Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Aside on Aging

There has been a lot of conversation in this house lately about target audiences.  We are not the demographic the marketers want to reach.  Yet, when our peers are portrayed in the media, they are presented as muscular, trim, salty grey haired, clear skinned specimens of humanity.

Did we miss the boat????

AARP and other senior resources portray our counterparts as hip, running marathons, volunteering 25 hours a day, and generally, aging human beings who bounce out of bed at the butt crack of dawn and retire at night by the fire with a glass of wine.


Deadpoolman and I are fairly active sixty somethings.  When I compare us to the media image, we fall way short.  If you walk on a compacted, wet area of beach, it's pretty easy.  Have you walked in loose sand lately?  One looks a lot like a reeling drunk walking through that stuff.  It's work!  So, really, what does our aging population really look like?  We are not those slim specimens portrayed in the Viagra and Cialis commercials.  What's with the bathtub anyway?  I've never been able to figure that one out.  And we are not lying abed staring at the ceiling each day.

Who are we?

We are people who have paid their dues.  We live comfortably, but not extravagently.  We enjoy stretches of time without constraint.  We try new foods (some of us anyway).  We live more in the casual realm.  We enjoy our children and grandchildren.  We may be somewhat chunky around the edges and may be taking medication for blood pressure issues, but overall, we are spending (God willing) more time on this planet than the majority of our ancestors.

Be careful out there.  There are a lot of us.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Ballad of Kenny

"K" , a bouncy, talkative first grader was pretty sharp in the classroom, but definitely the bounciness and chattiness impeded his learning - and that of others, as well.  He seldom lived off the radar.  It just wasn't his nature.

It just happened to be Ash Wednesday.  My boss came in and informed me that Mr. and Mrs. - "K"'s parents wanted to meet with me.  No problem, though I didn't know what was the issue.  Oh, did I get enlightened.  Apparently at a family "Mardi Gras" party the evening before, "K"s cousin who also lived in that first grade classroom informed all present that "K" had been "taped to his chair' by the teacher.  When cousin Sean dropped that turd in the family punchbowl the proverbial excrement hit the fan.  The parents were livid, they were going to sue etc., etc.  I asked the parents to keep an open mind until we could speak with the teacher and get an explanation.

I went to the classroom, got the class covered, and quietly asked Mrs. F.  "Did you tape "K" to his chair?" Her response, "Why, yes, I did.  That happened quite awhile ago."  I really thought I needed some Depends at that point.  I indicated that we needed to meet with the parents and get some resolution to the matter.

Mrs. F. indicated to the parents that "K" had been exceedingly bouncy and kept getting out of his seat and walking around.  She used the word discipline and the dad went ballistic.  "No one disciplines my child.  That is my responsibility. " And he went on at length about his responsibility as a parent.  The pronouncements were dramatic and loud.  He was going to sue everyone including the Pope. 

I tried my best to get things settled down, but I was never clear on exactly what this "tape" incident was.  As a final gut punch, the mother burst into tears and said, "I'm pregnant.  We lost our last baby.  I can"t handle this.  I'm afraid I'm going to lose this baby."  Talk about throwing gasoline on the fire.  I ended our meeting by stating "I understand your concern.  Please feel free to meet with my boss.  Your child comes first, you need to do whatever you need to do."  They met with the big guy, but nothing ever happened.

Fast forward years later, Mrs. F. and I were discussing that situation.  She said, "I don't know what the big deal was.  I just strung some masking tape from the front of his desk to the back. (The desks were the old fashioned one armed type with the books contained underneath.)  It was loose.  I also made a large square with the tape on the floor surrounding his desk, and told him he could move around in that square.  At no time did any tape touch his body.  He could easily get up and move around!"  For the love of Pete.  That info never came out when we spoke with the parents, but they never gave the teacher a chance to explain.

