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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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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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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faith, Uncategorized

When You Let Go, It Happens

If you had asked me a year ago if I would be teaching art full time for LAUSD, in North Hollywood no less, I’d tell you that you were nuts. But today, after a two week sub assignment, I was asked to step into a role full time until June. This class – with its painting and noise and Vision Boards is pure chaos mixed with fun. It’s loud and different and intimidating all at once. AKA: Perfect for me.

The money is so needed. (And I’ll get my 100 days now for insurance next year!) It’s not without its downsides, tho. A close family member recently passed. I’ve got a writing assignment that is not yet done. The distance isn’t ideal.

And yet, the circumstances have all played out so well. When life flows, I know God is in it. Less resistance and organic movement are also signs that a power higher than my understanding is orchestrating the wacky music of my life.

Peace in my circumstances are always a sign. It reminds me to not stress about outcomes I can’t control (the recent teacher’s strike for example). Life is always more manageable when I just put one foot in front of the other and leave the outcome to God. I can have an attitude of fear (too far! not enough experience! too tiring!) or I can view everything happening exactly as it’s supposed to be unfolding. And when I do that, worry becomes an adventure. And in this rodeo mistakes alongside fearlessness coupled with exhaustion is part of the norm. Adventure expectations mean zero expectations. And in such mad cap “down is up”, joy can break through.

It beats being broke having anxiety attacks. You should try it.

Happily Ticked Off #15: When you let go of what you think you are supposed to be there’s room to become who you are meant to be.

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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Uncategorized

Gratitude: It’s the Answer to Homicide and Suicide(and ulcers)

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I’m hardly a saint of happiness but I am way more content than I used to be. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has everything to do with gratitude – Not just acknowledging it here and there but actually practicing it every single day by writing it down. My husband shares this practice with me and we each text another couple for accountability.

We first started doing this because our misery was killing us.  And I won’t lie, it felt very cheesy.  But as I learned in my primary program, my ability to feel serenity is in direct proportion to how willing I am to be inconvenienced.  And when you are brought to your knees with exhaustion it’s a perfect time to pray and be willing.

At first my gratitude lists looked like this: “I am grateful for food, a car to drive, a walk, kids who love me and a job.“ (Nope, Rex didn’t make the list in the early days.)

Most of the time, though, I wasn’t truly truly grateful. It just felt like something to say,  because if I didn’t, I’d sound like a complete self indulgent schmo. Truthfully I was always annoyed at somebody or something. And the coveting and jealousy? Guilty. I was forever looking at what I could have more of…. her body, their job, your house, you name it. I could not have admitted that before either – it just didn’t sound nice – but in getting real I got aware. And by getting grateful for what I had (not what was missing) it got easier to let go of those other negative attributes.

After a while my negative mindset literally started to shift and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was in actuality. Soon I started incorporating more things in my gratitude list, and in becoming happier I became happier with Rex. I became less angry at my kids. Call it “odd” or “God” but more work started coming in also. I started enjoying even the hard days. Because most of the time it’s was my perspective that needed to change, not my circumstances.

Today in class a kid was back talking me and I was getting irritated. We were both locked in defensive blame. Instead of  staying mired in a power battle (old pattern and no one wins) I walked away. A few moments later I came back and asked her why she was upset. She told me that she wasn’t there yesterday for the assignment and didn’t know what was going on. I took a breath (“Did I really have to go through this explanation  again?”)  and blocked out the rest of the chattering kids. In that moment it was just her and me and I was grateful for the opportunity to start again.

None of us know what’s going on in other peoples lives, but when we develop a new attitude, we allow a little bit of space between our circumstances and our reactions. In that space connection can grow. As for those feelings of joy that come from relationship restored? You guessed it: I’m grateful.❤️

Happily Ticked Off Tip #10: Texting someone 5 things a day you are grateful for can dramatically improve your mental outlook. 

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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Uncategorized

It’s My Birthday! So Here’s a Poem

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It’s my birthday. The big 49. As one friend wrote me, it’s my last “birthday around the block before the big 50.”

I’m fine with it, really. In fact, now that I’m more focused on what I’m finally supposed to be doing with my life (the whole writing, taking things as they come and staying in God’s will deal) I’m enjoying taking it as it is. No big expectations.

Lest I not ask for anything and then have a big pity party instead of a birthday party, I did request some home made pizza and a cake courtesy of my husband and daughter. My bff Tuskany is coming over with her family to play Apples and Apples. We’ll have a fire, a cup of coffee with some icecream for toppers, and call it a wonderful night.

