Friday, February 20, 2009

GOOD WORDS are good things

On Wednesday at school my little friend announced, “The best thing about school is going home.”

At recess a different 3rd grade student told another duty teacher and me, “Why don't you mind your own business and get out of my face!”

Taking the kids into lunch, yet another 3rd grader said he was going to go to school in Mexico next year, and in Mexico you don't even have to go to school if you don't want to, and in Mexico you can beat up your teachers if you want.

On Wednesday afternoon I came home feeling exhausted and wiped out.

On Thursday, my little friend told me as I arrived and hung up my coat, “The purpose of school is to drain all the fun out of you.”
I felt like saying, “I know just what you mean.”

I decided my little friend is going to come up with 3 good things about each day, which is a stretch for someone who finds even recess disappointing in its limitations. So I made a book and we are looking for 3 positive things to say about each day, and it can't be that he gets to go home. He did say that the day had gone by very fast and it was a good thing because it meant he got to go home quicker, but I jumped in and shushed him after “good thing” when we were writing it so it reads brightly, “The day went by fast fast and it was a good thing”.
Friday I let him count “recess”, but that was a favor, and fortunately he didn't remember that his frisbee had gone over the locked fence to the softball diamond and that a good portion of his recess was spent kicking the fence and saying, “Stupid fence”. The other two good things today were “I get to go to Choice Time” and “I got all my work done so I could go to Choice Time” (never mind about teachers who are reduced to threats and bribes to get some work produced). I wanted him to throw in a friend's name, any one he'd chatted with or who had been nice to him, but no way was I going to hear more than three things.
I also started writing on black paper his stuck-in-a rut negative thoughts, such as “Teachers get their happiness from making you unhappy”. These are going to be either ceremonially burned in a fire or made into ankle chains for my little friend as an object lesson.

Friday (today) as the kids were getting on the bus a girl shoved a boy and the teacher remonstrated, “Use your words”. That's our mantra with kids learning to get along and with kids like my little friend who don't know how to express frustration appropriately. But my internal response was to cringe, “No, please, no, not the words. I'm so tired of words”. As I left the school another assistant and I agreed it had been a long week. Even with Monday off, she said, hadn't it just gone on forever? At my car, my fellow duty teacher told me she just feels so weighed down, like she can hardly breathe. She repeated that feeling, “I can't breathe, it's so heavy, all this negativity.”

I have started taking a writing class on Tuesday nights. It's not very instructive, really, the purpose is just to get people to write. So the facilitator gives a prompt, ie, “On the way here, I ....” or “She knew she was in trouble when...” and then we are supposed to write for 8 or 10 minutes on our choice. Our pens are supposed to keep moving, even if we are writing, “Help! I don't know what to say and why did I sign up for this dumb class?” (But I haven't thought or written that yet because I really do like it in a non-learning, off the top of my head blathering sort of way. ) Anyhow, after that 10 minute write, we voluntarily read our work to the group and the group responds in a positive way. This is the point: we can only say positive things, such as “good word choice”, or “colorful imagery” or “Wow, that was really powerful”. We can't elaborate on the story they told or share our own experiences, just focus on their writing. It is a RULE: ONLY GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK.

At my first class I read my entry to “On my way here”;
I was talking to my husband on our cell phones and accidentally turned right instead of left. What had been intended as a friendly 'touching base' with him , reminding him that I was going to my writing class, became a snappish complaint, “Rats!! Now I went the wrong way! I have to get off the phone....”
The class laughed and chortled several times. I was ridiculously pleased and blushed with success. Then came the feedback. The girl who had laughed loudest said she liked the direct quotes and she couldn't believe there was anybody who still said “Rats”. She hadn't heard that in years!

I guess we shouldn't look too closely even at the positive feedback we get!

I am thinking that the life lessons here are:
*Keep track of the good things that we encounter each day, and build our thought life there.
*Determine to say good words, because besides discouraging ourselves with negative talk we depress everyone around us, too.
*Write the negative talk on a scrap of paper or a rock and then burn it up rather than carry it around as a burden. Don't get weighed down.
*Give only positive feedback, and practice doing it.


