education

Molding Clay… You Never Know What You’ll Make

Today I moved a kid to a new table. It wasn’t without many warnings. It wasn’t with malice. It was simply because he could not manage being in the same spot with his friends. Nor could he manage to sketch and finish a super hero project without taking clay that didn’t belong to him and start rolling it across the desk.

Him remaining there, day after day, was akin to me before I was sober. Despite promises I would not drink four glasses of red wine and two buckets of chicken wings, all bets went out the window if I was super hungry and tired… after a long week with middle schoolers… and you sat me with my girlfriends in front of a bottle of wine. Or two. I went from solid and honorable mama to a lying liar who lies… to herself. Nope, like me on a Friday at happy hour, that kid needed to moved from that situation.

I had him write me a letter as to why he was moved. Not unlike my other student’s reaction, his letter surprised me.

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(That reads: “I can tell you hate me, but you don’t have to tell me. If you do hate me I’m fine with it and you don’t have to say that I’m ‘amazing’. I just wanted to play with clay.”)

It made me sad. “I can tell you hate me.” Really? I’m not really sure if this is a typical middle school reaction, or if this is the result of too much black and white social media influence. “You said the wrong thing… you’re out!” or “You gave me a compliment about my dress… you’re in!” That is until I make a mistake and compliment someone else’s dress and then it means I don’t like yours as much and “I’m out!”

I have no idea 100% what is going on half the time, but one thing I do know how to do… thanks to really messing up with my own kids and husband… is communicate better. I might not be able to pass down my hard earned knowledge to these kids, nor teach them how to make the perfect Origami swan, but I can attempt teach them how to switch their perspective. And sometimes that means just writing them back.

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I brought him to my desk. “Do you see that I boxed two things? One is your behavior. The other is you. I don’t like your actions all the time, but I’m not lying. I do like you. I really do think you’re amazing!”

He shrugged his shoulders and sheepishly walked away.

The truth? I really do think he’s amazing. The problem? He doesn’t think he’s amazing. But maybe, just maybe, a small note of encouragement can lodged in his brain that will spark a journey of self love.

Or he’ll end up stealing clay from Target.

I don’t know the end result of his life. But I know that I want to reach the end of mine knowing I did everything I could every day to be of service to someone.

And I want to reach the end of this night eating a fistful of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups. I’ve had enough spiritual growth for one day. It’s time for some chocolate and sugar.

PS: I owe some of you some blog readings! Tomorrow is the day. Thank you all for reading me so faithfully. My numbers have grown dramatically and it’s been such a blessing for me to write.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #36: Put your feelings for others in writing. When emotions are high, they can come back to it later and it could make a big difference!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, self improvement, spirituality

Life Death and Big Pink Flowers

Today we officially said goodbye to my father in law. It wasn’t a big funeral. It was a small group of us: my husband, his mom, sister, me and the kids. We took my father in law’s ashes and spread them out on the ocean.

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It was a weird mix of sadness and relief. Sadness that my husband and his family had to bid farewell to a man they weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to. (It happened so fast. Good for him, not so easy for the rest of us.) But relief, too, because now everyone can move forward with the healing process.

I have found that the best support I’ve been able to offer is to give less advice, ask more questions and just listen. This is not the time for me to “fix” anything. Sometimes things just are what they are. At least I’m not fixing problems that occurred from putting my foot in my mouth.

All this silence has given me an awful lot of time to think. And today, what struck me most during the solemn affair was how, in the end, we all go back to the earth. We can strive to sell books or teach classes or have nice homes, but at some point… if we’re lucky… someone is carrying our remains in a bag and wishing us well on journey into the next spiritual realm.

Maybe this sounds depressing, but to me, it takes the pressure off. In my faith, either Jesus died for me or he didn’t. If he did, then maybe I don’t have to sweat the tough stuff so much. Maybe I can grieve and feel those pains of loss, but at the same time laugh and feel the joy because I don’t call the shots. If this Jesus is who I hope he is, he promises something better after the dark fades. He promises that while certain people have gone back to the earth, new life will pop up with glory and color.

