education, faith, parenting, Uncategorized

College Admissions: Some Parents’ Guilty Pleasure

Most of you have probably heard about the bribery to college admissions that’s got people like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin facing prison time. I’m already waiting for the Shameless and Fuller House Memes to surface.

Oh wait, here’s one!

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On one hand, my stomach dropped when I heard the news. It’s so unfair to the kids who really do work their butts off to get into these top schools.

On the other hand, I don’t really care. I’m one of those moms who doesn’t buy into the whole college application freak out thing. The truth: My son is a Sophomore and we have not researched one school (though we said we would). I don’t know how or where he’ll take an SAT and I’m not overly worried about him getting a coach for it. We’ll start researching in a few months, look at JC’s and go from there. I have enough faith in my kid to know he’ll land somewhere! (Mom brag: He went from not amazing grades last year to straight A’s, 1 B+ and he’s taking Japanese this summer. This GPA did not happen with me bugging him. I literally have zero idea what he’s learning in school. The hard work was last year when, after letting him fail, I made him meet with me every day at 4PM to go over his organization. I knew it would be a pain for me, but it would ultimately put him in the driver’s seat. These same tools are what will get him on the road to college one way or another.) So, back to that:

Why Don’t I Care About College – And a Caveat

I want my kids to do the best they can with their lives. But I’ve seen enough A-Personality neurotic kids to know that if a kid doesn’t learn to appreciate the success of who they are, no school is going to make a difference. They will just get there, not be happy, and anxiously climb up to the next thing. And then they’ll graduate and anxiously work toward a job, and then a promotion, and then a mate, and kids, all the while not really knowing why they are striving so hard.

No, that’s not what life is about. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I believe the best thing I can do is guide them toward their path and let them be self-confident people who are content with what is, not what is not.

Don’t You Care At All, Andrea?

Of course I care. Ask Tuskany. I stress about my decision to let go. But in the end, I will always choose to let go. I do so, sometimes with fists clenched onto the last bit of rope, because I’m raising them to be adults that make their own decisions, not little puppets I write checks for to look good for the world. (Look where that landed the culprits in this latest scandal?)

I feel so strongly about this topic because I was that go get ’em kid. I got the straight A’s. The college. The TV job. The house. The marriage. The kids. My outsides were great. But inside I was a wreck. It wasn’t until I broke down the construct of what I thought I needed to be happy that I was able to be, truly, happy.

Tonight I’m going to go downstairs and eat some soup. I’m going to remind my son to get off the video games. I’m going to compliment my daughter for all the auditions she went on. She’ll tell me about the groups she landed, the ones she did not. And then we’ll go to bed. Life these days is busy busy busy… but it’s simple. It comes down to, “Are who you are in your soul enough?” When the answer is yes – and it always is – there isn’t a thing to worry about.

Zero fucks given. It’s a model for livin’.

(Hey, I think I just wrote a country song! Maybe I can make a million dollars and bribe Harvard to take my kids!)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #25: When we teach our kids that who they are is more important than where they go to college, we are giving them the best education they can get: To be learn to be happy with what they have, not what they do not.

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, self improvement, writing

Bad Behavior? Oh, Well. You Do You. Be Kind.

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The above meme is so cheesy and means nothing by itself other than a “Wow, be an inspirational person” sound byte. Living it is so much harder. Which means, if you actually do, you’re an actual inspirational person!

Bottom line: These quotes make cute tee shirts for the Etsy shopper.
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(Not bad… only $9.90)

But… no disrespect to this virtual shop owner, but $9.90 can also be spent going to the Dollar Tree and buying cheap made-in-China stickers and handing them out to random shoppers at the grocery store. ssssss(Especially the cranky Russian lady with the whisker pushing the metal pull basket who gave you the stink eye for reaching above her for the gluten-free Joe Joe’s.)

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Why do that? I’ll tell you. Because most people don’t get out of their comfort zone to make eye contact with someone, ask how they are doing, and give them something to break them out of their zombie like “It’s all about me” trance.

Me? I haven’t yet given out stickers. But I dole out little treats and unearned grace with my kids in middle school. Sure, I’m just a long term sub. And do I have a Masters in Art? No. But I do have a Doctorate in Understanding People. (Plus I graduated Magna Cum Loud Mouth so can relate to my fellow talkers.)

