You may not know…

I’m a little short on inspiration today, and yesterday for that matter.  I only have seven more days of writing for my Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, but I don’t really feel like writing.  I want to snuggle under the covers and go to bed early.  But one thing about NaNoWriMo, or any writing challenge really, is that on days like today, when the struggle is real, I can count on my pride to be enough motivation to get me through.

So I’m going to share some things you, my readers, might not know about me.

  1. I’m afraid of walking on broken glass.  You can thank my dad who let me watch Die Hard a little bit too young.  I haven’t been able to stop worrying about pulling shards of glass out of my feet like John McClane.  Ouch.
  2. I’m blind as a bat.  I started wearing glasses when I was in late elementary school, ensuring middle school would be even that much more awkward.  I almost never wear my glasses now because I see better with my contacts and I’m a little too vain to endure wearing my thick-lensed glasses.
  3. My favorite color is yellow.  Or pink.  But I always wear black.  I’m told I look pretty in blue.
  4. I value time alone.  A friend from church posted a really funny status on Facebook about how she’s likely sleep deprived because she values the quiet of a sleepy house too much to waste it on actual sleep.  I couldn’t agree more.  I value getting lost in a good book, and I am energized by my time alone.  But sometimes I say that I value time alone when I’m not so much seeking peace but pushing others away.  Yeah, not always a good thing.
  5. I’m really sad because one of my favorite foods in the world is movie theater popcorn, but when I went to see The Muppets with Cari, the smell made me a little sick.  Am I growing out of one of my favorite things?
  6.  I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, but I complained enough that my parents called them off.  I could tell you that my teacher pushed mechanical pencils into my fingers when I played the wrong notes, and that was the reason for my complaints, but I hated practicing.  I’m so sad that I didn’t stick with it and I would love to learn.  I have a feeling that I’ll be a 50 year old taking lessons one day, playing scales and arpeggios or preparing some piece for a recital with a bunch of 9 year olds.  Do 50 year olds taking piano lessons for the first time even play in recitals?
  7. When I was in high school and college I worked as a lifeguard during summers for extra money.  In Virginia, it is more expensive to NOT have a lifeguard and pay for the extra insurance than it is to pay a teenager $8/hour, plus they keep the place clean.  I had to certify to be a lifeguard twice, which meant I had to take a swimming endurance test that involved holding a brick over my head while I tread water for three minutes.  I thought I was a strong swimmer, but that test wore me out.  I made it and worked as a guard through college, taking days off after I had graduated to interview for my first REAL job.  I was super tan.
  8. I dated a boy in college who threw rocks at my window to get my attention.  At the time I thought it was super romantic.  I look back now and realize that he was kind of a creeper.  He had tattoos and a drinking problem.  Not the wisest choice.
  9. I have three tattoos.  I got the first one when I was 18, at college, and didn’t need to ask permission.  But when I came home for summer break and knew I would be wearing a bathing suit all summer (see #7) I decided to tell my mom.  She was driving on Route 66 on our way to Tyson’s Corner Mall (that’s a pretty busy stretch of road).  I started the conversation by saying, “Mom, I have something to tell you.”  We’re lucky she didn’t run off the road for all she thought I was going to say.  She took it in stride, though, and made me tell my dad.
  10. My mom took me on a trip to Thailand after I graduated from college.  I realized how sheltered I had been and how much bigger the world was than I had ever imagined.
  11. Jane Austen is my favorite, but she hasn’t always been.  When I was in college, I studied abroad in Bath, England, with a program called Advanced Studies in England.  A handful of students from my college, Mary Washington, enrolled to take a film studies class on Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.  We also had to take one of two core classes, and I took Jane Austen in Bath.  Persuasion, set partially in Bath, was required reading.  The experience was phenomenal.  We traveled to Cornwall, to Wales, to Stonehenge, and I fell in love with Austen and England.
  12. I hate folding clothes.  Ugh.  If you came to my house, you would find an pile of laundry on the floor in the living room that no one particularly cares to deal with.  I would rather be reading.  Don’t judge.
  13. I got everything I ever wanted when I started teaching AP English in 2009.  I realized then that I needed to make some new goals for myself because I’m not sure that I’m one of those people who can teach in the same place for 30 years of a career.  There’s a stability and security in that, but I want more.
  14. Stu and I sometimes communicate better by text, especially when we’re fighting.  I guess it helps us to get our frustrations out without saying something that will really hurt.
  15. When we are too busy, we calendar date nights and family time.  We share a Google calendar so we can see the stuff we have on deck.

