I Can Only Teach Words, Lynnette Will Have to Cover Everything Else

I had planned to spend every day this week (except for Friday, of course) in my classroom after school, catching up on some grading. Well, you know what they say about plans… The school is renovating the restroom a classroom over and as soon as the school day ends, there’s some kind of jackhammering demolition going on in there. When it happened on Tuesday, I was all “no way.” I left and worked at McDonald’s. Yesterday, I went home and worked in my living room until Lynnette and Madison got home. When they arrived, I hopped in the car and we went to dinner.

Do work, daughter!

Do work, daughter!

Madison wanted saimin, so we ended up at Zippy’s. Yay. Lynnette and I became embroiled in a conversation about education. She went off on a rant about some of the nursing students she sometimes mentors. Essentially, she was upset about their seeming lack of critical thinking skills. This, of course, sent me off on a rant about my job. About half-way through the conversation, I said “Oh, I did it again, huh?” She smirked. “I did that thing where I suggested answers when all you wanted to do was vent, right?” “It’s alright,” she said.

I know how this works. Whenever Lynnette gets worked up about something, she doesn’t want me to get worked up. She only wants me to validate her feelings. She just wants me to listen. It’s so hard, especially when her frustrations are so closely tied to my own.

The conversation turned to Madison. “Do you listen in school?” I asked her. She put her crayon down and said “I don’t get my name written on the board. Some kids get their names written on the board.” “That’s good,” I said. She smiled. “If you get your name written on the board, you’re going to be in trouble with me and mom,” I said. Her smile disappeared. She looked at Lynnette who nodded grimly. “But I don’t get my name on the board,” she said. “Good,” I said, putting up my best Emperor Palpatine voice.

Unbelievably, I went straight to work when I got home, not bothering to dress down...

Unbelievably, I went straight to work when I got home, not bothering to dress down…

...but I guess I cheated a little.

…but I guess I cheated a little.

I do not enjoy all aspects of my job. I think that a statistical analysis would show that a decent percentage of this blog is dedicated to the bitching and moaning about said job. But I am grateful for my experiences because of what will likely be the most valuable information I could have learned as it applies to my life: I understand which mistakes to avoid as a parent in terms of Mad’s learning.

What I have come to learn and struggle to deal with is the fact that the majority of my students HATE reading. This is an affront to a person like myself who loves reading. The reason, I think, is that it takes too long. Lynnette has been wonderful about reading to Madison routinely, and I work the creative side by making up stories with her.

I have also found that having a good memory is important, especially for high school, when so much of the early work is retention and regurgitation. I work on Madison’s memory by taking up her toddler picture books which feature pictures of items and the names of these items below. But I’ll make up a story to which Mad contributes. Throughout the process, I’ll quiz her on things: “What did you name the horse again?” Where were they going?” “What were they looking for?” Madison loves it.

This might be over-simplifying it, but here’s something I suspect is happening with some of my students. Let’s say a student tells me that they stopped actively reading in the 5th grade. In theory, if they haven’t read anything other than what they’ve been forced to read, or they’ve taken short cuts, they don’t have much more than a middle school reading level – in high school. I refuse to let this happen to Madison. We are going to have SSR sessions when she and I are at home over the summer. You know, as soon as she learns to read.

Korean chicken broke the streak of ordering chili/burrito plates. Good call.

Korean chicken broke the streak of ordering chili/burrito plates. Good call.

I never wanted to be a teacher. It was something I did because I needed a job coming out of college. I said I’d do it for a couple years, then figure things out. I should have known better. But now that I’ve invested so much of my life to education, and particularly Damien, I don’t know what set of circumstances would get me to leave.

I know this, though, I am glad that I have had the chance to teach and meet so many young men who have grown into grown men. I am grateful for the memories and the experiences. In retrospect, I suppose I’ve unintentionally prepared myself for the most important teaching that Mr. Higa will ever have to do, but I’m glad I’ll be able to do it as “Dads.”

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