Saturday, April 30, 2011

a Saturday morning thought...

If you daughter has children and you haven't seen them in nearly three years, and they don't know who you are, and when you call here they refuse to talk to you because they don't know who you are? You are NOT allowed to call yourself a grandmother.  And if your stepson has children, do not call your daughter on a beautiful Saturday morning and tell her you are a grandmother again.  You aren't one to begin with...there is no again. I'm just sayin.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

look at me learnin' on a weekend...

Yesterday I attended Faces of Learning Kansas City, which was a coming together of educators and concerned citizens to talk about how we learn. Essentially, it was a discussion of how we might change what learning looks like in our city and across the country.  Faces of Learning is the brainchild of my new friend Sam Chaltain, and Sam traveled to Kansas City yesterday to have a community conversation about learning.  I am sure to sell the idea behind this campaign short, so I completely suggest going to Sam’s website to check it out for yourself.  What I will say is this: the idea that the best learning comes from the inside isn’t rocket science.  It’s not even a new theory.  We must consider HOW we learn and what the ideal learning environments might look like.  It should be what school districts from San Diego to Boston and Minneapolis to Dallas are asking of their students and what we are asking pre-service teachers to consider before they ever step foot into a classroom.
We talked yesterday about what learning looked like for each of us.  How my friend Steve discovered his potential for learning and pushing himself when he was faced with the daunting task of teaching a chemistry lab in college.  Steve is now a high school English teacher, and while he is certainly, among other things, the most organized person I know, he’s no chemist.  Sorry, Steve. He spoke about how that challenging experience led him to see himself as a teacher.  Laurie talked about being a teacher in Los Angeles and how she was constantly told what she could and couldn’t do by the administration – and in effect, how that changed her teaching and her learning.  Maggie talked about what she has learned about herself and about learning environments by being in charge of student teachers in early childhood classrooms all over Kansas City. 
I tend to learn like a four-year-old learns.  Perhaps it’s the hours I’ve spent on the floor with four-year-olds in my own classroom, but I need to be hands-on with learning.  Whether I’m learning something about technology (did I tell you I’m on the tech team?) or about cooking, I’m not absorbing anything unless I am getting my hands dirty, so to speak.  My best learning comes when I’m pushed to question everything – to wonder about things and to make connections with like-minded people.  Yesterday, I recalled being a 14-year-old and spending three weeks of my summer at what is now Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.  I was a part of the Joseph BaldwinAcademy, and that summer and the one after it was spent taking college level classes with about seventy of my peers.  Not only was it the first time I was away from my family – how grown up of me – it was the first time I was truly challenged to think outside of the box.  AND, it was the first time I was with a group of kids who weren’t judging me for wanting to learn.  At JBA learning was cool, and I still get that giddy, excited feeling when I surround myself with people who are excited about learning, just like I did yesterday.
What struck me about the conversation we had yesterday is that it shouldn’t be so difficult to ask teachers in Kansas City to consider how they learn and what the ideal learning environment might be.  Imagine what it would look like if teachers considered the immense diversity in learning patterns in their classrooms.  In a city where our public schools are not something we are bragging about, we should be taking ALL of these things into consideration.  This conversation about learning needs to continue in our schools, in our churches, and in our communities. 
I really don’t want to get into education reform.  I am lucky enough, for now, to be (as a teacher) relatively unaffected by the way our government handles education.  I also know that once I start writing about it, I might not stop – so I will spare you my thoughts.  I will just say that I walked out of that conversation – which continued, over hot wings and beer, I might add, with some of the most amazing teachers I know in this city – and I was excited about what the future of education and learning in Kansas City might look like.  Not only am I a teacher, I am a mother of two beautiful girls who I believe deserve only the most amazing opportunities when it comes to learning.  I believe we owe it to our children to continue these conversations, and we mustn’t stop until we are truly satisfied with what we see happening in our schools.

**if you're interested locally in KC in joining this conversation, please take a look at this
**you can also get more information here

Saturday, April 9, 2011

signs, signs, everywhere signs...

I have written before about my weird cardinal sightings.  As in, they are everywhere I go.  After my grandparents Bloom passed away, I began to think that the cardinals were sent as a sign from them – you know, just reminding me that they still had an eye on me.  I know, you might think I’m nuts. It’s fine.  I know the cardinal’s song so well that when I hear it, my eyes start searching for where the bird is perched.  A few weeks ago, during a particularly bad day with Lucy, I thought to myself, “I wish I had some sign that I’m not alone or that things will be ok,” and I didn’t even get that thought fully out before the most beautiful male cardinal flew over and sat right in front of my car.  A few seconds later, the female joined him.  I love moments like that, even if it was pure coincidence, it reminds me that there is more out there – more beyond the human eye – and I fully believe that people who have passed on have a role in those moments. 
Like, the time in Boston when my cousin Karleton’s widow and his son were at a park on a day not long after Karleton’s death (if memory serves it was Karleton’s birthday or an anniversary?) and his son Jackson found a UNC hat at the park that day.  Karleton graduated from UNC and then lived in Boston. What are the odds of that happening randomly? 
The day of my Grandpa Bloom’s funeral, my sister and I went to Loose Park in Kansas City to spend some time together.  We had plans to fly to New York the week after that, and as my grandfather died very suddenly, we decided to keep our original plan and to spend time with my Gram after everyone else had gone home.  So, that day at the park, instead of attending his funeral, we fed the geese.  My grandpa was an artist and loved to draw geese and ducks – and he had a song about being kind to ducks that we loved to sing with him.  While we were feeding the geese, a white duck came barreling across the pond at us and shot up out of the water to stand literally about three feet from the two of us.  He raised his wings up over his head and did a little dance for us and then went right back into the water.  Lisen and I stood there completely silent.  There were no other ducks around – just this one, and it was pure white.  A few days later, I went back to the park to try to find the white duck and it was nowhere to be found.   I still keep one of his feathers that dropped during his dance in a little box in my bedside table.
The other night, my Aunt Karen called with a story about a lost earring.  She told me she had to call me because she knew I would understand.  Apparently, she took a shirt off a few weeks ago and with it came off an earring that she loved.  She had searched high and low with no luck, until her eldest daughter put on a sweatshirt and out fell the earring.  My aunt had never worn that sweatshirt.  That happened right after a particularly difficult weekend for my aunt and her family.  She and I both laughed about how my grandfather had made it happen so she’d know he was watching out for her.
I know people might think I’m reaching a little bit.  That’s fine.  I guess I just think if more of us really watched what happens around us – really paid attention to the things we just can’t seem to explain – more people would believe in something beyond ourselves.  I don’t mean spiritually beyond ourselves, I just mean that I see things all the time that I can’t quite explain – and I like to think that someone out there, or up there, has sent me a little sign.  And, coincidentally or not, they often come when I most need them.
*PS: It’s been a long time since I’ve given myself time to write.  There is no better time than getting some sort of mystery flu/cold to lie around and write, right?  I would like to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who commented about Lucy – people I’ve never even met wrote some of the sweetest words to me, and my sweet Pa had some great words of advice and reminders about my own childhood.   I really, truly thank you.  Lucy has had a really, really good past week or two – she’s still not eating at school, but she’s not so terribly sad and anxious anymore, and honestly, we are so glad to have our funny kid back that we are willing to believe the rest will work out eventually.