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I will try and remember that tomorrow morning when I face that same student who decided I was a terrible teacher. I will take a look at this same pink tree as I drive down the street and pray that whatever darkness she experiences in her home she can bury. I can pray that, like my savior, she can rise into something more vibrant and beautiful that brings joy and color to all who behold her.

And, well, if she can’t, I can, and I’ll let go. Because honestly, I can’t take on the world. Instead, like this picture taken last night when I stepped out of a house full of guests to breathe in the dusk, sometimes you just have to be reminded to sit ON shit rather sit IN it.

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(Yup, that’s four big stinky bags of fertilizer.)

Bottom line: May you grow flowers in your bullshit this week and make the best of whatever comes your way.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #35: When you’re dealt a lot of crap, grow flowers.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, Uncategorized

Ah, The Joys of Being Appreciated!

The alarm went off as usual at 530 am. And, as always, I jumped out of bed like a spring rooster crowing for joy.  With glorious anticipation I said the first three words of the day that always put me in a spiritual mind frame:

“Oh fuck this.”

Then I meditated for 7 minutes.

And didn’t do my Bible reading.

But I got up.

Only to discover we had no coffee.

But that’s okay. I would plow through anyway. I would eat well, drink water and just be of service.

But then I changed my mind and got two cups of coffee at the local Arco followed by a six pack of mini donuts.

The day continued with a pack of peanuts from the vending machine, a slice of pizza from a merciful student and one large brown banana. Nothing says health like lots of white flour, sugar and grease, right?

With that diet of champions, I had just enough energy to bust a student per class for sneaking their phone. By sixth period I was so done. Especially because the girl caught red handed has snuck her device on multiple occasions. Instead of sending her to the dean for each infraction, I thought I’d teach her the bigger lesson of accountability.

Today’s was: “Write me an essay about why you shouldn’t be on the phone, even if you don’t get caught,” I told her.

I wasn’t expecting a 10 page saga about integrity and how her loser sub kept her from sneaking clothing out of a department store down the road… about how I shifted her consciousness from a victim mindset to one of responsibility. But somehow I wasn’t expecting this either:

 

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She went on to add this gem:

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I had to scratch my head at that last line. I allow kids to sit together. I let them play music when they are sketching. We make vision boards and flip books. We listen to musicals and create super heroes. I even allow them to tell me what they are interested in learning and I will make that happen.

Oh well. At least she is a rare student who is unhappy with with me. Oh, wait, not true!

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Wow, she sure knows how to make a gal feel good. I can already hear the soundtrack to the montage of the film playing. .

I won’t lie. This letter really hurt my feelings. I have been trying really hard to make the best of a hard job. But at the same time, when I see these kinds of excuses and finger pointing, I have to remember that this attitude has nothing to do with me. It will only bite her in the rear down the road when someone far more important than a substitute art teacher (a crappy one at that) doesn’t put up with her sneakiness.

Or maybe this outcome will never happen. Maybe, like some of those entitled kids whose parents buy their way into everything, she will just float on through.

But somehow, somewhere, she will pay. Because when we don’t do what’s right we have relationships with folks who don’t do what’s right. We marry at our level of dysfunction and we have kids who learn that dysfunction. And then those kids land in our schools and they have the opportunity to bump into a teacher “who knows nothing about art” but knows a lot about making the best of a situation no one expects themselves to be in.

And to lose the opportunity to gain a bit of wisdom, well, that’s on them.

As for me, that student today taught me more than any university a rich parent could have bribed me into. She once again reminded me that we cannot worry about what another person thinks about us (or in my case a whole classroom!) but we have to just do our best, show kindness, and move on.

In Andrea speak, “Zero Fucks Given!”