Whoa.  That was a much easier 1,045 words than I expected.  Thanks for reading, everyone!

Ugh. The science fair.

Earlier this year, Cari came home with a packet from school and a note that explained that since she’s in third grade, she would need to complete a required science fair project.  At first, I was really excited.  Cari showed early interest in magnets, so I jumped on the chance to help her with something she was actually into.  But in the months that followed, I (as mom) went through a ridiculous range of emotions.  Thankfully, this story ends well, because if it didn’t… well, I might not be sharing it here.


 

Blogging is eminently more satisfying than what I should be doing… that is, helping my daughter with her first ever Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fair project.  For real.  I have so many feelings.  First, I have all of these uncomfortable flashbacks to elementary school, sitting at this very table, finishing some project or another while my mom gripes at me because I procrastinated.  Ugh.  That might be the worst part… the feelings that this project is bringing up in me.  Dread.  Angst.  Anxiety.  Reluctance.  Laziness.

Then there are the feelings of frustration with myself and with Cari.  I should have started this sooner.  I should have found a better way to get my kid engaged.  I should be kinder to my daughter when she gets bored and frustrated to keep her from shutting down.  I should be tougher on my kid when she gets bored and frustrated to build her stamina.  How will she ever become some important innovator without these skills?  How will she ever be successful in school if I don’t instill the desire to discover, to learn in her?

Finally, there are the feelings I have as a teacher.  I know that Cari should be doing this work by herself.  She should be learning the scientific process.  She should be engaged in inquiry.  She should be doing this work.  She should WANT to do this work.   But she’s in third grade, and much of the content we’re working through together, the nature of magnets, how they work–that in itself is pretty complicated, involving atomic level activity that I don’t really understand myself–and questions of scientific inquiry that I don’t know how to answer.  For example, the project requires that students construct a hypothesis:

The purpose of creating your hypothesis is to identify what you think will happen based on research that was collected.  The hypothesis needs to be worded as an “if… then… because…” statement explaining the cause and effect relationship that is being investigated.  Evidence from your research needs to be used to support and justify your thinking.

Cari wrote the following:

“If a magnet is heated, then it will be stronger because they will become warmer.”

Now, I realize there is some circular reasoning present here.  I’ve worked on that with Cari.  But to explain why she thinks a magnet will be stronger when it is heated requires some very complex research.  In fact, the research doesn’t support that conclusion.  There is no reason why a heated magnet should be stronger than a cooled magnet.  But this is what my daughter wanted to study.  So we studied it.  

I’m not opposed to this project.  Lord, I hope it helps Cari get interested in STEM, because as it stands, she’s very much her mother’s daughter, loving stories and the arts.  At least she’ll have a job if she loves and excels in STEM.  I’m not opposed to the time it has taken.  I am opposed to the implication that my third grader could independently complete a STEM project like the one she’s been assigned with any real scientific accuracy.  She doesn’t know how to effectively research scientific concepts, nor does she know how to construct a research plan.  She doesn’t know how to write a hypothesis or an abstract.  And I don’t know how to teach her.


 

We finished Cari’s project two days before it was due.  I’m ashamed to admit that there were tears, not only from Cari but from me.  I can only hope that Cari doesn’t remember her mother’s freak out, but the joy and pride she felt when she went to the school science fair.  Because that was all her.  For as much drama as the backboard caused, Cari was the one to present the information, explain the experiment to the judges, and communicate all she learned.  We must have done something right.