During music class on Wednesday the assignment was to break into groups of 4 or 5, choose an instrument for each person (triangle, bells, wood blocks, hand drum, sticks, etc.)and as a group write a composition with notation of short and long sounds. They have been doing this for a few class periods.

As I watched, a small 3rd grade boy left his group and went into an empty corner of the room. He sat "criss-cross applesauce" and then pulled his feet up onto his lap. He closed his eyes and stretched his arms out with his thumbs and forefingers touching. He took deep breaths. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

"What are you doing?" I asked him. "Tai chi", he said. "Why?" I asked. He said,
"My group is in crisis"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Love Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes?

I've only Got 'Eyes' For You

Wanna Do the Mashed Potato?

Joined at the Hip

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head

Two for the Price of One

Eating for Two?

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, Blogees.

Although blogs have "Followers", I am no guru. Follow at your own risk. I take no prisoners nor disciples. I may lead you down the garden path, which is actually just where I am going today....

More and more winter has come. In moderate Portland, known for its mild winters, we have had extended cold snaps and repeated days of snow flurries! Remarkable. And winds that blow us right off the school playground. In fact, the weathermen are having their best season ever, keeping people spellbound.

Darling Ron scraping my car off. Yet again.

A lovely vision one morning.

The Sango Kaku by the front door with nice fluffy pillows of snow

Nighttime Drama

Yesterday, February 7, 2009, I woke up to blue sky and sunshine streaming in the window. I felt excited about going out to work in the yard. Those of you who know me well will know what a rare morning this was indeed.
Remember my last blog when I took the vows of maintain, restore, and create? Yesterday as I restor
ed the yard from winter's travesties and owner's neglect I realized I need to add another word to my themes for the year. Recover. Us, that is. From trying to maintain and restore so much in one day that at 4 PM we crawled into the house muscles quivering, legs cramping, thirst quenching and lock-jawing. I was afraid to sit down for fear I'd never get out of the folded formation.

But what a glorious day! Ron weeded the beds along our 170' of street frontage, trying to figure out what was planned, what had volunteered, what was dead-and-gone or just dead-until-spring revival. He admits the annual/perennial definitions still confuse. He collected piles of debris, 3 garbage cans full.
I mowed the front yard, raked the beds around the house, weeded, and pruned. Ron pruned the big cherry which was encroaching on Matt's Memorial Weeping Cherry, and I took charge of the Scarlet Trumpet Vine which needed a firm hand.

The promise of a Yellow Magnolia tree.

The Queen Anne Cherry tree, a wonderful sight in blossom. Amanda's challenge is to get to eat the cherries before the birds do.

taking the Trumpet Vine to task. 55 degrees today.

The Witch Hazel about to burst.
I never noticed this configuration before, the dark pods that look dead and yet on closer inspection are vibrant with life about to emerge. What a metaphor for winter, and the hibernation mentality I spoke of in "Feeling Bearish". I wasn't lethargic--I was just resting up to teem with life when the sun came out!

When I was was weeding under the lilac bed I encountered an arch enemy vine that has nearly strangled the lilac and another tree as well in the past. When everything is in leaf, it is hard to see its invasiveness, but in these bare leaf times it looks harmless, just a scrawny little twine-like thing growing for a foot or so out of the ground. I pulled and pulled. I got 2 or three of them out. Ron came by and I got him to pull. He likes to hack at things with a rake so he did. But a root was left. He pulled and pulled and concluded, "This is the sort that only comes out by prayer and fasting!" (Mark 9:29) I got quite a kick out of the comparison to casting out demons. Another metaphor from the garden.

I have often thought of daily tasks as "pulling up baobabs" from The Little Prince.
"It is a question," the little prince said to me later on. "When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rose-bushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work," the little prince added, "but very easy."

Guess what! After 55 degrees yesterday, it was 32 degrees today and snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. That's okay with me. I have some things to do inside, too. Baobabs everywhere.