Three slices of pizza, an extra large fries and large Diet Coke later, I’m ready to stop ruminating about my less than ideal day. Instead I will sleep tight because of my carb coma knowing I did my best and wake up to some delicious San Francisco Bay coffee. (Yup, this girl stopped at Costco before it closed. 8 packages of dark roasted pods prove to me that miracles are always at our finger tips.)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #34: Not everyone’s going to love you. Love yourself enough to try your best and then give them to God. (Bonus points if you pray for them. Extra bonus points if you’ll pray for me tonight!)

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, faith, self improvement, Uncategorized

Resentment, Submitting and Refunds

Every day in my classes I learn more than the 200 kids teach me. I learn that if I don’t want to resent something or someone, I must always (not 99% but ALWAYS) accept the challenging situation. It’s a lesson in submitting to what is, not what I wish it could be.

Yesterday’s lesson was in the form of a 150 pound hairy eighth grader who threw a basketball in frustration when I kicked him out of my class (after asking him to be quiet… then moving his seat… then giving him a personal work plan to help him stay on track… and then having the audacity to tell him to “rethink his actions next door” after he got up from his chair again and stole someone’s ear buds).

Today was a new day so I reminded him before class, “Let’s start over!” He agreed. Then he proceeded to play poker at his table rather than sketching. This was followed by playing loud rap music and then texting on his phone after I moved him yet again. (I’m sure tomorrow I’ll get the memo that my class is actually supposed to be an ‘Introduction to Partying.” I’ll bring the punch on Monday.)

I suppose I don’t get enough of these lessons at school, because tonight I found out that someone opened a case against me on Ebay for not sending a jacket quickly enough.

Ah, crap.

I had totally forgotten to check Ebay with all my classroom activities, but that wasn’t the buyer’s fault. They just wanted their item! And so, like what I did to my eighth grader, they opened a case.

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The thing is, though, unlike my student, I had communicated my part in the error and told them I would ship the jacket. Which I did. They even received the jacket.

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But that didn’t keep them from letting go of their resentment. They wanted a full refund. What could I do? I looked at my part more closely which was… in addition to shipping the jacket late to begin with, I didn’t ship it until late Monday after saying I’d ship it early morning.

Prior to getting sober and my spiritual practice – which henceforth will be known as My Master’s Class – I’d have seen every damn thing wrong with this buyer’s case against me “Lighten up!” I’d scoff. “It’s only $4 fucking ninety nine… BIG DEAL!”

But that voice inside me, which doesn’t curse… who enjoys tacos as much as I do… who I refer to as the Holy Spirit, whispered, “Andrea, child, forgetting to mail something isn’t going to get you cynical. But continuing to defend it will.”

What could I do? I didn’t want to resent the buyer resenting me, so I did the only thing I could think to do in my Resentment/Submit/Refund formula.

I hit “Submit” on Paypal and “Refunded” him.

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The bad news? Some schmo in Southbay has a perfectly lovely faux velvet Prince jacket for their toddler for free because of my error.

Not being angry and letting it go? I’d have refunded a hundred bucks for that. ($101? That’d be too much. I’d rather stay pissed a few more days. But I have a big weekend coming up. I’ll take the serenity win now.)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #33: Submit to Win. You’ll be Refunded in Serenity and suffer zero Resentments. Or be right and burn. It’s up to you.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Until next time

 

Coaching and Wellness, faith, self improvement

Take Two Shots of Empathy and Call Me in the Morning

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In yesterday’s post I spoke of a student who leaves me letters on my desk. In one she told me her grade was unfair. I wrote her back, telling her why it was not. Then she wrote me another one which really blew me away:

Dear Ms. Frizzle, 

Okay, I do not do my sketching in my sketch book because, well, I didn’t want to tell you but… I’m POOR. I do not want you to buy me one like you offered because then it would stand out from the rest of class and that would embarrass me soooo… I can’t do my work. 

There.

Student.

If I saw this story on BuzzFeed or Up, complete with tear jerking music and photos, I’d have all the feels.