I thought in honor of my new goals I’d share one of the 100 poems I aim to have completed for each 100 days of subbing. Here’s one I wrote on Day 22.

  • Note: All poems are written from the perspective of an 8 year old boy being raised by a single mom.

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MommiTations

The best time of day

Is always the morning

When I’m still half awake

And our pit bull is snoring

 

Incense fills the air

And the sound of harp strings

Floats through an old Smart Phone

Set on silent ring

 

Light streams through the window

As the sun starts its day

There’s a candle and coffee

And toast on the tray

 

There’s the ring of some chimes

And the purr of a cat

And if I’m real quiet

I can sit on Mom’s lap

 

My ears hear her heartbeat

It’s utter elation

Just deep breaths and stillness.

It’s name? Mommytations

Shout Out to the wonderful Mr. Fish Lee who I’d love to illustrate it if my publisher doesn’t go with someone in house. Check him out at https://twitter.com/MrFishLee. Here’s just one of his amazing samples. (But no, my poem book is not dealing with Tourettes. I just know of him from the T.S. community. He’s uber talented.)

this one

That’s all I got for you today. I’d love your feedback.

Until then, I’ll be enjoying my birthday fiesta and heading over to North Hollywood again tomorrow where we’ll continue a lesson I started on Langston Hughes’ poem, Dreams, combined with a Vision Board and Evan Hansen’s song, You Will Be Found.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #9: Don’t stop your goal, even on your birthday. It’s a present 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. 

books

Uncategorized

If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You It’s Too Small

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It’s been insane….Showing up at different schools… Sometimes I’m a P.E. coach, sometimes a choir teacher. Sometimes I’m a math teacher. Other times a science or robotics instructor. Translation for all this: I take roll and make sure the kids don’t kill each other.

In addition I’m doing my writing class on Saturdays. Am I doing too much? Of course. But when is it ever a good time to go after my dream? It turns out that being put on as “head writer” on another person’s script didn’t go at all how I planned on Saturday. (Big shock.) I mostly just sat at the table while the big producer who is teaching the class did all the talking. I contributed one big idea that was accepted. The rest? Not so much. (I could swear that he looked in pain when I spoke most of the time. Note to self: Keep it brief.)

Now I’m assigned to work with the show creator as well as an Improv person to take this script from the first draft to the show runner’s direction. Can I do this? I don’t know. Do I care? Yes. Will I freak out if it doesn’t go? Not really. It’s a crap shoot in the end. All I can do is my best.

“It’s going to go to Big Actress A,” the producer says.

That would be nice. But in the meantime, I have to show up at public school and keep kids from riding the shopping carts full of old P.E. equipment while I take attendance.

I have to cook dinner and do shopping and hope my son’s size 15 (yes, you heard that right) SIZE 15 black rainboots arrive in time for Halloween for me to paint bright red with sparkles.

No he is not going as Captain Underpants. He is going as Papyrus from a videogame, Undertale. He will have two sidekicks – Miss L the ever present neighbor girl and Amber, a girl he’s known since he was 2.

Have I cured Tourettes? No. Is he trick or treating with two beautiful girls as well as making additional plans to hang out with his “friend” from school – a 17 year old Junior girl? Yes.

It’s like this script I’m writing… and figuring out my career… I don’t know where it’s all going, but God does, and that’s enough.

Oh, I did get a residual check today for my book. I think after royalties I’ll make $14.00. Woo hoo! I’m on fire! If any of you readers ever visit L.A. I can buy you a Starbucks. If 14 of you come by I’ll take you McDonalds for a dollar coffee. I know. I’m generous.

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Well, I’m off to call my mom. And crash. Tomorrow starts early and I have middle schoolers to wrangle, a house to clean for 3 writers who are going to revise a script in my office upstairs, and a pit bull to be sure has peed before she jumps out of our living room window screen to urinate on a squirrel. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

Okay, Wait… One More Thing

How’s your dreams happening, people! As Mark Batterson writes in a book I’m reading now, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.”

Last month, I was ready to vomit. Now, I’m just kind of doing it. I’m tired, but doing it. And that feels so much better than thinking and projecting. God is in the action. I take the steps and leave the results to Him. It’s less pressure.

What are the dreams that scare you? I want to hear! Leave a comment!

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. (Yes, I’m back on Facebook for work mainly!)

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