My take on the whole thing?  Mom and Dad were embarrassed that Sean ratted out "K" at a family party.  There was a strong competition between the two cousins and they liked tattling on each other, but a family party took it into another dimension.  I don't really recall what the parents did, but I believe they removed him from the school.  Well, you win some, and you lose some.  I think that no one "won" this one!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"D"  Part II

Well, no need to say, but I will anyway, "D" walked (swaggered) in the next day.  He owned us big time.  I told everybody to just stand down and we would keep an eye on him.  The next day boded no better.  He started at lunch time with the mouth and belligerent attitude.  So, I told his teacher. A phone call would be made.

I called mom.  I explained what had happened since she and her husband had been in.  I told her that her son was acting like he owned the place.  Mom said, "I will be up at lunch."

True to their word, mom and dad showed up after lunch.  I filled them in on the last day and a half.  I assured them that "D" had been given a lot of rope because of the recent encounter.  They assured me, that they had not given him any power to play the fool.  Mom asked me to call him downstairs, and "Could we have a little private time in your office with him?"

No problem.  "D" came down flashing that wonderful grin, and I swear I heard it fall right off his face and hit the floor when he saw his parents.  They stepped into my office, closed the door, and basically, all hell broke loose.  I could hear the pounding and yelling all the way across the hall.  The sobs were Emmy worthy.  I knew they weren't hitting him, but they were smacking the  crap out of every surface in my office.  At one point, our school secretary, who was a tough New York girl, said "Boss Lady, you have to save him."  I said "When the fish tank comes flying down the hall I will intervene."

The cacaphony lasted about 3 or 4 minutes, and they walked out of my office.  Mom and Dad assuring me I would never have to call them again, and "D" was snotting, sobbing, and chuffing out an apology.  They did not lay a hand on him, but scared him within an inch of his teen years!  I never did have to call them again.  "D" didn't become a model student, but he came close.  Ironically, at the end of the year, they were moving out of the city.  Mom (the tough, scary, one) cried and said "I so wish he could stay here, I love this school!"

I think about that great smile.  I hope he put it to good use.  He was a neat kid.
"D" Part  I

Deonte was a skinny, bouncy eleven year old with that urban swagger only urban eleven year olds can have.  His mom assured me he was a good kid, somewhat misunderstood, would be an asset to our sixth grade, and even though this was his third school, there would be no problems.

Mom was a scary lady with very menacing eyes, and she had a tough demeanor.  I had a school full of great kids, so why not another?

So the year started out pretty unspectacular with "D".  Oh, did I mention that he had a million dollar smile?  The kid's infectious grin stole my heart.

Fast forward after Christmas: "D"'s teacher came to me stating that "D" was getting out of hand:  Talking out, talking back, and generally developing a disruptive attitude in the classroom.  After lunch that day, "D" came down to the office saying he had a bad migraine.  We called mom, she came in and said "I'll call his doctor."  Everything was hunky dory.  (Yeah right!)

After dismissal I was chatting in the office with teachers while we waited for the stragglers to get picked up.  A loud voice came roaring down the hall "Who the f*** put their hands on my kid?  i want to see them right now. "  I don't think the statement registered the first time, but the roar kept getting closer to the office with the "f" bomb leading the way.

I ran out into the hall and said "Ma'am, you can't talk like that.  There are children all over the place."  She replied with more "f's" and who dared to lay a hand on her child.  A small voice came from behind me "Ma'am, I put my hands on your child."  I nearly fainted.  The Music teacher, Mr. F.  had spoken those words.

I felt a lot like a border collie trying to herd the confrontation into my postage stamp sized office.  The mother, the child, the teacher, and I crowded into the cramped space with mom yelling the entire time.  Finally, it quieted, and I asked the teacher to explain.  It seems "D" decided to enter the building backwards with half the school walking the right way behind him.  Mr. F. said he told him numerous times to face the right way and "D" ignored him.  "So", Mr. F. said, "I put my hands on his shoulders like this (and he demonstrated with pinkies out) and I gently turned him around.  Mom started roaring again, she was going to press charges, her husband was on his way...........

