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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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, 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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Uncategorized

Being in the Present On Purpose

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I’m subbing today at the Middle School I worked as a special needs aid for two years. I feel lucky that, out of 8 days subbing so far this year, 7 have been here at this school. These teachers know me and support me. I can make mistakes with people that already are aware of my successes. No more reinventing the wheel. It feels, in a nutshell, glorious. It feels safe. And from that place of safety, I can grow to be who God most wants me to be.

I have not always felt safe. I have the kind of mind that lives in the past or in the future. The present? It’s too frustrating. Here in the present is where the reality lives. The messy house. The lack of funds. The fears over my son’s Tourette’s. It’s also where my greatest joy lives when I remember to lean into it.

  • A delicious cup of coffee at 530am with my morning prayers

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  • A beautiful new office to dream in

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  • A husband who works very hard to be on the same team with me these days.

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  • Trader Joes pumpkin spice samples and old ladies at Costco who hand out burrito squares and tell me about immigrating from Cuba. (Sidenote: Has anyone seen One Day at a TimOne Day at a Time on Netflix? Rita Morena plays a Cuban grandma in this remake and she is amazing! So funny!)aaa

 

As I edge closer and closer to 50, I’m becoming more and more aware that my present only need be frustrating when I make it so. When I choose to accept reality exactly as it is… when I commit to being someone whose goal is to give to others, not take for myself,  things feel perfect.

Last week, in a special day class, I had the kids begin home room by talking about what they were most grateful for. Most kids couldn’t think of anything (minus the few who were thankful for Fortnight and Sephora) so I created gratitude for them. “How about, you are happy for your sweatshirt, because you’re not cold?” or “How about you’re grateful for the free breakfast you are eating because now you can concentrate.” From there we went on to study the solar system and discuss why Pluto is more than just a Disney character and no longer considered a planet.

“I wonder if he feels rejected?” I quipped, following it up with, “And your phone will soon be rejected by YOU who will give it to ME if I see it again.”

With the phones safely stored away in oversized sweatshirts we finished the class. At the end, a short boy with floppy brown hair ambled up to me. He looked into my face with amber eyes and mumbled, “Ms. Frizzle, I’m graaaful fa mefily.”

“What?” I asked, having no idea what he said.

He repeated in a soft whisper, “Ms. Frizzle, I’m graaaful fa mefily.”

I still couldn’t decipher it. “One more time, sweetie,” I asked, leaning in even closer.

“I’M GRATEFUL FOR MY FAMILY.”

He walked away then, big smile on his face.

And if I chose to look back, he’d see one on mine.

And maybe a little tear. (But don’t tell anyone. I work with Middle Schoolers. I don’t want them thinking I’m going soft.)

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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