You, Rowdy Kid. I GET YOU

I know that bad behavior often means something gross is going on at home. It means that if kids are grabbing tape that doesn’t belong to them or tossing bananas or water bottles on their desks (OMG THE WATER BOTTLE FLIPS KILL ME) they are likely annoying the crap out of teachers in another class. I can either get insanely annoyed (it’s happened) or I can pull them aside and have a one on one conversation. I can once again review my expectations. And then I can speak light and love into them.

Me: “Andy, I can tell you’re not a kid who likes to sit still.”

Long quiet stare as he looks up at the 6 foot woman in pig tails with the “I Love Pitbulls” tee shirt towering over him.

Me: “Tell you what. I will let you walk around whenever you want.”

More silence, then: “For real?”

Me: “Yes. ‘Why?’ you might ask.”

No response.

Me: “Go ahead. Ask why?”

Kid: “Uhhhh… why?”

Me: “Because I’m a long term SUB. It means, WHO CARES! My job is not to feed the school system an all-size-fit-in-the box kid. I can be like Grandma and fudge a bit. I can give you a little wiggle room to be the kid YOU need to be. Unless LAUSD is reading in which case I am the epitome of excellence in all teaching standards. Do you understand?”

Kid: “I don’t have a grandma.”

Me: Deep breath. “I simply mean I care more about you learning to communicate and being heard than being perfect. Do you understand?”

Kid: “Yes.”

Me: “Good. Then sit at your regular table. Move around if you need to. But do not touch/talk/nudge/move/pinch or annoy anyone. Like the zoo signs you see on field trips! Only replace that last word with ‘STUDENT’. ”

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Kid: “I never get to go on field trips.”

Me: “What a shock.”  That must feel bad.

Kid: Shrugs. Head down. “It’s no biggie.”

I spot a tear but don’t say anything.

Me: “So today you get to start over! Today is one more better day toward a field trip. But if you can’t keep it together, I am moving you to the front near me. Deal?”

Kid: “Deal.”

Then we shake hands.

Then he goes to his seat.

Then he inevitably gets up and annoys, bugs, moves, pinches or throws water a some kid.

Then I move him next to my desk.

Then he complains and threatens to tell his school counselor who I’m sure has never heard of this behavior from him for the past two years of middle school not to mention the stack of IEPs from his grade school years taking up more space in the files than Trump’s ridiculous tweets about the wall.

And we start over the next day.

Because while I can’t change someone’s trauma induced behavior, I don’t have to replay mine. Which means showing kindness every single day. Every single time.

Plus, it’s Friday. So everyone is an angel on Friday.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #21: Don’t just wear tee shirts promoting kindness. Live it. Even when it’s hard. It’ll shape your character, and someone else’s, more than you’ll ever know.

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, spirituality, writing

How to Know, With 100% Certainty, If Something Is Your Passion

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I made a commitment almost a month ago that I would blog every day. I’m proud to say that I have done just that (minus one day I thought I hit “publish” and accidentally hit “publish later”.)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that since I have blogged daily my regular work and attitude has improved. It’s the love of doing these posts, regardless of pay, no matter what time of night, that is an indicator that this is my passion.

I love writing, even on less than ideal days. Like today… when the principal… all smiles…. mentioned something to me about a student who should not have been in my room yesterday during one period (which, as a newbie, I didn’t know had slipped in). Her statement was kind of a bummer. Up until that moment I had been having a brilliant day… really finding my own with the lesson plans, student interactions, organization, etc. Still, I refused to let this break my stride. (Those over 40 are welcome to break into a popular song now…)

The new me: “Huh, yeah, I’ll more careful.” (On the inside: Noted/that sucks/move on)

The old me: “Huh, yeah, I’ll be more careful.” (On the inside: Oh my God, I suck. I’m going to lose my job. I clearly  have no classroom management skills NO WONDER I CAN’T FIGURE OUT MY LIFE!”)

Dramatic much?

Digging Deep

I have learned through the serious self-appraisal of step work that I am both over-confident and hypersensitive. Over and over, based on certain life events and my personal wiring, I learned to react in a way that’s not exactly amazing. It wasn’t easy, but commitment to healing from past hurts (intended cuts or not) has saved me from repeating them over and over, wounding both myself and others.

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For me, old behavior meant acting like I didn’t care (I did) and when criticized pretending that I could easily blow it off (I couldn’t).

