received discipline as we thought as necessary and that fit the “crime”, as it were. Time outs were frequent, but consistent. Sparring Partner was more in the “spare the rod” camp, but my argument against that was if you, the adult, can’t control your anger, then how can you expect a three, four, five, six, etc. year old to do it??

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is a neurobiological disorder. It is characterized by developmentally inappropriate impulsivity, inattention, and in some cases, hyperactivity. Although individuals with AD/HD can be very successful in life, without appropriate identification and treatment, AD/HD can have serious consequences. These consequences may include school failure, depression, conduct disorder, failed relationships, and substance abuse. Early identification and treatment are extremely important.

While the facts are out there about ADHD, I know without a doubt there is judgemental attitude about both the behaviour and treatments. To talk about it will help me come to grips with the reality of both and to dispel those misconceptions I know even you might have. I promise not to hold it against you.

Imperfect World

We’ve all heard at one time or another how someone has simultaneously announced their second line on the pregnancy stick, taken the tour of the maternity ward, registered for baby gear, and traded in their sedan for a family van. I did that back in 2004 before I found out that miscarriages weren’t just a myth.

Once that miscarriage (or two or four) has gone by, that person (me) never thinks the same way about a pregnancy, whether their own or someone else’s. They don’t assume that a new pregnancy ends the way 80% of the population thinks they do. In fact, they (me) even begin to believe the worst before they ever believe the best.

My son’s teacher announced to the class before Thanksgiving that she was expecting a baby in June. By my calculations, she at least waited to tell them after her first prenatal appointment, which is usually around week eight or nine. I wasn’t thrilled with the school’s permission to let her announce this to her students – second graders – so early, reasoning that it would be a distraction throughout the entire school session. Inwardly it was because I didn’t want her to have to untell a bunch of seven and eight year olds. Because that’s the way I think.

But see? That never happens in a perfect world, and to me his teacher was living that ideal. She had a little boy who was just potty trained. She must have planned the pregnancy with the due date occurring early summer, giving her time to enjoy a new baby before going back to school without disruption to the class schedule. She’s also very young…

A Perfect World.

Unfortunately, she found out this past weekend that there is no such thing as a Perfect World and had to announce to the children via the school’s principal that her baby died.

When Sparring Partner picked up Doodicus from school, my son shared the update with his dad, who then called me to pass on the sad news and to let myself prepare for the questions as Sparring Partner decided to tell Doodicus that we had had that happen to us. I again did some calculations and figured that the teacher, Mrs. P, would have been in the beginning of her second trimester.

While it’s not the way I would have preferred for Doodicus to learn that not all pregnancies result in a baby, Padora’s box has now been opened. I picked up Doodicus from daycare and we went through the regular pleasantries of “how was your day?” and “what homework do you have?”, and then he said, “Can I ask you a question?” I was glad that I was driving so that he couldn’t see my face from the back seat as I anticipated what was coming. “Sure,” I responded.

“Have you really been pregnant four times?”

I wondered why Sparring Partner had said four and could only presume that as a man he probably had no idea. “Actually I’ve been pregnant six times. My first was with you and my last was with Aitch.”

“Did the other babies die?”

“Yes.” I did not ask why he asked but waited to see how the conversation would progress.

“If you had all those babies, there sure would be a lot of kids in our family.”

“Yes, I suppose there would have been.”

“We were told today that Mrs. P’s baby died. I didn’t know that could happen.”

“Normally it doesn’t,” I responded. Normally. In a Perfect World.

We talked a bit about how sad Mrs. P was going to be and that we will say a prayer for her and her family. Doodicus told me that the principal suggested that the class not talk to Mrs. P about it as it would make her sad. I could only suggest to my son that he could mention to her in private how sad he was about her baby and that we prayed for her.

“Aitch and I were lucky, weren’t we…what happened to the other ones?”

“Yes, I suppose you were lucky, but the really lucky ones are Daddy and I because we have you both.”

I then told him briefly about my pregnancy with Vivienne when he was almost three and how I remember every detail of November 2004. I told him how when Daddy brought him home from daycare that day, he came into the bedroom where I had been lying their crying all day following that fateful ultrasound and asked me if I was going to be OK, too young to know only that I was very, very sad. I had told him I would be. Eventually.

At the end of my reverie, Doodicus started to tear up. When I asked what was wrong, he told me that he was sad because he almost died. I was startled by that and asked when did he almost die. “When I was born.” He knew the story of the emergency c-section and that he was so little and spent nearly a week in the hospital. I tried to ease his heart a bit by letting him know that while he was sick when born, we knew he would be alright and that we would take him home healthy.