In this case, I found myself rolling my eyes. 1) I had bought 40 sketch books for my many students who could not afford it or didn’t have resources to get one.

2) She HAS a notebook! I know because I have the same one has hers, courtesy of our local Dollar Store, and I thought we had swapped them by accident. I was annoyed to go running all over campus on my break to track her butt down, only to realize my composition book was sitting on my desk all along.

You know… in plain sight.

The moral of the story is this: I have in my class, in plain sight, a student who is not the norm. She finds it easier to make stuff up to get sympathy then to take responsibility for her work. In addition, she clearly has some special needs. Both facts don’t excuse laziness, but both deserve empathy. Because somewhere in between the mess of learning issues and home issues is a kid who is scared and reaching out for attention. I can’t fix her, but I can fix my own lazy and irresponsible traits by trying my best to give her loving but firm feedback.

The End Is Near… I Think

This gig might end April 2. On one hand I’ll be grateful to have jobs closer to where I live. On the other, I’ve grown rather fond of these rag tag kids. I have gotten used to their boisterous talking, confessions about boyfriend issues, ridiculous outbursts (duck honks? oh yeah) and artwork (all equal parts horrific and genius.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have learned way more from them than they have learned from me. And today, despite being so tired I could pass out on this public school computer stand, I’m grateful.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #32: Empathy: It’s My Drug of Choice. Feel Free to Get Addicted Yourself!

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Are you showing empathy today? If not to others, to yourself?

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, self improvement, spirituality

Hypocrite in Transition: Staple That to My Cardigan!

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Just yesterday I was saying how I meditate every day. If I don’t, I’m a mess.

Today I didn’t meditate. And shock of all shocks, I was a mess this morning.

I gotta admit it, I’m TIRED. I can’t keep on top of the waves of life that are rocking me these days. Work? I can do that. Kids to doctors? I can do that. But all the other stuff like remembering market items and birthdays… being on time for meetings or slowing down with my kids to really see them in the morning and not just rush rush rush while being cranky that my husband had the audacity to fix the pockets in my jeans so I don’t look like a vintage homeless giant? I’m kind of losing the game there.

Because I don’t allow myself to get into victim mode anymore, my mornings don’t define my entire day. There’s always an opportunity to start over. How? Hint: It doesn’t involve getting other people to behave. The only way for that to happen is to right size oneself. And the only way right size wonky, upside down thinking is to get in gratitude and be of service.

I’m no mathematician, but that’s a formula that has kept me from being homicidal or suicidal for the past year and so I gladly share it with you.

Ex: Today one of my students was sitting at my desk doing a big fat nothing. “Why do you let her sit at your desk?” you might ask. The answer: “Because she’s a bit on the fringe. I keep an eye on her. I make sure she’s doing work. Which, sometimes she doesn’t. And by “sometimes” I mean “often.” Clearly this is an IEP kid who needs some extra nudging. In a class of 40 with no aid, this isn’t easy. I can only offer lack of judgement and encouragement when the energy of the class transitions from savage ingrates to mediocre feral.

Knowing her wiring, and adding in the fact that she is not spitting, licking the desktop or throwing a basketball from one table to the next (yeah, that happened once) I gave her a passing grade during progress reports. So you can imagine my surprise when she left a homemade envelope on my note. It had more staples than guards at San Quentin. On it, in my black sharpie (which she did not ask permission to use, of course) read the words “MS. FRIZZLE. READ THIS. IN PRIVATE. NOW.” It was decorated with very sad cartoon drawings which, truthfully, were way better constructed than this awkward art teacher could have done. But I digress.

On the inside was a letter that read:

Dear Ms. Frizzle. I am very very upset with you. I got a B in this class and CLEARLY I deserved an A. I am very mad at you and want to tell you how WRONG this is. L.