But now… by honestly looking at these destructive character defects, I can put into practice something better. Well, I can’t do it alone. The God of my understanding comes on in to help out.

Spiritual Solution for Icky Earth Issues

Having a spiritual remedy is everything! It means that instead of sulking I can pray and get into gratitude.

Instead of quitting, I can invite God in to give me courage to try again.

And instead or flogging myself for my mistakes (which are really just opportunities for learning) I can give thanks to God for everything he’s done so far in my life. I can give myself credit for what I do do well.

Writing each day reminds me to see the bright side of the beauty in my days, despite setbacks.

The smell of fresh rain on cement.

Time on my commute to listen to Classical music, pray and make a few phone calls.

A reminder to focus on the students who truly want to learn and  not hold grudges against the ones who just don’t care. (It’s not about holding grudges, anyway. They are kids. They aren’t staring aimlessly out the window on purpose. Some want to do the work, some don’t. If I’ve tried my best, the rest I can let go and stop being hypersensitive.)

Today I choose not to go into fear mode over one comment. I choose to leave here, hit a meeting, take myself to a lovely dinner for some much  needed alone time after an intense two weeks, and be grateful that I’m not where I want to be but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I used to be.

And that’s good enough.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #21: Your passion is something you do no matter what and it brings you energy instead of depletion. Hey, do that!

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, spirituality

The Truth Looks Better with Accessories

I love my new office, but I am never in it. Instead, I am commuting to North Hollywood to spend the day in someone else’s office all day filling it with love and purpose.

Technically that “office” is actually someone’s “classroom” and, well, I’m not sure if she’s been booted out, left or just on a weird medical leave. Either way, I think she’d see my time there as less “love and purpose” and more along the lines of “obnoxious squatting” but she’ll have to get into acceptance just like I do.

With this squatter.

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Why yes, that is laundry.

Mixed with a bucket of “to be put away” crap.

Highlited with a white basket of recyclable bills and a random sock from an indoor trampoline park.

I’d say I’m stressed, but I’m not. It’s gotten so crazy – this little work/parent/relate-to-spouse/deal with family grief/attend 12 step – that I am just sort of packing myself into the river of life and taking it as it comes.

The Takeaway of Insanity

Acceptance of insanity is sanity, and then everything is funny. (Though I won’t lie: If I weren’t a vegetarian alcoholic I’d dive face first into a Hoagie and a Green Flash faster than Jefferson raps on Hamilton’s Guns N Ships track.)

Instead of drinking and eating away my bad emotions, I’ll just have to celebrate sober emotions with gluten free lasagna, a bath in a less than perfect tub and a fire.

Not such bad deal if I do say so myself.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #20: When you don’t should all over yourself there’s nothing to freak about because it just is what it is. And in that space God can do his magic. (Not sure about you, but my God is a cheeky one and loves a good laugh. So that allows me to chuckle and take things less seriously, too.

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, parenting

This is the Greatest Show! (Of Anger and Resentment. Send in the Clowns, Baby!)

I thought I hit “publish” on this post yesterday. But after a less than stellar day dealing with a new job, a family death, being low on gas, being a speaker at a meeting with my husband and the realization that “Yes, I CAN do it all, just not all at once” I goofed up. Please enjoy a post where I out myself on being a less than perfect parent. #progressnotperfection.

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Yesterday…

Today I totally overreacted with one of my kids over something I had asked them to do the night before. (Not once, not twice, three times.)

My requests often feel like a stack of dishes on my counter. No matter how high they grow, they are not often met with “Let’s bolt out of our chairs and get right to that, Mom!”

But I had already danced the dance of “Am I nagging if I ask a fourth time? / When will they learn to be independent if I bug bug bug?” so I dropped it. Well, not quite. I also texted from work.

Crickets.

And the request still wasn’t done. I was irked when I finally saw my child and really raised my voice, throwing in a few examples of other things said child doesn’t do in a timely manner.

And then I huffed into the living room. And shock of all shock, my self indignation did NOT make me feel better.

After a bit I remembered that just a few hours earlier the dean had called my classroom regarding two kids who had escaped from my room and were found pounding on bathroom doors.

Um, is it possible I dumped on my kid because I felt dumped on?

Ding ding ding!