After he had calmed down again I said that he shouldn’t dwell on it to the point it makes him unhappy, but that if he had more questions, he could come to us. I don’t wish to keep revisiting that wound, but I think he is ready to know more than we give him credit for.

An early pregnancy announcement will make any one of us want to “protect” the expectant mother by warning her not to count her proverbial chickens, but that makes us sound paranoid or jealous. True (for me) on both counts. I have never-and never will-wish that life lesson on anyone, and yet…with a sickening thud in the pit of my stomach upon this recent news, I heard in my head “I could have told you so,” and I hate myself for becoming so fucking jaded.

Gun Shy

(My son’s name here on out on this blog will be “Doodicus”, the second half of his nickname at home of which the first half is Maximus (actually, it should be Dudicus, but that looks like Dud- instead of Dude-.))

After last year’s encounters with Doodicus’s 1st grade teacher, we have become pretty gun-shy. “What were we going to find out THIS time…?” we would ask ourselves before the appointed time of the witch hunt. Especially fun when we hear how he shanked a girl in his class with a safety pin. Ah, the memories.

We had our first PTC this week with his 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Pied Piper. I sat down on the tiny chair at the tiny desk , my knees snuggled into my boobs, and watched as she brought up Doodicus’s marks on her tiny laptop, and waited.

“He has shown tremendous interest in the Butterfly Project.”

“We have a veteran come in and read to the class, and Doodicus always has the best questions to ask him. You know that when the veteran goes back to the Veteran’s Home and talks about Doodicus, he’s made quite a positive impression.”

“He shares songs that he makes up on the piano with the music class.”

“He’s a wonderful singer, did you know?”

“Of all my boys, he easily has the neatest handwriting.”

She continues on, but I’m looking at the screen of the laptop. Yep, it says Doodicus right there and there’s only one Doodicus in 2nd grade. Maybe her notes got mixed up with the kid scheduled before us? Or after us? I peek at her notes: “Doodicus.”

Just then Doodicus comes in the room after playing with a couple of classmates in the commons area.

“We were just talking about you!” his teacher exclaims excitedly, “…and what a good job you are doing in participation in the class. However,…”

Oh. Heeere we go.

“…when he doesn’t like the hot lunch, he won’t eat since he doesn’t like the PB&Js we offer as an option. He once indicated he brought his own lunch when they were serving something he didn’t like, but I changed it back to a hot lunch. I’ve told him that there has to be something on the tray that he’ll eat.”

There it was. THE Bomb. My son is a picky eater.

Considering that last year we were talking expulsion, this is a bit of an improvement, wouldn’t you say?

Done

X is officially no longer under Krstn’s care…effective last Friday.

Mr. DD talked to her on Sunday trying to get her to make a decision. She is obviously not the only one affected by what will happen. So yesterday, Monday, when Mr. DD called to verify that X would be there Tuesday, she said that she thinks it’d be better if he found a new day care.

When Mr. DD told me this, he also said I should give Krstn a call as she seems to think that I believe she did something wrong.

I’m obviously not as good as I thought about hiding my feelings. Add this on top of her astounding ESP abilities since I’ve never said one word to her about it as I’ve only seen her once in two weeks.

I refuse to call her and try to work this out. If she was convinced to continue to let X come, it would only be for her benefit. Not X’s. Not ours. She’s as transparant as air and X isn’t stupid. He no doubt has picked up on her feelings towards him and things have escalated to this point.

I allowed myself to be blinded by the convenience of having her services for this long.

I’ll give you a tip about day care providers. You can know all you need to know about the care your child will receive by how they treat their own child.

Krstn’s child “refuses” to go to bed until midnight or later (he’s 4).

Krstn’s child will run around outside in the cold and snow without shoes or socks and her only response is a roll of her eyes and a tsk-tsk. It’s no wonder he suffered ear infections for nearly all of 2006.

Krstn’s child is exempt from the schedule the other children are required to have. For example, one day I picked up X for a doctor’s appointment in the early afternoon. This is quiet/nap-time for her kids…except her son who was playing on the computer when I showed up. She said he doesn’t like to naps. Sounds familiar? Remember how she said the other kid didn’t like to be in his car seat?

Lastly, unrelated to Krstn’s son, she lets the kids watch too much damn TV. My son knows Nickelodeon’s schedule is like…and it’s not because he’s reading the TV Guide.

I’ve ignored these signs and I feel guilty that I didn’t make the best choice for my son and find him a more structured care. The writing was on the wall but I refused to see it.

Yes, I will beat myself up about this for a while. It was not all bad. My son thrived under her care through his infant and toddler years. But even she admitted she doesn’t do very well with older children. It’s no wonder her maturity level when dealing with parents and conflicts is stunted. She relates best to one year olds.

Good riddance.