What could I do? I wrote her back on the same strip of paper. I sealed it with more staples, hoping they wouldn’t poke her little paws and bleed all over my freshly washed desk. It read:

Dear L: I am so glad you took the time to write me! You spell very well! I am surprised that you are sad with your B, given that 25% of your grade is participation (you do not participate) 25% is your vision board (you did not complete this) 25% is your test (you have not taken any so that was an automatic A – Congrats on your easy win!) and 25% is behavior (you rarely take out your work after multiple prompts.) When you add this up you technically deserve an F in my class. Are you willing to change some habits, and your perception, to bring your B to an A by June? Ms. Frizzle. 

The responding note I received blew me away. In a good way. And it couldn’t have happened had I not switched my own perspective. Check in tomorrow to find out!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #31: When you get centered, other people behave. It’s really that simple!

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Are you ready to stop blaming other people for what only you can do which is to center yourself? If so, sign your name to commit to the journey. (For me it was commit or be committed. I’m glad I took the first step.) Let’s support each other!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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meditation, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

Fear: It’s Not a Great Spiritual Advisor (Then Why Is It On the Payroll?)

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So you’ll be tired of me saying this (or you won’t… you’ll just leave and only people interested in this topic will stay) but I pray and meditate daily. Faith isn’t something I just kind of have in the background. Instead, God is my everything. I don’t build God around my life anymore. I build my life around God.

This is not to say I’m perfect or think I have it all figured out. I do not. As my friend Ava likes to remind me, “I just don’t like to feel pain. I’ll avoid it at all costs!”This means I must take my medicine. When I take these pills in the form of a few simple steps to get out of self (hence prayer and meditation) I have a little space in between to respond rather than react. It means:

  •  I don’t have to flip off the sixteen year old driving single in the carpool lane when I’m running late to work and can’t, thanks to my damn conscious, do the same thing.
  • I don’t have to scream at 200 middle schoolers who just WON’T. STOP.TALKING simply because I was having a bad day and didn’t feel like dealing with their incessant “Can I use the bathrooms?” and “I can’t find my composition books” and “Why did I get a ‘D’ in this class… I mean… I don’t do anything, but I thought you liked me, Ms. Frizzle?!!!”
  • I can calmly listen to my husband growl at me when I’ve cut him off in conversation (when I swear to God I thought he was done with that topic 10 blocks ago) and just say, “Okay, I’m sorry.”

Prayer and meditation keep me from living in the What If’s. It allows me to live in faith, not fear. To quote my sponsor, “Fear is not a great spiritual advisor.” Fear keeps us looking to the worst case scenario. Faith keeps us in the moment. And in the moment, if we stay centered and breathe, it’s nearly impossible to not see God. I saw him today in:

  • That reckless teenage driver. “Dear God, keep him safe. That will be my boy in a few months.”
  • Those obnoxious annoying blessed middle schoolers. “Dear God, how wonderful that they have so much energy. May I learn to channel it and not squash their joy.”
  • My husband. He is dealing with a terrible personal loss. Maybe I wasn’t listening as closely as I could have been. How can I be of service and not make this about me?

I am not a saint. But I’m also not a victim. And this means I get to fire bad counselors. That means “See ya later, Fear! Your services are no longer needed.”

And guess what? If you relate to this statement, I give you permission to fire your advisor also. Let’s freelance life together!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #30: Fear is a terrible spiritual advisor. Hire yourself some faith today!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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parenting, writing

Repeat After Me: It’s Not About You. Good. Just Do That 1000000 More Times

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One of my kids didn’t get something they really wanted. They worked super hard for it but no, they still didn’t get it. It stung. Not just for them, but for me. Of course, since it wasn’t about me, I didn’t have the luxury of acting irritated or devastated or outraged. I just go to shake my head, say “Oh, I’m so sorry” and listen.

(I could have gone Operation Varsity Blues on their butt, but I had already blogged about how I’m so much better than that. I can’t be a hypocrite now, can I?)