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Why do I always go back to the same well? I guess I need to keep getting hit with the same lesson until I change. It’s not unlike what I’m teaching being taught at school with my art students. Just like the classroom kids, I have every right to give my teen a consequence for not following up. But getting angry and surly? It does nothing.

What’s it about, Andrea?

It’s all about ME setting expectations, letting go and knowing that some things are just what they are – age appropriate defiance/immaturity/distraction. Doesn’t matter. It only matters how I perceive and react to it.

Bottom line: ITS ALL ABOUT ME! (Hey, I normally like that last part. Just not in these cases. You know… the ones where I need to give God my character defects and be willing to change to avoid pain.)

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Ten minutes later I had prayed, gotten quiet, saw my part and was ready to start fresh. This meant going back into the kitchen and apologizing for my outburst.

Which I did!

Only to be met with a slow, direct stare and be told, “Please come back in 20 minutes. I need time to decompress from my grrrr’.”

I wanted to pop the kid. But at the same time, this particular knows who themself, and said self means not deigning to dive my instant gratification/push push push/apology well of crazy. I had no choice but to respect it or head on over to the big clown tent for another show.

Now if I only I can learn this same lesson before my emotional explosions instead of afterwards. Constantly buying circus tickets is expensive.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #16: When I try to fix or criticize other people, there is always something disturbed in me. And that gets me mad. Because that means there is no one to blame but myself. #Stupid truth.

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, meditation, self improvement, spirituality

The Audacity of Non Personalization

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I’m not the kind of teacher that automatically yells at kids.

“You want to sit with your friends? Go for it.”

“You want to listen to music while you paint? That works!”

“You want to use the restroom ten minutes into class? Feel free!”

And this all works very well for 90% of my class who are kind, respectful and so grateful  there’s not a teacher who is screaming like a banshee out of hell on speed which, frankly, is not out of the ordinary for a middle school teacher.

But there’s always that 10% who take advantage.

Who linger for 20 minutes in the restroom.

Who think I don’t see them bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame in their California hoodies playing Fornite.

Who want to ignore me and speak over directions I have given over… and over… and over… and then have the audacity to ask me what the hell is going on.

And that right there… the “who have the audacity” statement… is where I must catch myself. It’s not because I’m wrong. It’s because it smacks of judgment. And judgment for this lady means I’m personalizing. And when I personalize, I get resentful, which brews frustration, which causes me to raise my voice, which causes kids to listen to me as much as Democrats want to hear about Trumps border wall.

The solution: Clear expectations on my part. Not just sometimes. Every time. And when they don’t do what they are supposed to do, I ask them to move to a new table. Or talk to them privately. Or ask questions about what they need to best learn and achieve the lesson goal.

Having been someone who is slow to certain life lessons myself, I know only too well that behind every reactive behavior is a hurt or a need. If I would want someone to be patient with me, that means I must be patient with my students. It means I don’t have the luxury to pretend like they’re ditching class to be personal. I get to stay calm and kind and give them every opportunity to access a lesson. I must stay open. Even if I want to run screaming like a BTS fan at the Grammys.

And if after all my work at staying calm and not taking things personal my methods still doesn’t work and they blow me off defiantly, then they get a lower grade.

Nothing personal.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #14: Show lots of grace but take no crap. It’s a killer combo.

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

Art, the Harlem Renaissance and the Pursuit of Dreams

As I mentioned a few blogs back, I am knee deep in Vision Board creation with my art class. For 5 periods/day I talk Langston Hughes, what it meant to be an African American artist during the turn of the century, and what Hughes’ poem, Dreams, can mean for them for their own vision of their future.

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Me: “How many of you have printers at home?”

Only half the kids’ hands go up.

Me: “No excuses for those of you who don’t! I will send you to the library in three’s… with the exception of Parker, Carlos and Jack. I don’t want it burned down… But everyone else, you can take turns.”

Blank stares.

Me: “Or… you can send me an email directly at my LAUSD account. I will print and bring it back the very next day! This is the easiest A you will ever get!”

Murmurs of understanding ripple through the classroom.

Much to my surprise, I received quite a few requests for printouts. These ranged from colleges, professional basketball players, doctors and anime characters.

From several I heard about how they, too, wanted to live dreams that inspired them beyond their present circumstances.

And from one girl, I received this:

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I call this an A+.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #13: Never underestimate bathing in a tub full of hard cold cash. (Or wet cash, as the case may be here.)

Until next time,

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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