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???

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Little Forgetful???

We are on vacation in the tiny hamlet of Desmond Beach.  Ninety three year old mom is with us.  She experienced a little tummy trouble early on, so she was being careful of what she ate.  Yesterday, everything seemed to have settled down so I offered her some food.  She said a half of a banana would do the trick.  I proceeded to mosey off to the kitchen, stopped at the couch, took a nap and totally forgot about the banana!

After my nap I was walking around oohing and aahing the waves, when I remembered the banana.  I went to mom and said,  " I forgot to give you the banana, and took a nap instead!"  Her reply, " oh, I thought I ate it! "

Talk about memory loss!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Juy 4th - a slice of Americana

I remember taking a class in "Principal School" called "School Climate".  I got it.  Essentially it was about supporting the culture of your school and it had nothing to do with race or ethnicity.  It had everything to do with HOW THINGS WERE DONE!!!!  Amazing, how differently things are done depending on where you live - in this country!

My first experience with people 'doing things differently' was when I attended a wake for the brother of the custodian of our school.  I walked into the funeral home to see most of the family dressed in jeans and jean jackets.  My little Irish Catholic heart shook.  Jeans at a wake?  The deceased was also dressed in jeans attire.  Wow, people really did that?  Our practice had always been church attire for wakes.  How presumptuous of me.

A different wedding consumed my attention on the 4th of July.  Now I am a woman who came of age during the 60s, so I should not have blinked, but, somehow I have returned to my more conservative roots . The pretty bride wore white.  The dress was cut short in front with a longer train in the back; she wore brown cowboy boots, and a red, white, and blue veil with silver, blue, and red stars on it.  I was so star struck, I missed the bouquet.

The groom's father roamed around during the brief ceremony, packing a weapon by the way, and laughingly saying  "I object" to the minister's query"....speak now or forever hold your peace."  No matchy, matchy for the wedding party.  Each girl wore whatever she wanted.  The first girl garnered some nervous attention.  I swear she was a 65DD, she had a strapless dress on and was continually placing her body parts back into the dress!  I saw probably $100,000.00 worth of tattoos, mostly large, some colorful- there was everything from religious symbols to words and everything in between.

Why am I telling the reader all of this?  I related my experience to my spouse when I arrived home.  His response - priceless and true-  "so you have just experienced a slice of Americana."

My observations:  everyone had a great time.  There were no long faces, there was a great deal of laughter.  The food - all home cooked- was delicious.  Kids ran around as kids do in a hall, families chatted.  The elderly mixed easily with the youth - and the school personnel? Well, we all looked like a table full of stiff necked teachers!!!  The stereotype lives!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Can you use some board games and toys for the kids? Good Doing III

This was a tough one.  A very kind parishioner said her grandkids had outgrown their board games, puzzles, and toys.  Could we make use of them?  Sure!

 I walked into the school the next day and walked through a wall of stale cigarette smell (like thick, awful, stale) and a dust ball.  The dust ball was similar to the one that followed Charles Shultz's Pigpen through his Charlie Brown Life!

No argument here - the "gift" went right back out the door to the trash.

Sometimes "givers" assume that it does not matter the condition or smell of a gift - a poor kid will like anything!

The "Good-doers" Part II

The next group to have our students as recipients of Christmas giving was the high school that was connected to our building (in name only).  They moved to the suburbs, and the elementary school took over the old high school building.

The high school had a Giving Tree.  Each of our student's first name, age, and sex was listed.  Then the H.S. students could choose the student for whom they would buy.  There was a service group that would coordinate everything with the help of advisors and the labor of the school secretary.  Thank you, Chris!  The service group would bake cookies to be brought to the school as a treat for the students on the day the gifts were delivered.

The challenge with this activity was keeping the kids in their skins when they knew the high schoolers were coming.  Talk about wild energy and electricity running through the building.  All in all this was a good experience.  Had one teacher meltdown when she refused to let the kids have their gifts because she wanted them to "settle down".  Not possible, believe me, when this giving gets rolling.

Occasionally, a child would throw a tantrum because they didn't get what someone else had.  One girl, and she was a girl with a girl's name, consistently received a boy gift every year for four years!  How does that happen?  The H.S. students did a splendid job, and as the practice occurred each year, it got better.  We tried to get the H.S. kids more involved with our student body, but distance between the two schools prevented any regular visits.  I suspect, too, that the powers that be at the H.S. were leary of the "neighborhood" in which we educated children.  (Didn't stop the alums from coming back to see their old stomping grounds and reminisce. )  Oh well.  This "good doing" created some very positive memories for our kids.  Good 'nuff!

The "Good-doers"

A car conversation brought to mind the "Season of the Good-Doers".  Please do not interpret this as a criticism of those who help others.  It's more a commentary on being a thoughtful giver.  The school secretary was a kind, happy person who was rather direct in speaking her thoughts.  She coined the phrase "the good-doers".

Our school consisted mainly of families who lived at or below the federal poverty level.  In many ways, the poverty was one of spirit as well as financial.  At Christmas, we would be flooded with calls from organizations that wanted to help by providing gifts for the kids.  I wasn't certain how to orchestrate the whole process, so group by group I will relate the story.

There was the wealthy suburban church that wanted to provide a gift for each child.  I asked them to purchase books for reading for the kids.  That went over like a lead balloon, but I persisted and won.  The teachers developed lists of fun books for the students to have in the classroom.  Of course, then I dealt with the few teachers who listed some book out of print that they loved as a kid and were certain that our urban kids would love.  I didn't learn to review the lists (in my spare time) until I would get phone calls saying the giver couldn't find the book.  Some people would give up and give gift cards, so the teachers would have to do the shopping (in their spare time!)

Of course, after the first year, I did ask the teachers to type the lists because I ended up retyping quickly scribbled lists that were rushed to make the deadline.  I am not in any way criticizing this giving practice.  We got some great books for the children and they were able to take them home at the end of the year.  But (and isn't there always one?) the church people required that we go out to their church and pick the gifts up.  It was probably a 50 minute drive from my home.  We did it - for the kids.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Speaking of retirement- 42 years in a plastic bag

I spent this morning going through a bag of files I brought home two years ago.  In one bag I found two half bottles of Pepto Bismol.  Does that speak for job stress or what?  It was a grin to read all the paperwork:  grant rewards, letters of recommendation, old contracts (since I worked for a parochial school, they were a hoot), certificates, workshop agendas, transcripts, and credentials etc.

It's funny - forty two years in a plastic bag.  They were good years and challenging and growth filled years.  I want to try and resurrect some of my memories and chronicle them in these writings.


Received an email from one of my teachers.  (I retired two years ago!).  One of our former students shot and killed himself last week.  He was 21, and left three children.  The reality hit when I read the obituary.  J. was such a smart kid.  He wasn't "bored", he just did not see the value in what was going on in the classroom.  He wouldn't do his work, so I consulted with his grandmother and I allowed him to pass on the basis of his standardized test scores.  The kid scored off the charts.  My hope was  he would find the challenge in high school that he needed.

I recall speaking with him at the last graduation I attended.  He had been booted from his high school and made some choices that earned him more trouble, but it seemed as if he was turning his life around.  It is a tragedy that plays out all over this country.  Don't know what is the answer, and I know that this isn't just another urban problem.