The good news in the above paragraph, at least regarding my own experience, is that I’ve grown so much. Even a year ago I’d have been aghast at the results, dramatically trying to pump the kid full of encouragement and wisdom that, in the end, would have done nothing to ease the teen’s pain and instead only serve my own wounded pride at the rejection which, as I type this, makes no sense. My child is not me. It’s natural to feel bummed out for my kid. It’s quite another to personalize it. After all, in doing so, I’m not giving my kid time to grieve for themselves. Maybe they’ll be over it in a day. Maybe not for a month. At the time my kid found out about the results, I had no idea what they would need. But one thing they didn’t need was their hypersensitive mother swooping in on their grief, creating confusion. (A year ago it might have ended with my kid comforting me.)

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(um, sorry, I did.)

The issue with this reaction would have had the effect of having my kid feel less safe to tell me what is going on in their lives for fear of eliciting a nutty response.

sss.

Maybe you don’t suffer with this kind of attachment to your child’s outcomes.

Maybe you are the kind of parent that can easily let go.

I DO let go. Oon the outside.

But on the inside, it still hurts. It speaks to old wounds in me. It tugs at the child who was never picked for the lead in the play or for the sports team.

But… and this is the big takeaway: It’s NEVER my child’s job to suffer my hurts.

And in the case of my kid, they were over it the next morning. (This mama might take a few more weeks to process it… but I acknowledge that… and am calling the fact that I was able to sit with my kid for a good hour and help THEM process it a big win.)

Now if I can just get through the next week of work, burying a family member, signing up both kids for college courses, get my printer to work and put away two weeks worth of laundry we’ll be golden.

Not that it’s your issue ever, dear reader, to worry about this crazed blogger’s dumb schedule. But a prayer? That wouldn’t hurt. And Tuskany, you can bet your sweet ass I’ll be swinging by your place again this week. You saved me last Wednesday.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #29: It can be hard to let your kid feel disappointment, but let them feel it anyway. Just listen and don’t make it about you. (Oh, that last part. It’s not easy. We all have our hurts, don’t we? Oh, you are perfectly balanced? #LuckyYouIDon’tBelieveYou)

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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writing

The Terrible Poem Contest: I’m In!

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Many of you know that I’m writing a poem/day Shel Silverstein style for every day that I substitute teach. This means that at the end of the year I will have 100 poems.

All rhymes are all being written from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy who comes from a divorced family. He goes back and forth between his parents. Some of the poems are a bit more reflective, while others are of the goofy, gross and silly variety.

I suppose this is why I decided to throw my hat in the ring of this blogger’s poetry contest. The theme is “Under the Table” and should be a truly horrific poem. Here’s my shot.

Under the Table

My friends are all camping

But alas I’m not able

Nope, I’m grounded for life

Right here under the table

A butter knife for a friend

Along with a rag

To scrape all my boogers

Into this trash bag

Yup, what once was my haven

For picking my nose

My mom did discover

So now I am hosed

“You won’t move from this spot

Except to go pee

Until all chunks are removed

Do you understand me?”

What could I say?

My answer was “Yes”

Now there’s no more snot digging

What?  YES I’m depressed

The moral of this tale

From under the table?

Stay away from nose picking

To avoid this sad fable

The end

Happily Ticked Off Tip #28: Enter contests that represent your passion. You never know if you will win!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education

Children and Art: Go Figure

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Teaching art for 200 middle schoolers per day has had a profound impact on my soul.

Today a small boy who looks like Huck Finn meets The Goonies told me, “You’re so awesome, Ms. Frizzle!”

A seventh grade girl who is often found hiding behind her Ipod and anime drawings of genderal neutral dwarfs poked her head out from behind her hoody and whispered, “I can talk to you more than any other teacher.”

Another kid left this on my desk.

 

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Two out of three ain’t bad.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #27: Kids will be kids. And apparently, in middle school, they know how to make kids. Be glad when they’re messing with model figures and not each other. 

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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