The school psych, a soft spoken gentleman, walked (squeezed) in and introduced himself.  "I'm Mr. J.  the school psychologist.  How can I help?"  Mom looked like someone hit her.  She kept smacking and rubbing her forehead, then said, "I can't stand this. I have to leave."

Dad showed up about a half an hour later.  He was much calmer, sat down with the teacher and me and listened to what had occurred.  Though dad was reasonable he made his wishes very clear, "My son is not to be touched by anyone."  I said that was noted, but this was a safety issue, not a punitive one.  We did not use any kind of corporal punishment in our school.  I asked dad what he wanted us to do when "D" became uncooperative.  He said, "I don't care how many times you calll me.  I will be up here and I will deal with him."

My directive to the teachers followed his request.

(See Part 2)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Okay, so am I on Undercover Boss???  Or...What happens when corporate shows up....

Probably not, but it is fun to ponder.  My car was hit three weeks ago and sustained a considerable amount of damage.  Since it is only two years old, it really could not be totaled.  Today we picked it up and returned the rental car to Enterprise.

When we arrived at Enterprise we were greeted by no fewer than three people.  A fourth was dressed in a SUIT.  He was friendly and very young: good looking suit, but it was a wee bit large. One could almost feel the nervous energy crackling in the air.   Everyone was bustling around, this was totally different from our experience three weeks ago when we picked up the car.  Oh they were nice and all, but took their time getting things done.

We took care of all the paperwork, and I was ready to get back in my car and head home.  I walked out the door and dad was standing there with a grin on his face.  One of the workers offered to vac out our car.  Imagine that!  Talk about jumping through hoops because corporate was looking over shoulders.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Crayon Therapy

Speaking of crayons, I learned a valuable lesson this summer.  When we were on vacation, our four year old granddaughter was the only child with a lot of adults.  So her mom brought plenty of toys to help occupy / settle her.  One day she was coloring and she asked her mom and me to color with her.  We got down to business and began coloring the princesses' dresses.  After awhile I looked up to see O. dancing around playing and my daughter and I were madly coloring away!

I had a teacher who kept files full of pictures to color when they were done with their work.  She was onto something with that.  When the kids became jumpy and out of sorts, she would hand out pictures for the kids to color.  It was amazing to see how they quieted down and calmed.  It wasn't a daily ritual, and the practice was a very non-confrontational way of reining the kids back in.  It was especially successful during testing days when students needed to be respectful of others when they completed their tests.

Today's kids are so over stimulated by their world that a little bit of coloring is an inexpensive therapy!!
 Prang vs Crayola and the First Days of School

It's that time of year:  the first days of school.  This is the third "first days of school" that I have missed because of retirement.  As I view the various ads for school supplies and clothing that the well-prepared student needs to begin a successful school year, I think of the crayons.

There was and is nothing like a new box of crayons on the first day of school to resurrect that hope for a great school year.  When we were kids, we didn't need all of the "stuff" today's kids need, and the big thrill was getting that box of new crayons.  In my day, they were Prang Brand- the artists choice.  And believe me, they were good crayons that made good color.  Today's crayons are of varying quality.  None can match the quality of those Prangs!

There are smells that are strong associations for the new school year.  Everything shines; even the summer dust motes smell good when they shift around from the motion of little feet meeting a waxed, clean floor.

There's a crispness in the air of the impending fall, and there is a crispness in the clothing.  Uniforms and shoes crackle with their newness.  Teachers, tired from their busy summers, are fresh with new ideas and plans, administrators are already looking to getting the year rolling with new ideas, whether it be a breakfast program, newly painted walls, a better enrollment, new teachers beginning their careers, or a "new" idea for instruction that shows promise.

Sadly, what becomes of this electric excitement, crispness, enthusiasm, and hope in June???