About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Genevieve and Joseph

Genevieve, 5, and Joseph, 1
Two days ago, as we got out of the car on a cold, moonlit night, Genevieve asked me, "Mom, can I marry Joseph (her brother)?" I explained that she couldn't. "Why? Because it's the rules?" She looked pensive. Why can't she marry someone she loves? And she does, indeed, love Joseph.

Still, today when I got home it was to Joseph, held by Anthony, with blood running down his chin. The crime had just occurred. "Genevieve hit him in the face with her knee. She says it was an accident," said Anthony. Joseph was all smiles and clearly fine, but a knee to the face is still a big deal. And those who have seen Genevieve in action with Joseph know that it was probably not an accident. Genevieve followed close behind Anthony (we were all in the driveway still), smiling unconvincingly. With false bravado, she began, "We got The Smurfs from Redbox! So we can a have a family ..." At this point her face crumbled and she started to cry. "...movie night." She ran inside ahead of us. Later we found her hiding in my closet, sobbing.

Sibling love is so deep, and so complicated, and I think for a five year old used to being the baby of the family for four years, it is just too much at times. Tomorrow is another day, and we will start anew.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Race to Nowhere

My mom and one of her biggest fans, Genevieve
Let me start this entry by saying that I am so grateful to my mom. Though I have been crazy for as long as I can remember, taking on extra courses and activities with abandon since preschool (I emerged the first day crying because we hadn't done enough), my mom has always, always encouraged rest and balance. She pulled me out of school for a week in first grade to go on a family ski trip ("Mrs. Smith was SO mad at us"), told me that the C I got in 8th grade math was OK, as long as it was the best I could do (it was), made me go to bed earlier when I started getting up at 5 am to play tennis before school in high school, and, even recently, has let me know that it's alright to not do the dishes and make the beds every day (or week) with a schedule as packed as mine. Without my mom, I would be completely insane. Though a colleague at work recently told me that I was crazy (I was moving a desk up a flight of stairs by myself), I took the comment in stride, because I know that I am the only one pushing myself to do such ridiculous deeds. No one else expects it. I do it, ultimately, for my own enjoyment. Which brings me to Race to Nowhere.

Have you seen this documentary, produced by Vicki Abeles? I finally saw it tonight at a showing at my school organized by another teacher (this is the only way to see it, I think). Though persuaded by some of my students the buy and wear a bracelet for $1 ("Stop Racing To Nowhere! Embrace Balance!"), I wasn't sure if I would like the film, which is about "the dark side of America's achievement culture." After all, I just recently watched another film (organized by another teacher at my school) called "2 Million Minutes," which documents how Americans (read: lazy Americans) are falling further and further behind other nations, and how our educational system needs to address this. But I loved Race to Nowhere, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes--as a teacher and as a parent--when the lights came on. The auditorium was dark and I only had scrap paper in my bag, but I managed to write down a few questions and comments from the movie. Here they are: "Kids come to us with a love of life and learning. Can we not take that away from them?" "Rates of adolescent anxiety and depression are soaring" "Kids are 'doing school' but are burnt out by college" "People who are successful aren't the ones who go to the top schools. They're persistent, very very persistent. And they really love what they're doing." "In today's educational system, the joy and wonder of learning is lost" And, finally: "Why can't happiness be as important as reading and math skills?"

I want my children, and my students, to be happy. Hard work is a part of that, yes, and so is mastering skills so important in today's world (math, literacy, communication, science). But Race to Nowhere is a powerful reminder that time with friends and family--and perhaps, most importantly, with ourselves--is just as important. Thank you, mom, for taking so much time and effort over the years to make sure that I ended up somewhere, and somewhere I liked. And thank you to produce and director Vicki Abeles as well, for repeating the message in such a powerful way.